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Apr 14, 2011 11:17 AM

st. paul suggestions

My husband and I will be spending a few days in the MSP area, and will have one mid-week night and one breakfast on our own. We'll be staying at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront and would love a suggestion for a mid-priced dinner and a decent breakfast place. Bonus for being within a reasonable walk, but not essential.

In browsing the board, I'm thinking Heartland and Meritage sound a bit more upscale than what we're aiming for, but we'd still like a bit of atmosphere. We'll probably pass on Asian, as we have plenty decent Asian in the Boston area. Any help would be appreciated!

410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

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  1. Heartland is as pricy as you choose to make it. Selecting the bar menu gets much of the same food, sometimes in smaller portions, at a lower cost. Take a look at their menu if you haven't already ( All large plates in the bar are under $20. Slightly less in price (depending on what you order) is Faces (

    5 Replies
    1. re: Brad Ballinger

      Mancini's is a St. Paul institution. It may not be the greatest steak you've ever had and the garden salad has enough iceberg to sink the Titanic, but it's a restaurant where Twin Cities residents have marked achievements in their lives for over 40 years.

      1. re: Db Cooper

        I love Mancini's as much as anyone, but when the best part of a steakhouse is the garlic bread and the ambiance, its not something I'll recommend as a dinner destination to an out of towner. A few drinks in the lounge? Sure. Full out dinner? Not so much.

        Now, to the original topic...

        I don't know DT breakfast spots very well, so the first recommendation I'd have is Bon Vie. That would be a short cab ride away.

        Dinner options are dependent on budget. Meritage and Heartland are two of the best in the state and shouldn't be missed, in my opinion.

        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        Bon Vie
        518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        1. re: BigE


          In reading the post, they asked for mid-priced and a step down from Meritage and Heartland. So that's what I gave them. And I think I qualified it pretty fairly, it's not going to be the best meal of your life, but since when was Mancini's ever totally about the food? It's all about the atmosphere and service.

          I know when I go out, I'm not always looking for the best possible food. That's why I threw it out there because for what it lacks in one department, it makes up for in a lot of others.

          The saddest thing is that I agree with you that Meritage and Heartland are two of the best in the state. In any other major city, they'd have a tough time cracking the Top 25.

          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

          1. re: Db Cooper

            Db, Mancini's is a great suggestion, and still on our radar screen. We don't want to bring dress clothes since we're spending time with friends up north and will be hiking, etc., and we don't want to break the bank any more than we already have.

            1. re: Db Cooper

              Perhaps, but that's no reason to saddle visitors with Mancinis, which isn't all that cheap anyway. It's a fun place to watch Minnesota power players eat on the taxpayer's dime, so long as you are also eating on the taxpayer's (or a client's) dime. The food does not taste good, though.

              St. Paul Grill is ludicrously overpriced. It is not representative of our best restaurants at all.

              Since you have a car, you might hit up Trung Nam on University for croissants for breakfast. Not at all fancy, but a very cheap way to enjoy something delicious.

              For dinner, I wouldn't undersell Heartland. The bar menu is very affordable, and you can mix and match based on your appetite. This is a great time to go, as they are beginning to incorporate some of the funkier early spring veggies. It is extremely committed to local food, so you will certainly get a taste of what makes our region special.

              I'm pretty sure it would crack the top 25 in Cleveland, or Omaha, or Tacoma, or Salt Lake City, or Pensacola, or Tuscon...

      2. On top of the already mentioned places here's a couple additonal places to check out and see if they fit the bill...

        - The Downtowner - just down 7th, might be walkable if its nice out, etc.
        - Black Sheep Pizza - haven't been, but it's a popular local pizza place (fire oven pizzas)
        - Pazzaluna - Italian and within walking distance
        - Brasa - a short drive west on Grand Ave (shopping and other restarants near by as well)
        - Mickey's Diner - Love it or hate it, but it's a greesy spoon diner if you are up for that kind of thing for breakfast and will be walking distance for you (might need to walk back to walk off the food!)

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

        Mickey's Diner
        36 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        1. For a GREAT breakfast within walking distance, check out Golden's Deli in Lowertown. It's across from the St. Paul Farmer's Market (alas, Sat. only in winter/early spring). Their food is traditional American, but made completely from scratch. You order at the counter, so don't expect a fancy brunch. But everything I've had there is awesome.

          Too bad Asian isn't in consideration, or I'd recommend Tanpopo (fabulous "home style" Japanese food; moderate prices in a very stylish place in Lowertown) or Ngon Bistro (a short bus or cab ride away for fusion Vietnamese with a great local beer list).

          But if that's not what you want...

          Black Sheep Pizza is quite nice, but you have to be in the mood for pizza. Meritage might push the price limit but if you stick to salads and French Onion Soup you'll have a great meal for not too much $$ (note that the atmosphere is casual French bistro, so it doesn't feel that upscale). Barrio has good upscale-ish Mexican food (top quality stuff) and tequila. Me, I think I'd pinch my pennies and head for Heartland - it's pricey, but worth it. You can stop in during the day and check out their deli to see if it's your kind of place - they're kitty-corner across the parking lot from Golden's Deli (and a block away from Tanpopo and Black Dog Coffee House - another nice place worth checking out).

          Finally, you could take a look at Faces Mears Park (yeah, that's really the name), to see if their menu appeals to you. Good food, casual-ish atmosphere, but can be quite pricey for dinner, depending on what you order.

          And definitely take a walk along the river. The long long parkway is my favorite stroll in the Twin Cities!


          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

          Golden's Deli
          275 4th St E, Saint Paul, MN 55101

          1. The St. Paul Grill has a great reputation, solid food and a beautiful view of Rice Park, within walking distance from your hotel. It is too bad that you don't want Asian. St. Paul has the best Thai and Vietnamese restaurants (thanks to the highest population of SE Asians in the country). Ngon has great food and a nice atmosphere! Or for something unique, it's a short cab ride to Moscow on the Hill. Vodka tasting flights and great Russian food! W.A. Frost, across the street from Moscow, has very good food, albeit a bit pricey (if it's available, I highly recommend their price fixe dinners). And both restaurants have wonderful patios!

            The Downtowner Woodfire Grill has good breakfasts. Or take a short cab ride to Day by Day Cafe. It looks like a "greasy spoon" restaurant when you walk in, but it has a lovely patio and a charming "library" room. Try the cream cheese eggs and don't miss the Lemon Ricotta pancakes if they have those as their special.

            Downtowner Woodfire Grill
            253 West 7th Street, St. Paul, MN 55102

            1 Reply
            1. re: vls

              PTI, but, "thanks to the highest population of SE Asians in the country"
              That distinction actually goes to California.

            2. How about Babani's for Kurdish? It's walkable and unique. (There are two locations of Babanis--the W 7th location is to be avoided!)

              Can't think of a great walkable mid-week breakfast--it's going to come down to what's most important to you in a breakfast

              I'm not a fan of Mickey's unless you're about nostalgia/people watching/grease. Golden's is good, but (as Anne says) not a sit-down, table service, bottomless coffee kind of breakfast, which is what I usually want when I go out for breakfast. I do love Goldens on weekend farmers market days. Key's Cafe is solid working-class diner food but I haven't been to that location in a couple of years so feel reluctant to recommend it--even so, it would be good at best, not amazing. Bon VIe is fantastic, but not walkable. Though technically "downtown" Day by Day isn't walkable either, so you might as well drive to Bon Vie. Breakfast at the Downtowner is awful--overpriced and mediocre at best. If you wanted to pay more for your breakfast than dinner, you could go to the St. Paul Grill. Another driveable option for working class breakfast: Capitol View Cafe.


              Bon Vie
              518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

              St. Paul, MN, St Paul, MN