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Looking for Great Restaurants near Excel Energy Center St Paul

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Would love suggestions on places to get good food and a drink before concert tonight. Thanks!

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  1. The Liffey is right across the street from the Xcel, and Burger Moe's is also a block away.

    Is there something specific you're looking for?

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    Liffey Irish Pub
    175 7th St, W St Paul, MN

    14 Replies
    1. re: SmartCookie

      Thanks...Not really something specific...just a place where the food is yummy. And the atmosphere is good. Is there a decent Italian restaurant near by? Or just a restaurant that is known for great food?

      1. re: Minneapolistown

        Pazzaluna is nearby, which is Italian, and it's fine. It's no Bar La Grassa, but it's the best Italian close to the Excel. Also nearby is Meritage which is some of the finest French food you find in the Cities and they have great cocktails and wine.

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        Pazzaluna
        360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

        Meritage
        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        Bar La Grassa
        800 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

        1. re: Seige

          I'd argue for Trattoria Da Vinci on Sibley street before Pazzaluna. While I don't think either one is actually good Italian, I've always been disappointed by Pazzaluna, to the point I actively avoid it, whereas if looking for pasta in the downtown St. Paul area, I'll always head to Tratorria Da Vinci.

          While not exactly next door to the X, Barrio (next door to Bulldog) offers very good "Mexican" and a great atmosphere.

          Lastly, FACES on Mears, the latest David Fhima adventure, offers excellent food, with an eye on health conscious, in a fun atmosphere. I've eaten there several times since it opened. Service is a bit suspect, but his Mediterranean menu is great, and it's a wonderful menu for a mixed crowd, where some folks might want health conscious, and some want fat and calorie bombs. Both ends of the spectrum are high in flavor at Faces.

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          Pazzaluna
          360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

          Trattoria Da Vinci
          400 Sibley St Ste 190, Saint Paul, MN 55101

          1. re: foreverhungry

            This is SO WEIRD. I was just discussing Da Vinci with my husband last night and wondered if that place is even still around. No one ever talks about it, it seems. As you say, it's not great food, but it's pretty good food. I think the problem is that it's pretty good food at a pretty high price, though to be fair, I think I've only been there once or twice, and the last time was 3-4 years ago... For all I know, the food's been amazing lately (though, from your post, it doesn't sound like it's gotten amazing...)

            ~TDQ

            1. re: foreverhungry

              I'd put Da Vinci in the same boat as Pazzaluna - just fine. Not spectacular, but not completely horrible either. Again, I use Bar La Grassa as the bar (pun intended) for Italian and that's a high threshold to cross. I've only eaten at Da Vinci and Pazzaluna once (Pazzaluna as recently as the end of August, Da Vinci a few years ago) and they were both just so-so for me. I recommended Pazzaluna because I thought it was closer to the Excel than Da Vinci is.

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              Pazzaluna
              360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

              Bar La Grassa
              800 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

              1. re: Seige

                I would agree with putting Pazzaluna and Trattoria Da Vinci in the same general grouping. And personal likes and dislikes being what they are, I personally like Da Vinci better than Pazzaluna, but Pazzaluna clearly has a loyal following. And yes, Pazzaluna is quite a bit closer than Da Vinci is to the X. The food at Da Vinci isn't amazing, but to me, it's worth what you pay.

                As for bars, it's interesting you Bar La Grassa as the bar for Italian. I love the place, and can't say enough things about it. But - and this might sound weird - even though it's mostly pasta dishes, I don't see it as an Italian place. To me, it's an excellent restaurant that serves a lot of pasta. The Italian bar for be is I Nonni, in Lilydale. Perhaps because I Nonni is more traditional Italian and BLG takes a much more modern approach. But excellent, but just different.

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                Pazzaluna
                360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

                I Nonni
                981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

                Trattoria Da Vinci
                400 Sibley St Ste 190, Saint Paul, MN 55101

                Bar La Grassa
                800 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

                1. re: foreverhungry

                  Oh I'd completely agree that Bar La Grassa isn't traditional Italian the way that I Nonni is, but I do consider it to be Italian not just pasta. I've only been to I Nonni once and the food was good from what I could tell. I think my judgment with I Nonni is just clouded a bit because I had an allergic reaction to some food there (which was no fault of theirs) and it made the rest of the meal unbearable. I don't think I got a really good take on their food as a result. It's hard to enjoy a meal when your throat is closing up. :)

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                  I Nonni
                  981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

                  Bar La Grassa
                  800 N Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401

              2. re: foreverhungry

                Interesting review on FACES. Haven't been yet, but have always thought David Fhima is long on marketing, short on quality food. After many disappointing experiences to LoTo, somewone will have to drag me to this new place. Especially since friend said it was really just a FACElift on LoTo. tbc....

                1. re: rp1760

                  I agree that Fhima has had some issues. I'm not sure that the problem is "short on quality food" - I think he has trouble putting a whole concept together and making it work. I actually really like his cooking, but there's always something that just doesn't work. And I agree - LoTo just didn't work. But even though I was very skeptical of Faces, I've been impressed every time I've gone. Don't get me wrong - it's no Meritage or Heartland. But it's a very good Mediterranean menu, with a lot of emphasis on healthy foods. I think there's definitely a place for that in the St. Paul restaurant scene.

                  As for a FACElift on LoTo...the interior hasn't changed (much), but the menu certainly has. If anything, it's more of a personality change rather than a facelift.

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                  Meritage
                  410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                  1. re: foreverhungry

                    I'm not sure I ever made it to LoTo (if I did, it was unmemorable)--but I did have some amazing moroccan-spiced ribs at Fhima's once. I hope Faces has those on the menu somewhere...

                    ~TDQ

            2. re: Minneapolistown

              Pazzaluna is one of my favorites downtown St. Paul, and easily within walking distance of Xcel. That would fit your Italian reco. Mertiage (french) is consistently one of the top rated restaurants in St. Paul, also within walking distance. A little further, Barrio and Bulldog are more bar types (Barrio is run by a James Beard winner). Bulldog is definitely better than average bar fare with a great beer list. Further yet (MAYBE cab, albeit short cab ride) is Heartland. Excellent food, new location downtown.

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              Pazzaluna
              360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

              1. re: b ster

                I think the James Beard award winner (McKee) is no longer associated with Barrio... or, vice versa.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  You're absolutely right, completely forgot....thanks for the correction!

                2. re: b ster

                  I have to say, Pazzaluna is also one of my favorites, but you need to know what to get. Personally, I think they do appetizers and antipasti quite well, but the entrees I've had left something to be desired (especially for the price).

                  I should admit, I've only eaten there for Happy Hour (where I've tasted almost all of their appetizers) and my twin sister's rehearsal dinner for her wedding was at Pazzaluna. The gnocchi was satisfying, and I've always liked the assortment of antipasti.

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                  Pazzaluna
                  360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

            3. McGoverns. The open-faced turkey sandwich. It's the only thing that compels me to go to St. Paul.

              7 Replies
              1. re: alpa chino

                McGoverns open faced turkey good to know. THere have to be more compelling restaurants in St Paul. actually i had a wonderful meal at the strip club steak house recently. Wonderful steaks!!

                1. re: alpa chino

                  I've never been to McGoverns and probably won't (dietary restrictions and all), but you really need to explore St. Paul more, alpa chino!

                  1. re: mtullius

                    The turkey sandwich at McGovern's really is good.

                    ~TDQ

                    1. re: mtullius

                      Ahhhhh. It better be something really good over there for me to get on 94 and cross the river. One of these days, I'll make it over to the Groveland Tap. Everybody seems to love that one. But otherwise, I've got everything I need here in dntwn mpls.

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                      Groveland Tap
                      1834 Saint Clair Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                      1. re: alpa chino

                        Groveland Tap? Perhaps you mean the Nook or Blue Door Pub? Groveland Tap used to be pretty solid if you just wanted a family-friendly burger joint, but then they changed around their menu and really mucked it up. (Plus 2 of their best went and opened up the BDP). The Nook I heartily recommend. Less heartily BDP (menu too gimmicky, crowd too hip for my tastes, but really fantastic hospitality, nice local charm... ).

                        ~TDQ

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                        Groveland Tap
                        1834 Saint Clair Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                        The Blue Door Pub
                        1811 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          See how behind the times I am, regarding St. Paul eats. Yup, everyone loves that Nook. Already put on my list. Thanks

                        2. re: alpa chino

                          Groveland Tap on St. Clair? If I hadn't eaten in days, I wouldn't walk across the street to that place. Without a doubt Groveland Tap (along with St. Clair Broiler) are the two worst places I have eaten in the Twin Cities. There are many restaurants that people really enjoy that I don't, like Pazzaluna. I totally understand different tastes, etc. But I simply cannot understand how people actually eat at the Groveland Tap. For me, Groveland Tap is a few steps below White Castle. If you're going to make a special trip to STP, please don't let the Tap be your destination. You'll never come back if it is.

                          -----
                          Groveland Tap
                          1834 Saint Clair Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55105

                          Pazzaluna
                          360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

                    2. Can you clarify "near"? Walking distance?

                      There is only one restaurant in downtown St. Paul that I would consider "great" in terms of food. And that is Meritage (reservations certainly a good idea).

                      Others which are very good, depending on what sort of place you're looking for: Barrio (tequila bar, loud, fun, good Mexican-ish food), the Liffey (Irish pub, nice roof deck, decent food and drinks).

                      You mentioned Italian... there is Cossetta's, a cafeteria style place with decent Italian-American food.

                      Great Waters downtown is a not terrible option: it's a brewpub with somewhat decent beer and acceptable food. The Bulldog Lowertown is a loud sportspub kind of place with a large beer list and decent burgers and such.

                      I've heard mostly bad things about Pazzaluna, but I suppose it depends on what you consider good Italian....

                      Sakura has pretty good sushi and Japanese food.

                      I guess it really depends on how close, and how great. But Meritage, really. is what I'm thinking if you really mean "great food." There's also Heartland, which I have not yet processed as being in downtown St. Paul, but it is now. Again, reservations would be a good idea....

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                      Pazzaluna
                      360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

                      Meritage
                      410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

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

                      The Bulldog Lowertown
                      237 6th St E, Saint Paul, MN 55101

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: mtullius

                        I'd have the turkey sandwich at McGoverns before I'd go to Great Waters, to be honest (foodwise.) Service at GW is indifferent at best.

                        In addition to what mtullius has recommended, Downtowner is pretty solid, too, especially if you have people with a lot of different tastes dining with you. I always think of it as a good "group" place downtown. I'd definitely go to Downtowner before I'd go to Great Waters.

                        But, if you're looking for GREAT, I'd say Meritage or Heartland, although, I'm guessing you're not going to have time or the reservations to pull that off for tonight. (I haven't been to Heartland since it moved downtown. I assume it's still great.)

                        ~TDQ

                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          Oh, I don't doubt that the turkey sandwich is better than anything at Great Waters. I just don't eat factory farmed meat anymore, so I probably won't be trying that one. Great Waters is, as I said, acceptable food. I don't especially recommend it, but it all depends on what one is looking for....

                          1. re: mtullius

                            Got it. Scratch McGoverns, then. GWB has sustainably-produced meat and poultry offerings?

                            ~TDQ

                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              OMG you guys rock! Thank you for all the suggestions!! I also hear Senor Wong was good. ANyone have word on that place?

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                              Senor Wong
                              111 East Kellogg Blvd., Saint Paul, MN 55101

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                No, to my knowledge it does not. I would have to plumb its vegetarian offerings nowadays (haven't been in a while). But it has a big enough menu that I would probably be able to find something.....

                        2. This post is too late for your night tonight - sorry. I work downtown and go to quite a few Wild games at the Excel. I love the Meritage.

                          Another go to place for me is the Bar at the St. Paul Grille. Pricey, but worth a splurge here and there. Love the decorations and the music around the Holidays. Outstanding cocktails. Great people watching. Classy, yet cozy atmosphere (try the sunken bar off the lobby if the bar is packed). I think their crab cake is the best in town.

                          -----
                          Meritage
                          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102