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May 20, 2008 07:09 PM

Business trip to St. Paul - suggestions pls?

I am reposting this because I felt that I really was hijacking another persons thread- I will be in St. Paul for a week starting the Tuesday thru sunday after memorial day. i am looking for hole in the wall places (prefer Mid Eastern/Indian/BBQ/Asian/Mexican/Deli with great pastrami - Katzs anyone?) and since this time i am traveling without my colleagues would prefer places where a single patron does not feel too out of place.

oh and I need dinner recommendations only. my client will make the lunch decisions for me but if there are "cant miss lunch here" places please do tell. Open to Miineapolis/St. Paul/'burbs. I will have a car and will be staying @ the Holiday Inn Xpress in Roseville
thanks a lot.

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  1. Hole-in-the-wall places? We're kindred spirits! There's lots to choose from within 5 miles of your hotel, and I think you'll be comfortable dining at any casual place in town. And you're actually as close to Minneapolis (the SE corner, aka my stomping grounds) as you are to St. Paul. The U of M - both the Minneapolis and St. Paul campus - are quite close, which means there are many good hole-in-the-wall eateries.

    The immediate neighborhood around your hotel is rather an industrial/suburban wasteland, but you're three blocks away from India Palace, a pretty decent Indian place. The lunch buffet is OK, but I prefer to order off the menu at dinner. Chat up the waiters and ask them what's best.

    For GREAT vegetarian Indian food about 4 miles away, go to Bombay 2 Deli on Central Ave. in Minneapolis. It's perfect for a single diner - it's really a small deli counter in a family-owned Indian grocery store - and the owner is extremely friendly. (She'll probably give you samples and recipes and tell you stories about family dinners.) But they close early in the evening.

    Middle Eastern: Holy Land Deli on Central Ave (Mpls), just a few blocks north of Bombay 2 Deli. Wonderful buffet during lunch and on weekend evenings.

    Asian: Hmm... Not much that's great in the immediate area. Head to University Ave. in St. Paul (between Snelling and Rice) for a ton of choices. I love Little Szechuan (Chinese) - or rather, I did when I last visited it a year ago(!). I really like Cafe Bon Xai (Vietnamese fusion), Saigon (bare-bones Vietnamese), and Ngon (upscale Vietnamese). Not sure if Krua Thai is still open. Likewise, Va Lor Super Excellent Papaya Salad (Laotian/Cambodian) might be closed or under new ownership.

    BBQ: Big Daddy's Weekend BBQ - Only on weekend afternoons & evenings, in the parking lot of the closed Abundant Bistro (next door to Saigon Vietnamese).

    Mexican: I can't think of anything close to Roseville. Make the trek to St. Paul for El Burrito Mercado (Mexican grocery/cafeteria S of downtown) or Manana (though I think it's really Central American, not Mexican). Or head to any of the little taquerias on E. Lake Street in Minneapolis.

    Better yet, take a field trip to the Mercado Central (all Mexican) or the Midtown Global Market (multi-ethnic) in Minneapolis. You can even try Somali food at the MGM - look for the Safari Express booth.

    A deli with great pastrami is scarce in these parts. The only reasonable option is Be'wiched Deli, north of downtown Minneapolis. It's more upscale than a deli, but I think it's worth a trip. They have WONDERFUL soups, as well as good pastrami (which they make themselves). If your client is interested in locally sourced, upscale sandwiches/soups/salads, give this place a try for lunch.

    I know there's more, but I have brain freeze...


    Midtown Global Market
    920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

    Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
    799 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    Little Szechuan - West End
    5377 16th Street, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

    Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
    704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    Cafe BonXai
    1613 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

    El Burrito Mercado
    175 Cesar Chavez St, St Paul, MN 55107

    Golden Palace (formerly Va Lor
    )371 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103

    Holy Land Bakery & Grocery
    2513 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

    Bombay 2 Deli [Closed - May Reopen in Different Place]
    1840 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

    Mercado Central
    1515 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

    India Palace
    2570 Cleveland Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

    Krua Thailand
    432 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

    Bewiched Deli
    800 Washington Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55401

    Manana Restaurant
    828 7th St E, Saint Paul, MN 55106

    6 Replies
    1. re: AnneInMpls

      Great recommendations by Anne, as always.

      I don't think you can go wrong with any of her recommendations (though, I'm not a huge fan of El Burrito Mercado, except the bakery case and as a Mexican market. I think you'd be much better off--since you have a car-- exploring some of the Mexican joints along Lake Street in Minneapolis, including Taqueria La Hacienda, Pineda, Gorditas El Gordo, and Taqueria Los Ocampo; I would normally also point you to Mercado Central on Lake Street except that it's not that hopping for dinner--might be a good weekend option for you, though), but I particularly adore Little Szechuan, Saigon, and Ngon Bistro. I think I'd describe Ngon Bistro more as chef-driven Vietnamese, focusing on local sourcing and drawing more from French influences. And the interesting thing about Cafe BonXai is that it's a Hmong-owned restaurant, as is Red Pepper on University Avenue, a new place that none of us 'hounds has checked out and reported back on yet...

      Va Lor has at least new signage and a new name.

      Also, since you're at the Holiday Inn in Roseville, as Anne mentioned, check out India Palace--good, not outstanding. Also great in Roseville is Maverick's (on Lexington nearish to Larpenteur) for the great sliced roast beef sandwiches and check out China Jen on Snelling in the same mall as Outback Steakhouse for good Chinese food (with erratic service). Also, to throw other cuisines into the mix, on University Ave in St. Paul is West Indies Soul and on Saturdays only until about 4-5pm, Big Daddy's BBQ--it's take-away only.

      Have a great trip and please do report back.


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        TDQ, you're very kind to someone with a flaky memory. Maverick's and China Jen - those are the places I was forgetting! And thanks for the details on Big Daddy's (I forgot that he was Sat. only).

        Another brain flash: Obento-Ya is a nice little Japanese restaurant that's not too far away. I hear that it now has a wine & beer license:


        1746 Lexington Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113

        Obento-Ya Japanese Bistro
        1510 Como Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

        China Jen Restaurant
        2193 Snelling Ave, N St Paul, MN

        1. re: AnneInMpls

          P.S. I agree that the Lake Street taquerias are better (in general) than El Burrito Mercado, though I like the carnitas and tamales at El B. and I adore the roasted corn stand in the parking lot, if it's running (weekends for sure; not sure about weekday evenings).

          On E. Lake, I love La Hacienda and Los Ocampos, too, and have been meaning to try Gorditas El Gordo and Pineda. Others must love Los Ocampo as much as we do - they have a booth at the Midtown Global Market, plus a stand-alone restaurant a block away.


          Taqueria Los Ocampo
          417 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          Taqueria La Hacienda
          334 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          Pineda Taco's
          311 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55408

          Gorditas El Gordo
          211 East Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN

          Taqueria Los Ocampo 4
          920 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN

          Pineda Tacos
          2150 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN

        2. re: The Dairy Queen

          With any luck, here's the places link for Big Daddy's BBQ.


          Big Daddy's Saturday Barbecue
          609 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

          1. re: AnneInMpls

            YAY! The link worked. This thread about Big Daddy's is a good one and has some photos to help you recognize it as you drive past...



          2. re: The Dairy Queen

            Update: exercise caution (maybe telephone ahead) before heading across town just to try West Indies Soul. It sounds like they are temporarily closed I still recommend the place, but, maybe have a "back-up" before making the trek. All those University Avenue places, Cafe BonXai, Saigon, Little Szechuan, Ngon Bistro, etc. would make a fine back-up.


        3. Babani's kurdish, try the Dowjic soup and anything else on the dinner menu. No booze, plan accordingly.

          Ruam Mit Thai is quite good. The ambiance reminds me of a Perkins which is fine by me because the food is awesome and the poor decor keeps snooty people out and prices down. Beef Laab salad comes with soup, go fall in love!

          Mickey's diner is a must go. Greasy spoon dining car. Get a picture taken by one of the bums outside and walk down to Great Waters Brewing Company.

          There is nothing particularly outstanding about Great Waters aside from they make their own beer and it is right downtown.

          1 Reply
          1. re: flavorfreak

            Thanks for the great tips, flavorfreak! Welcome to chowhound! I must must get to Babani's one of these days--and have th dowjic soup, of course. (I'd like to point out that there is a main location for Babani's and an "express" location on West 7th. The "express" location is a must-avoid. But, I continue to hear good things about the main location). I look forward to hearing/reading more of your tips.


          2. Wow thanks a lot guys..I cant wait to get out there and try all these great places. somali (is this close to ethiopian btw?) and west indian sound really intriguing.

            I forgot to ask - usually I try to get a steak on most business trips - would there any good recommendations that you could make? Thanks again and I will be back to post on my experience.
            have a great weekend guys....

            3 Replies
            1. re: ne_cyclone

              I posted in detail (with photos) about Qoraxlow if you want to read more about it (it was one of the links I gave in my initial post above), but based on my small number of experiences with Somali cuisine, no, it's not like most of the Ethiopian I've had. There are a couple of Ethiopian places in St. Paul, Fasika on Snelling just North of University, which would be pretty convenient to Roseville, and a new one on West 7th, which I don't think anyone has tried and reported back on yet.

              As for steak, the hot new steak place in the Twin Cities is the Strip Club on the East side (Dayton's Bluff) of St. Paul. (Even though it's still in St. Paul, it will be a bit of a drive from Roseville). Lots of posts on this place (nearly all the recommendations in this thread, actually, if you want to poke around to narrow down your choices) if you want to do a searhc. You'll want reservations. It doesn't seem like a great place for solo dining, though, unless you could get a spot at the bar, I guess, and you probably wouldn't need reservations for that either. Could get crowded.

              Also, for a classic, somewhat tacky, red vinyl banquette/blast from the past St. Paul steakhouse experience, there's Mancini's on West 7th. The chow isn't outstanding (except for the texas toast that they cook on the grill), but the atmosphere is a hoot. Mancini's isn't a favorite on the board, but I like going there once or twice a year because it's still family run after all these years and they have a very loyal clientele that really loves the place. It just feels so old St. Paul to me. Cafe BonXai is rumored to serve steak (it was a "Best Steakhouse" before it was Cafe BonXai) but I've never tried it or known anyone who has as far as I remember so I don't know whether it's to be recommended or not.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                seconding recs for fasika for ethiopian and the strip club for steak (delicious, tender, flavorful grass-fed steak). if grass-fed is not your thing you could try mancinis (very old-school supper-club, TDQ's description is perfect), or go across the river to mannys etc.

                big daddy's is a great bbq rec, but not really a eat-in place (i think there are 1 or 2 tables?) it's verrrry keep-it-simple, and imho is all about the pork ribs. pastor hamilton's is off the path for you but could be a nice excursion. bbq is not msp's strength but these places are pretty good.

                Pastor Hamilton's Barbecue
                1150 7th St E, St Paul, MN 55106

                The Strip Club
                378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

                1. re: soupkitten

                  soupkitten is absolutely correct that Big Daddy's is not at all an eat-in place. Sometimes they take-over the Abundant Bistro building (they do their BBQ'ing in the parking lot of what used to be Abundant Bistro) but I think that's just in winter and I'm not sure if even then they let people dine in. So, if you decide to head to Big Daddy's, you'll need to plan to take it "to go." Maybe get your BBQ then keep heading East on University Ave until you encounter the Capitol, then try to find yourself a picnic spot on the Capitol grounds, which are really lovely this time of year. I know it's very rustic, but something about Big Daddy BBQ'ing his ribs right there in the parking lot and serving them up himself right there on University Avenue just has a certain weird appeal to me. And they are good. :).

                  OR, if you don't want the to-go hassle, go to Pastor Hamiltons. :) (or Lee and Dee's, even though they aren't as good.)

                  Most important thing about Big Daddy's is that it's SATURDAY AFTERNOONs only.


            2. We don't have Katz's. Try Cecil's on Cleveland or Brother's in downtown Minneapolis.

              For Mid Eastern, if you're in St. Paul, Barbary Fig on Grand or Khyber Pass on Grand are pretty decent.

              BBQ...we don't do so well. Rooster's on Randolph can be fun. Famous Dave's is a chain and the BBQ is about as good as you'd get at a TGI Friday's.

              Indian...head over to Central Ave in NE Mpls. Hyderabad or Bombay 2 Deli or whatever is now in Udupi's old space are good.

     St. Paul, you've got to just stagger down University between Lexington and the Capitol and you'll see 25 or so Vietnamese restaurants. They're all interesting. Saigon Bakery for the grilled pork sandwich. Trie Chau for the hot & spicy chicken, Pho at a number of places. Personally, I think Ngon is overrated...too fancy.

              Mexican...definitely Los Ocampos.

              Japanese! In downtown St. Paul we've got both Tanpopo which is pretty good Japanese noodles and Sakura which is decent sushi and good country-style cooking and Fuji Ya (which I haven't been to). Up Grand to Saji Ya for decent sushi and more.

              In Roseville (or northern part of St. Paul) head to Maverick's at lunch for the perfect Roast Beef sandwich. Fries are decent if you like McD's style fries. Skip the rest of the menu and shake your head at the poor damned fools who walk into the Subway next door. It's like walking into Hell when Heaven is a mere 3 feet to the south.

              4 Replies
              1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                I know a lot of people on this board like it, and it certainly isn't bad, but Cecils food is far from "must-do". they use vienna beef products imported from chicago - which are fine but nothing spectacular. they also offer "kosher" products (produced under the appropriate supervision, but prepared in an unkosher kitchen making them pretty much nominally kosher anyhow).

                Los Ocampo, on the other hand . . . thats mexican food i really miss, and i live in southern california now so thats saying something.

                1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                  I love Tanpopo in downtown St. Paul! Great tip. Plus, their emphasis on local sourcing is really nice. Not quite as convenient to Roseville as some of the University Ave places, but, still worth the drive to downtown if you're up for it.

                  RE: Rooster's. I hate to step on a BBQ lover's toes as I know BBQ is a wildy personal thing when it comes to preferences, but I really dislike Rooster's BBQ. I think there are 4 BBQ places in St. Paul, aside from Famous Dave's, a chain: Aesop's (which I've never tried and is pretty focused on weekday business) Big Daddy's, Lee & Dees (just off of Selby a couple blocks West of Dale), and Roosters (on Randolph). We had a "BBQ" chowdown last fall where they taste-tested side-by-side and "blind" about a dozen ribs from all over the Twin Cities. In general, Big Daddy's fared near the top of the pack (though it didn't beat the favorite, which was from Minneapolis), Lee and Dee's in the middle, and Roosters pretty much at the bottom of the heap. But, if that cinnamon/allspice sauce is what says BBQ to you, then maybe Rooster's is the way to go. One thing I will say, don't plan on dining in if you go to Rooster's--get it to go. They do have a couple of seats, but you will feel covered in a film of grease after dining in the place.

                  I prefer Big Daddy's and Lee's & Dee's to Famous Dave's, but Famous Dave's to Roosters. I think Famous Dave's is respectable as a chain and, at least, it's a local (but not small) chain. There's one in Roseville, too.

                  Very good point about the limited deliciousness of Maverick's menu. In addition to the great roast beef sandwiches, the brisket sandwich and the chocolate shake at Maverick's are good. The strawberry shake is rumored to be a "must avoid" as are many of the other sandwiches. The fries are a fine accompaniment to the sandwiches, but, not worth crossing town for all by themselves.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    What about Pastor Hamilton's BBQ? I've still never been (typed with shame), but it seems to be a board favorite. Can someone with more knowledge pipe up about Pastor Hamilton's?

                    1. re: diesel

                      Pastor Hamiltons did quite well in the BBQ taste-off chowdown as per the thread I linked above. EDIT: it wasn't a unanimous decision or anything like that at the chowdown, but I think many people thought PH was their fav or one of their favs of what they tasted.

                      Since the OP is in Roseville I limited my BBQ comments to St. Paul, especially since Big Daddy was many people's second favorite in the BBQ taste-off and also because it's one of my personal favorites.


                2. If you are familiar with Katz's, I implore you to avoid eating pastrami here in MSP. You will especially hate Cecil's. I can definitively say, we have nothing even remotely close to Katz's pastrami here in MSP.

                  I even hesitate to recommend BBQ if you love top-notch BBQ and/or have great BBQ near you. It's just not a food we do good here. Big Daddy's on Saturday is good -- that's usually where I go lately when I have an urge for BBQ.

                  As for steak, if you're in downtown St. Paul (unclear as this thread has strayed all over MSP) St. Paul Grill in the St. Paul Hotel does a nice job. The Strip Club, as mentioned already, would be the fashionable pick (deservedly). You might feel more comfortable alone at The Strip Club and the guys that work there are all fun to chat with.