HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >

Discussion

st. paul suggestions

  • b

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!

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

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  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 (www.heartlandrestaurant.com). All large plates in the bar are under $20. Slightly less in price (depending on what you order) is Faces (www.facesmearspark.com).

    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. http://www.mancinis.com/

      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.

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

        Bon Vie
        518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        1. re: BigE

          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.

          -----
          Meritage
          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!)

        -----
        Pazzaluna
        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!

          Anne

          -----
          Meritage
          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.

              ~TDQ

              -----
              Bon Vie
              518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

              Babani's
              St. Paul, MN, St Paul, MN

              1. Wow, thanks for all the great suggestions. Sure wish we had a few more nights. It's my first visit but we have friends in the area, so hopefully there will be many more trips.

                We have a rental car so driving won't be a problem. Bon Vie sounds great for breakfast. Looks like a sweet little place. Mickey's sounds fun but we'll be looking for lots of coffee refills and l leisurely meal.

                The St. Paul Grill sure is expensive! Looks gorgeous, though. Right now I'm leaning toward the bar at Heartland, Brasa, Passaluna or Faces on Mears Park. I'm going to have my husband check out some of the menus and then we can choose.

                Thanks again, and I'll report back.

                -----
                Bon Vie
                518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                9 Replies
                1. re: bear

                  Bon Vie is in my 'hood. Hubby and I eat there every weekend. Highly recommend whatever the special pancakes of the day are.

                  As far as other options, I've not been to Heartland and have no doubt that it and the other places you're thinking of are good; however, I'd pick Meritage 5 times over Pazzaluna. That said, if you'll have a rental car I'd even consider going across the river to Bar La Grassa. Some of the best pasta you'll find anywhere (and yes, I've eaten in Boston's Little Italy and yes, I think this is better). Have fun!

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

                  Meritage
                  410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                  Bon Vie
                  518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

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

                  1. re: bear

                    One place no one has suggested is the Liffey, which is a little bit of a walk, but not terribly far. It's an Irish pub, and if the weather is nice, has one of the best rooftop patios in the Twin Cities. Sandwiches, Irish pub fare like shepherd's pie, fish and chips and corned beef and cabbage. Can't speak about much of the menu, as we never seem to get past the beer and the cheese plate, which is substantial. Most meals under $13 but each time we were there people around us were impressed with their sandwiches and with the fish and chips.

                    1. re: vls

                      I love The Liffey for hanging out. The food is really not good. I think many people know that annd don't order the food. Which makes the service unexceptional, since the servers don't know what to do when they have to schlep food. Go for the drinks, great atmosphere, and fun people.

                    2. re: bear

                      I feel a bit bad saying this as I've never eaten there but I've never heard anything remotely good about Pazzaluna. I'm thinking Boston has about three trillion Italian/pizza places that are a lot better.

                      Any of the others are much much much better choices

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

                      1. re: turtlebella

                        Pazzaluna is just OK, expensive and loud. I've had a good meal there, but price/portion just doesn't add up.

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

                        1. re: turtlebella

                          I agree...Pazzaluna is mediocre at best. In my book, it doesn't even rank in TC Italian places, let alone Boston ones.

                        2. re: bear

                          Bon Vie is an excellent choice for your breakfast. Let me put in a rec for their Eggs Benedict, if that's your thing. Their hollandaise is brilliantly lemony.

                          If St. Paul Grill is overbudget for your dinner, I'd suggest crossing Heartland off your list. It'll cost you about the same amount of money to get full (portions are smaller at Heartland so you would probably want to order more courses). Meritage is in the same price range, too.

                          Considering that leaves you with Brasa, Pazzaluna, and Faces, I'd definitely go with Brasa if it was me. If you do end up at Brasa, my top recs would be the roasted pork, catfish, and especially the collards. Sprinkle a little spicy vinegar on those babies and enjoy!

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

                          Meritage
                          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                          Bon Vie
                          518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                          1. re: bear

                            I work downtown, and I get over to Senor Wong's at least once a week. Great fish tacos, with cabbage, orange habenara pico de gallo and aji amarillo aioli. The last few weeks they have using walleye and purple cabbage. The sweet potato fries, with a very light tempura batter and spicy sriracha mayo, are a killer. The Banh Mi is also excellent, as are the rest of the burgers and sandwiches. I haven't been there for dinner, but friends say they have good portions, easy prices, and great cocktails.

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

                            1. re: rp1760

                              +1 for the banh mi at Senor Wong's - love the egg on top! It's not the best banh mi in town (my vote would go to Saigon on Univ. Ave), but it's the best in downtown St. Paul. OK, so it's the only banh mi in downtown St. Paul, now that Faces has dropped their awesome veggie banh mi from the menu. But it's good anyway.

                              I wasn't wild about the sweet potato fries - I thought the batter was too thick & hid too much of the sweet potato taste - but if I was drinking beer during happy hour, an order of these would go down well.

                              I've also had a cold noodle salad (with pork, if I remember rightly) that was a nice version of the dish. I haven't tried the Mexican dishes.

                              Anne

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

                          2. I dont know a ton about STP but in the last 6 months I had Pazaluna and it was excellent. Actually i took my niece/nephew there and my nephew had a pizza and it was flat, crispy, and amazing. I might get that if i go again.

                            1. Thanks so much, everyone. I've printed this thread out. Friends are taking us to Tavern on Grand for walleye for lunch this afternoon after we land, so we'll get a bit of that old-time Minnesota touch. Then we're headed to the northern part of the state for a few days before we head back down to St. Paul. Can't wait!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: bear

                                Ah, we've ordered up snow in your honor!

                                Years ago we took a woman from Canada to lunch at Tavern on Grand for a "Minnesota touch" and ordered walleye from, yup, Canada. No such thing as commercial walleye from Minnesota.

                                1. re: vls

                                  except of course for red lake walleye-- which you certainly won't find at tavern on grand, but certainly may find on the menu at heartland, etc.

                                  i agree with some of the others-- the best "local eats" meritage/heartland/strip club are going to be a bit more expensive, but worth it. . . the mancinis/pazzaluna/faces etc "step down" from those will be a significant step down in terms of quality, but not a significant step down in terms of price. a lot of mediocre, overpriced food in st. paul *cough* st paul grill *cough.* best bet for budget friendly+quality+atmosphere in st. paul would be asian places like the serene homestyle japanese at tanpopo, or the very unique/local 2nd generation vietnamese food at ngon. if bouncing over the river to mpls were an option there would be many more contenders. wish i had any kind of rec for st paul breakfast, but i don't. bon vie's food is good, but this idea of a "leisurely" breakfast there gives me pause. maybe it's not always packed with small children and extremely loud though, just when i go? honestly it might behoove you to grab pastries and lots of coffee refills at one of the many locally owned independent coffee shops. more atmosphere, better coffee, less money-- apply the savings to dinner and lunch :)

                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                    ha! I never take my daughter (2.5 years old) to Bon Vie cos I always think of it as being too nice of a breakfast place for a toddler. I don't feel that way in general about a lot of places but somehow Bon Vie just never feels like a good fit for a little kid. Space too small, no noise reduction etc... no way for people to be able to ignore an annoying-to-them kid. So it's funny that you have experiences a lot of children there! I agree that there aren't great breakfast recs in St Paul. We end up at Day by Day but mostly just by default. The food is just okay, in my opinion. But the patio is nice in the summer! We need better breakfast/brunch-that-starts-early options in St Paul...

                                    -----
                                    Bon Vie
                                    518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                                    1. re: turtlebella

                                      As I said, we're at Bon Vie nearly every weekend (there this morning even - lemon poppyseed pancakes - yum!) and we typically do see families with young children. I would say, however, that the kids are typically very well behaved. I don't know if that's been pure luck or what, but we've never had a problem with unruly little ones. And we don't have kids, so we're probably not as tolerant of kids as others would be.

                                      -----
                                      Bon Vie
                                      518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                                2. re: bear

                                  If you're going to Tavern on Grand, be sure to stop in Golden Fig (very close) for some provisions for your trip up north (saving you from chains on the road). That's a more fitting "taste of Minnesota" than walleye...they have all sorts of local products. I especially love the chocolates and, at this time of year they should have some outstanding maple syrup options. Go for the B-grade dark....I can't help myself from taking shots of it after the wife and kids have gone to bed. I'm hopeless.

                                  www.goldenfig.com (The website does not do justice to the shop)

                                3. Thanks so much for all the suggestions, everyone. We had a great trip and fell in love with the area. We started with walleye at Tavern on Grand. It was really good. We tried both the blackened and the fried and liked both. (They were pretty open about it being Canadian and not local). Simple, no-frills place, no-nonsense service and a fun way to start our trip.

                                  We headed up north for a few days and then came down to St. Paul for a couple of days. (Amazing views of the Mississippi from the Crown Plaza Riverfront, by the way...totally worth the $8/night upgrade). A friend took us to The Dock in Stillwater where we had a very good meal. It was Tuesday night and they had several bottles of wine at half price. We had a very nice Paso Creek Zinfandel and I think it was $18. We started with well fried catfish fingers and very good bread, and then I had perfectly cooked Black and Blue tuna with good mashed potatoes and asparagus. My husband had a vegetarian pasta dish that he was happy with. Really nice evening, and what lovely views of the St. Croix.

                                  The next morning we hit the Downtowner before heading to the Science Museum. It’s a lovely space and for the most part the food was decent. My husband enjoyed his Huevos Rancheros with salsa verde, and my dish of hashbrowns with house-made Cajun sausage was good except for the obviously pre-fab hollandaise. That’s a pet peeve for me. Why make your own sausage and then use reconstituted sauce? Anyway, it worked for what we needed. After the museum and some general sight-seeing, we were pretty tired and wanted to stick close to the hotel so we went to Pazzaluna for dinner. I started with a simple salad of mixed greens and oranges with a light vinaigrette and for my main had carbonara with tons of pancetta. Purists might not be happy because there was cream in the sauce, but it was tasty. My husband had spaghetti and meatballs which, despite a rather tiny portion of pasta, were delicious. We had a reasonably priced bottle of rioja with our mains and finished with a delicious warm chocolate cake for dessert. Service was very good and overall it was just what we needed.

                                  The next day we hit Bon Vie for breakfast before taking a drive around Grand, Summit and River Road. The restaurant was just what we were looking for. Cute and casual with lots of coffee refills, delicious hollandaise on the eggs benedict and yummy crunchy peach pancakes for my husband.

                                  We left wishing we had a couple more days and look forward to returning. Thanks for your help in making our stay more delicious!

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

                                  Bon Vie
                                  518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: bear

                                    "Purists might not be happy because there was cream in the sauce, but it was tasty."

                                    Purists always say that, but even Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin fame puts cream in his sauce. Check out his cookbook, "On The Line" and you'll see it. It's not worst sin I see made when it comes to this dish.

                                    Carbonara is something of a passion of mine. I tried it at just about every restaurant I ate at on my trip to Italy last summer. If I go out for Italian and it's on the menu, I'll be ordering it. The only thing that really irritates me is when additional ingredients are added to it, with peas being the worst offender followed by scallops or shrimp. That's not Carbonara. It should be egg yolks, parmesan cheese, pancetta (or bacon), generous amounts of pepper, and spaghetti. That's it.

                                    Most people add the cream to prevent the pasta from cooking the egg sauce. By adding cream, you raise the cooking temperature of the egg/cheese sauce and prevent it from hard-boiling. The same effect can be achieved by tempering the eggs with two or three ladles of the pasta water...if you want to be a purist.

                                    I'm glad you enjoyed your trip to the Twin Cities. Come back soon ... preferably July or August when the weather is a little warmer.

                                    1. re: Db Cooper

                                      Have you had the carbonara at Bar La Grassa? TO DIE FOR! Love it!

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

                                      1. re: Seige

                                        I haven't yet. I've heard really good things.

                                        I got engaged in Italy last summer and married in Belize this past March. My budget these days is pretty much confined to cooking at home until late summer/early fall. I may sneak a meal in here or there, but not my usual pace.

                                        But come the fall, BLG is on my list of places to go get it.

                                    2. re: bear

                                      Yay! Glad you loved Bon Vie. The specialty pancakes are my favs and while those peach ones are pretty good, the lemon poppy seed and strawberry crunch are even better! Guess you'll just have to come back. :)

                                      -----
                                      Bon Vie
                                      518 Selby Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102