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Sunday night only in St Paul

Hi all. I need a great place for a one day trip to Oakdale (eating on Sunday night). Figured St Paul is easiest from the airport. Keep hearing about Heartland, but open to other recommendations. Coming from NYC, so standards are high and not looking for Asian fare. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  1. Heartland or Meritage. I don't think anywhere else can reasonably compete with NYC high standards.

    1. If you're not wanting to head further west, agree that Heartland or Meritage are your best bets.

      1. Thanks all. Looks like its Heartland.

        1 Reply
        1. I've only been to Heartland once - It was inconsistent. My vote would be Meritage. Especially with the new and improved and hopping bar.

          3 Replies
          1. re: St Paul Susie

            I'd suggest a cocktail at The St. Paul Grill (it's an institution and every outlaw who called St. Paul home drank there at one time or another) followed by dinner at Meritage. While I like and respect Lenny, Meritage is doing things with seafood these days that is better than anyone. It's a can't miss.

            1. re: Db Cooper

              Not to mention they have a pretty killer scotch list.

            2. re: St Paul Susie

              My only thought about Heartland over Meritage is that there is absolutely nothing at Meritage that a New Yorker won't be able to enjoy at a half a dozen places at home. Heartland has a focus on local food.

              Caveat: I've not eaten at the new Heartland nor have I eaten at Meritage in a few years.

            3. I would recommend the tasting menu at muffuletta. Its in the St Anothony area but their sunday night tasting menu can't be beat. $23.95 for three courses and I have always loved it


              1. I've eaten at both Heartland and Mertiage several times. bob s makes a good point about Meritage. It's very good brasserie fare that you can experience in NYC. So that makes one reason to go simply to see how it compares.

                Heartland sources locally, cures meats in the lower level, pickles fruits and veggies on site, etc. Your experience there will be more unique. IMO, Heartland also has a more interesting wine list. And when you make the reservation, mention you are from out of town and the place comes highly recommended. Can't hurt.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                  If the OP is a New York foodie, I'm guessing there is little doubt they have eaten at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Dan Barber's restaurant. It's pretty much the exact same thing Heartland is trying to do. And as much as I enjoy Heartland, it isn't in the same league yet as Blue Hill.

                  You can't go wrong with either Heartland or Meritage. But for my dollar, I think Russell is playing at a higher level these days.

                  1. re: Db Cooper

                    For the OP... Russell = chef at Meritage.

                2. Meritage. Wonderful food and service there. Especially if you like fish.

                  1. Hi all. Thanks for the input and thoughts on Heartland and Meritage. We ended up at Heartland. As a Foodie in NY and a bit picky as to my food and restaurants, i would say that Heartland was good, but not great. On the positive side, the space was beautiful and the service wonderful (even from the trainee waitress). I would say the food was good, but not spectacular. I had the aged ham and Cassoulet . The ham was very tasty, fatty salty goodness, and parts of the cassoulet were excellent. On the downside: the bread rolls were stale and tasteless; the amuse of pumpkin mousse was fair at best and not the typical spark that i expect to excite my palette. The cassoulet was a big pile of mush with a wonderful (overcooked) sausage in the middle and great duck confit on top. The rest of the bowl looked like dog food or vomit (sorry) and was tasty, but far from a beautiful plate of food. Hate to judge on one app and one main, but it was all i tasted. The deserts didn't excite us so we skipped them which was a good thing as we stopped by the market on the way out and had an excellent cream puff and cookie. btw the produce looked amazing at the market next door. So....i will not be rushing back to Heartland and will give Meritage a shot on my next visit. But we did pass Famous Dave's BBQ which looked good. anyone been there?

                    21 Replies
                    1. re: RufusHank

                      Famous Dave's is a local chain for which you will get more than mixed reviews.

                      Personally, after having had many bad experiences at other local, independent BBQ joints, I don't have a problem recommending Dave's to out of towners. In an area where good BBQ is almost impossible to find, Dave's at least has a consistency that many places lack.

                      I'm going to duck and cover now...

                      1. re: BigE

                        BigE!?!?!? Really? Famous Dave's? C'mon man. Ok, they sometimes do an ok job on the ribs, but the sides are generally atrocious. The corn tastes like animal feed, the cornbred tastes like a sugary breakfast cereal I'd ate as a kid.

                        But your point, it's hard to get good 'que here, is on the money. In St. Paul, in 2011, Big Daddy's at University and Dale is consistently the best I've had. Elsewhere, I tried that place in the NW burbs with the Vodka-based sauce two times. I didn't have a good meal there either time. Last time (december, 2011) I tried Ted Cooks 19th Hole on 38th in Minneapolis, it was good.

                        1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                          I was speaking of proteins, specifically. I've tried just about every small joint around in the past few years and, aside from being spread from corner to corner of the burbs (Q Fanatic in Champlin to Bayport BBQ), they all have serious warts.

                          Famous Dave's is not my first choice, but it's more than passable in a pinch.

                          1. re: BigE

                            OK, now I'm jonesing for some good Q. I'm going to head off to Bayport BBQ. The real Texas deal. Brisket and links, baby. http://www.bayportbbq.com/menu.html

                      2. re: RufusHank

                        As much as I would like to love Heartland I can not. My experience was similar to yours. Even the little things like the bread do count. Mine were stale also. Mt last visit to Meritage was just short of wonderful. They used to have a Tasting Menu on Sunday nights that were quite a deal. As for Famous Dave"s I agree with Big E, if I'm in the neighborhood I would not hesitate to eat there. It's as good as BBQ gets in Minnesota, that isn't saying much. Also running for cover.

                        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                        1. re: ibew292

                          Famous Dave's is what it is, chain BBQ. You can do better and you can do worse. I'm not a fan as his sauces are far too sweet for my tastes. But if you catch it right, you can get decent ribs from time to time. BBQ isn't a Twin Cities specialty.

                          1. re: ibew292

                            I wanted to take exception with your comment " if I'm in the neighborhood I would not hesitate to eat there", thinking that there'd have to be some place along West 7th that would be better than Famous Dave's, but I really can't. There aren't a lot of standouts along West 7th, are there? Depending on what you're in the mood for, Famous Dave's is about as good as anything else along that stretch. Cossetta's, Burger Moe's, Downtowner, McGoverns, DeGigio's, Bennett's, Glockenspiel, Shamrock's, Day by Day, Hot City, Mancini's are all places I've recommended to someone in search of something specific, but always with reservations.

                            That having been said, I'd rather send someone to Big Daddy's for BBQ than Famous Dave's if they are willing to drive another 10 minutes. Big Daddy's BBQ is better than Famous Dave's, and it certainly has a bit more personality. I agree with whomever said the all of the sides at Famous Dave's are forgettable (or worse.) Big Daddy's aren't great, either.

                            Famous Dave's might be a chain, but at least it's our chain!

                            As for the OP, sorry St. Paul let you down. Had we known you were going to order cassoulet, we probably would have sent you to Meritage. Heartland has its moments, but I guess this wasn't one of them.


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              A lot of people really like Lee's & Dee's BBQ (Selby & Victoria) which is easy to get to from that stretch of West 7th. Rooster's too, which is a few blocks off West 7th. That said, L&D's falls into the argument of "inconsistent" and I don't like Rooster's.

                              Anyway....not sure why I'm even dragging out this conversation.

                              1. re: MSPD

                                You're dragging out this conversation because the OP inquired about Famous Dave's, presumably as a possibility for a future visit, and we're discussing whether it would be worth the OP's time! :) . I used to like Lee and Dee's until Big Daddy's came back on the scene.


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  So you would send an out of town visitor to a BBQ Restarant that has no tables and four seats tops by the window? And in, let's be honest, a tougher part of town?

                                  Big Daddy's isn't a restaurant. It's a takeout joint. If I wanted to eat takeout in my hotel room, I'd order room service.

                                  1. re: Db Cooper

                                    Yeah, I would if I thought it met the person's requirements for what the person was looking for. I think it's important to set expectations though, and make sure the person knows what to expect, and then let him/her decide what he/she prefers.

                                    As you point out, Big Daddy's is not a full-fledged restaurant, just a take-out place. But, frankly, I don't think the " design, atmosphere, and entertainment" of Famous Dave's West 7th to be that remarkable,certainly not worth sacrificing the quality of food for. ( I would have said the design, atmosphere, and entertainment was "in no way remarkable" except that I've been to Famous Dave's in Duluth (Canal Park) and wow, that place really has no personality. So, at least West 7th is a notch above that.)

                                    If it were me, I'd probably prefer to eat Big Daddy's in my hotel room than at Famous Dave's West 7th restaurant.

                                    Also, what many Twin Citieans consider a "tough" part of town people from other cities might just call, um, town. I personally don't consider that University Avenue area that threatening, as long as you keep your wits about you, etc. Plus, West 7th isn't much of a paradise.

                                    It sounds like you'd prefer to eat at Famous Dave's under the circumstances, and that's completely ok. But that might not be everyone's choice.


                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Actually, I wouldn't eat at Famous Dave's if someone paid me. Same goes for every other BBQ joint in this town. We just don't do BBQ well in the Twin Cities. It isn't a sin, there are only a few places in this county that do. That's why I invested in a quality smoker. I can just do it myself.

                                      Larger point was sending a tourist to a take out joint vs a restaurant is questionable to me. I'd just be honest that this isnt a BBQ town and suggest a burger joint which there are multiple quality options.

                                      1. re: Db Cooper

                                        Got it. It sounded to me like you were defending Famous Dave's below, as a place you'd send a Manhattanite because of its unique design and atmosphere.


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          FWIW, I had Big Daddy's on for lunch of Friday and really enjoyed it. Judge it however you want, the ribs were delicious, in my humble opinion.

                                          It may not be perfect, authentic, competition quality, blah blah blah, but it's about as good as we can do up here.

                                          1. re: BigE

                                            I like Big Daddys. I'm glad you enjoyed lunch!


                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Ever had the ribs from Aesop's Table up the street? Just as good as Big Daddy's in my opinion (they smoke theirs as well), and much more inexpensive. I like the spicy sauce at Big Daddy's better, but that's about it.

                                              1. re: mull0263

                                                Unfortunately, Aesop's hours just don't work for me. It's basically a weekday lunch place and I'm never around that area for lunch on weekdays. So, no, I haven't. But I've heard good things from others.


                          2. re: RufusHank

                            Isn't cassoulet, by it's nature, NOT going to be a beautiful plate of food?

                            On your next trip to the area, plan in a bit more time and hit Minneapolis. As a life long resident of St. Paul, it kind of hurts to say it, but there are many, many more good restaurants of all ilk in Mpls.

                            1. re: semanticantics

                              The funny thing is, the cassoulet at Meritage is as good as I've had anywhere (including Heartland). Oops.

                              And to the OP, if you're intrigued by Famous Daves, they have them in Manhattan and elsewhere in the state of NY. I don't know what intrigue it would have to a "Foodie in NY".

                              1. re: MSPD

                                You can only do so much on these boards to try and convince people where to go eat. And MSPD, the St Paul Famous Dave's isn't like any of the ones in Manhattan. The food might be similar, but that's about it. In terms of design, atmosphere, and entertainment, it's not a comparison.

                                1. re: Db Cooper

                                  I guess I interpret "Foodie" as putting food in front of "design, atmosphere, and entertainment". Anyway, I wasn't taking a shot at anyone/anything. I mostly thought it was an unfortunate twist of fate that the OP chose between two places and then ended up ordering a dish that the one he didn't choose happens to do very, very well.

                          3. Love famous daves wings and ribs... sides are a little blah