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Mar 3, 2008 11:46 PM

Birthday dinner in MSP

My birthday is coming up and I usually go somewhere with my family for dinner and I was wondering what suggestions people might have. I would rather have it not be too expensive (last year we went to Pazzaluna so around that or a little less would be good) or too fancy. Also my Dad is a very conservative eater, so the menu needs to include some regular fare for him. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.


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  1. This is kind of a broad query...brace yourself for everything from burgers to pho. And are you limited to St. Paul?

    I also drag my family (including extended) around town for my birthday. Last time was the Nook and then downstairs for old school bowling and cake (brought in) at Ran-Ham Lanes. It was a great time. We've also done upscale places...I was just in a burger mood.

    What about Chinese? That's usually a safe bet, and cheap, as well as good for conservative eaters who can dine off the Americanized menu if need be. Little Szechuan, Tea House, Grand Shanghai are all good options.

    Places like Town Talk Diner have something for everyone. Good celebratory vibe.

    Are these kind of what you were thinking?

    3 Replies
    1. re: MSPD

      Happy Birthday!

      Even off the Americanized menu, I still worry about Little Szechuan for conservative eaters. Very spicy. Maybe some place like Cafe BonXai on University, which does have steak on the menu (still) from its Best Steakhouse Days (though, I've never actually ordered it, so I don't know how good it is...)

      Another place that isn't too expensive or fancy in St. Paul might be Jay's Cafe on Raymond--entrees all under $20. Their dinner chef apparently left recently, though, so I don't how it has fared since then.


      1. re: MSPD

        I personally don't think that Town Talk Diner is good as all the rave reviews it gets. Other than their "adult malts", I though the menu was boring and overpriced and the atmosphere was pretty blah. It was fine but not a place I'd go running back to.

        Cafe 128 is great for a quaint place. Not a large menu but ribs are their specialty and who doesn't like ribs? You could swing by Izzy's afterward for dessert (ice cream!) Craftsman is also excellent- slighly eclectic menu but mostly basics. In that same neck of the woods there is Longfellow Grill. Tejas at 50th and France is good too- casual and I've always had a good meal there.

        1. re: liesel

          My only concern about TTD is that it's loud --too loud for nice conversation--and it's a bit pricey. I wouldn't take my dad there for dinner.

          The nice thing about the Longfellow Grill is that they do have a full bar, which is a bit unusual for a restaurant in that price range, I think.


      2. How about Campiello? Great menu, kind of classy but not uppity. Focus is on Italian, but they have more basic dishes like hangar steak and roasted chicken, that would appeal to Dad.

        1. thought of another one--Muffaletta in St. Paul? I personally have never been there, but a friend always brings her meat & potatoes-eating family there for birthdays.

          1. If you are looking for saint paul I'd recommend the downtowner. Its excellent, reasonable and has a crowd pleasing menu.

            If you are looking beyond st paul there are a bunch of other spots as well.


            Downtowner Cafe [SEE DOWNTOWNER WOODFIRE GRILL]
            253 West 7th Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

            7 Replies
            1. re: St Paul Susie

              Susie, I think Downtowner is a terrific recommendation!

              Well done.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                The Downtowner is on the spendier side, though. At least they were for breakfast when we went there, I don't know how dinner is.
                Would I be bad to recommend a standard place like Famous Dave's BBQ Uptown, or even the Olive Garden? We always get food both places.
                Also there's Bucca's. Beautiful place, always good food.

                1. re: heine143

                  With all due respect, Famous Dave's, Olive Garden and Bucca's are all multi-state chains. Surely we can do better than that. Most of the entrees at Cafe BonXai are $12 and under, for instance.

                  At the Downtowner, the pizzas are about $12 and under, about the same price-wise as at Pazzaluna where the OP said he went last time, and the entrees are $21 and under, which is in the same range as Pazzaluna, perhaps even slightly less expensive

                  Jay's Cafe would probably be less than both, though, I will say the surroundings are very austere. Doesn't affect the good chow, though. It's a quiet, neighborhood kind of place


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Is Jay's Cafe where that other great place was? Small and great food, about a half block from University? Just wondering. Can't remember the name of that old great place.

                    1. re: karykat

                      Chet's Taverna? on Raymond down the street from Keys? Before my time, but, yes, I think so.


                      1. re: karykat

                        That was Chet's Taverna (which I loved, too, and miss).

                        1. re: mcgeary

                          The owner-chef from Chet's Taverna (Mike Phillips) is the chef at the Craftsman. That's one big reason why Craftsman is so great!

                          EDITED TO ADD: Perhaps the Craftsman would fit the bill for a birthday party. It's a bit pricy by my standards, but certainly isn't wildly expensive. You can check out the menu and prices on their web site:


              2. Sorry if my original post was confusing. I am not restricted to St. Paul, I live in Minneapolis and my parents live in Roseville, so anywhere in the Twin Cities would be fine. Also, I would rather not do Chinese/Thai/Indian/etc. because I know my dad would not be too thrilled with any of those. I've been to Muffaletta and always like it there so thats an idea, but would maybe like to try something new. I also like Jay's Cafe as an idea since I live about 10 blocks from there. Any other ideas?


                4 Replies
                1. re: bottlerockets5

                  Well, that cracks your options wide open!

                  I still think Craftsman would be a lovely choice...probably at the top of your price range, but definitely some meat and potatoes options for your Dad. Downtowner I think, would still be a good choice, lots of meat and potato type options with a Persian twist...(but I like Craftsman and Jay's and Signature Cafe a smidge better) Another place that I really like a lot, if your group is pretty small, is Signature Cafe. In your price range, too, I think.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    i adore the signature cafe as well.

                    They have have excellent price points.

                  2. re: bottlerockets5

                    i thought St Paul Susie's rec for the downtowner was a very good one! i'd second the above rec for the craftsman-- they have some excellent venison and other choices for mains that might appeal to a certain type of "meat & potatoes" eater, but still give everyone choices and a lot to talk about. it's also a very beautiful space (built out in craftsman-style, so i'm talking about nice woodwork, high ceilings & stained glass details, not frills & flowers).

                    newer places: i've been rec-ing the strip club in st paul for steaks lately but would say in your case that the strip club is not well laid out for larger groups & gets full to bursting on weekends. the chef (j.d.) is formerly of muffaletta, so if you liked the execution at muffaletta in the past you may enjoy his great menu. maybe if your group is 6-8 people or less, on a weeknight, it might be an option to consider. there are a lot of folks singing the praises of meritage (st paul) for dinner. i have tried them for brunch but not dinner yet, but it's classic french cooking including steak & frites, etc. lovely classic atmosphere, that again would appeal to an older man.

                    1. re: bottlerockets5

                      What about Khan's Mongolian BBQ on Snelling. Picky eaters can choose what they want in their meal and try a new concept. Isn't there a steak place out north of Roseville called Lindy's? If it's still around, they may only have steak though. Axel's in the Raddison on 35W is also good.