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MSP: Conventioneers on a Budget

I'm trying to line up a hearty slate of Minneapolis-St. Paul restaurants that GOP conventioneers should make sure to check out while they're in town, with an eye toward volunteers and junior staffers, not the fat cats who will probably book Manny's solid for the duration of the meeting.

Any suggestions...? Places that show off local color, are convenient to the Xcel Energy Center, can handle large groups, serve tasty booze, and/or dip into any of the various ethnic scenes are particularly good...

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  1. I went digging around to see what's out there for conventioneers and boy will you be doing them a great service. The web page that supposedly has information on dining is a mess. http://www.mspmag.com/msp2008/index.html which is all about bars, not restaurants.

    Send em down Grand Avenue for dessert after they've had their fill of Vietnamese food on University. Kind of a good little loop. My taste runs to these establishments specifically: I like Mai Village though I know it doesn't appeal to everyone; Cafe Latte (though I know they'll be swamped during the convention), has the chocolate-y desserts I crave.

    1. Downtown: Gopher Bar for Chili Dogs and more local color than you can shake a hockey stick at, Cossetta's, El Burrito Mercado, Tanpopo, Sakura,

      Down 7th to the west: Day by Day Cafe, Chicago Taste Authority, Famous Dave's

      University: Hoa Bien, Little Szechuan, Mai Village, Saigon Bakery for Bahn Mi (feed an army for $100)

      Grand: Dixies, Billy's on Grand and The Wild Onion

      Selby Dale: Sweeny's has local color and 25-yr olds love the place.

      1. I'm guessing anyting around Xcel will be crowded beyond belief. So unless it's at an off time, Cossetta's. Great Waters, McGovern's, Matty B's, will all be difficult for keeping your group together. But you can always try.

        Your better bet is to head west on University Avenue to take in the Asian places. Mai Village, for example, while maybe not having the best food on the avenue, has pretty good food and an incredible amount of room.

        Thinking beyond Xcel and St. Paul... where are the people you have in mind staying? Are they local? Are they all in the same hotel? You may want to find a place around the hotel instead of around Xcel. Just a thought.

        1. Christo's - Greek - at the Downtown Depot is walking distance from Excel but opposite direction of most of the craziness. Check out restaurants on Selby in addtion to Grand.

          Joseph's Grill - a short walk on Wabasha across the river - has basic bar food - good burgers, comfort food. They also have a decidedly Mexican bent on several dishes - which in my opinion are their best. Huevos Rancheros or Chorizo and eggs for breakfast. Fajitas - large enough for 2 or maybe even 3 to share - at $10.95 - with homemade tortillas and FABULOUS home made salsa.

          1. Not far from downtown St. Paul--The Strip Club. Great atmosphere, great food, and old-school drinks.

            4 Replies
            1. re: drew13000

              Would you think of this as a place that volunteers and staffers could fit into their budgets?

              1. re: KTFoley

                Good point, I don't know that I'd exactly call this a budget place, but I think it's reasonable and totally in line, or even cheaper than some of the other recs. Sandwiches are under $10, and most of the entrees (excluding the strip steak) less than $20. And I think though they charge about as much as some of the other bars/grills mentioned, the food is much, much better. However, definitely not a good place for large groups.

                1. re: drew13000

                  i love the strip club, & am usually tempted to splurge on their dinner menu, w/ drinks--it's very easy to blow $100/pp or more. . . however their brunch and lunch menu are very, very reasonably priced (!), w local/unusual options. great food & service & great "local color."

                  tanpopo in lowertown is awesome homestyle japanese (noodles etc.), but could not handle a huge crowd. ngon on university might be a good night out for french-influenced vietnamese. cool atmosphere, local beer/wine list, great food & you can order bun salad or pho for under $10 as your main.

                  & i'd send a staffer in a vehicle to the original los ocampos to bring back a carload of cheap & delicious mexican meals, maybe supplemented with pupusas from manana restaurant.

                  i know that day by day cafe has a fan club, but i recently had the worst breakfast of my life there. could do better at denny's for 1/2 the price. bleck. could not unrec it more.

                  one of my fave dive bars (tiny family owned place, much cuter on the inside than you'd think, to look at it from outside) is kelly's depot bar on kellogg in st paul. *cheap* strong drinks, greasy bar food cooked at a tiny station at the end of the bar. it's a little townie. ;-) maybe a little working-class democrat-ish, now that i think of it. oh well. cheap drinks.

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    Sorry to hear about your "worst ever" Day by Day breakfast experience. I like Day by Day for the lovely patio (which is a thing of beauty in summer in St. Paul) and because they offer tofu scramble and a couple of other "healthy" options on their menu, but I've never found it exceptional. Neither have I found it awful, but I have found it a bit inconsistent. Bummer.

                    Another place in downtown St. Paul I heartily "un"recommend for breakfast in particular (dinner is fine--I like their Moe potatoes, I can't comment on lunch) is Downtowner Woodfire Grill on West 7th. Avoid avoid avoid. Expensive, wimpy portions, bland and uninspired. What a waste.

                    I actually had a decent breakfast at El Patio when if first opened, but had dreadful experiences for other meals, so, have't gone back since. But, again, it has that lovely, lovely patio. MIght be worth the risk.

                    ~TDQ

            2. Robert St:
              Joseph's
              Backstreet Grill
              Beruit

              East 7th:
              Savoy's
              Yarusso's
              Manana
              Several mexican taqueria's

              Selby:
              Happy Gnome - huge micro brew/tap beer selection
              Fern's
              Sweeny's

              Any place on University Ave and Grand Ave