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Aug 14, 2012 09:27 AM

New St. Paul Restaurants

On some recent drives, we've discovered a couple upcoming new editions in St. Paul dining. Any extra news/thoughts on these places?

French Hen - Bon Vie recently lost their lease and has now moved into the A Piece of Cake bakery location. A Piece of Cake still exists too; they're sharing the space. We've been to the new location a couple times and the food is as good as ever, but enough about Bon Vie... The person who owns/manages Fleur de Lis is opening a new restaurant in the old Bon Vie space - French Hen. According to the sign out front they'll be serving Breakfast, Lunch, Dessert, and Light Afternoon Fare in a French-style bistro. According to a Pioneer Press article (below), the chef is going to be Brian Wogstad, formerly of the Happy Gnome. Opening in late September/early October. Looking forward to another great breakfast spot in the hood!

Sakana Sushi & Asian Bistro - Anyone remember that completely atrocious KFC on Cleveland in Highland Park? We went in there once and everything was so disgusting I don't even recall if we ordered anything. That place was a nightmare. Anyway - drove past there last night and there's a sign saying that Sakana Sushi & Asian Bistro is coming soon. I'd never heard of it, so Googled it and discovered there's already one in Wayzata. Anyone been there? Curious what people think about it. I'd like to think anything would be better than that KFC was, but one never knows.

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  1. I'd love drive-thru sushi...Wouldn't that be a kick?


    1. Wow. I was at Bon Vie (old location) only a little over a month ago, and I drive past that KFC many times (of course, don't really bother to take notice of it -- and I've parked in the lot to visit other businesses nearby).

      For the new French Hen place, they are getting a good chef. Although most people associate Happy Gnome with a gazillion brews on tap, the food they've turned out has always been a pleasant surprise.

      For the sushi place, it will be nice to have an option in the 'hood other than Lund's. But, as you suggest, good to see the KFC go. Maybe the Burger King on Ford Parkway will soon follow.

      20 Replies
      1. re: Brad Ballinger

        There's a Burger King on Ford Parkway? Or, maybe you meant that other member of fast-food royalty, Dairy Queen? I do love DQ's soft serve cones and just the culture of hanging out at the DQ on a hot summer day. I know it's not very chowish of me, but I'd hate to see DQ (a Minnesota-based company BTW) go.

        Actually, when I read that the Happy Gnome's chef was heading to French Hen, it immediately made me cross French Hen off my list. I know people have been happy with H.G.'s food lately, but I gave it a try after some hounds urged me to give it another chance and was not happy. (I'm not much of a beer drinker, either.) I wonder who is going to take over at H.G.? Perhaps I'll have to give them another try when things settle down...


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Yeah I vote to keep the Highland Park DQ. If we are doing away with restaurants in Highland my vote goes to Chatterbox Pub and The St Clair Broiler, who both have been turning out below mediocre food for years.

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            I believe the chef going from the Happy Gnome to the French Hen was a sous chef, as the executive chef at the Gnome is Scott Brink. So I doubt much will change with the menu, but could certainly have an impact on the final product. On a side note, I was just there and had the foie gras & duck meatballs - phenomenal, and a steal at $6.

            1. re: mull0263

              Wow, $6 does sound like a steal, especially if it's good.

              You make a persuasive case in favor of Happy Gnome, mull. I had several bad experiences several years ago, but went back maybe 8-9 months ago at the urging of some hounds who said it had gotten better in recent years. So, I gave it another shot. I ordered the gnocchi, which were rubbery-awful. Since reporting back on that dreadful experience, I've been advised to stick to the burgers at Happy Gnome, that the rest of the menu was unreliable.

              Truth be told, if I have to limit myself to the burgers at Happy Gnome, there are several other places I'd rather go for a burger, even places that source their beef carefully and that have lovely patios. W.A. Frost just up the street on Selby, for instance, or Burger Moe's on West 7th. Or Meritage on weekends for lunch. If I were a beer drinker I might be persuaded to give Happy Gnome's burgers a try, but I'm not. Of course, now you've upped the ante with foie gras meatballs, darn you.

              I, too, could live without the St. Clair Broiler. I think that place survives on nostalgia alone. It's the kind of place I want to love, but just haven't been able to. I've actually come to appreciate the weekend breakfasts at Chatterbox Pub. Not spectacular, but solid enough and very family friendly. They also do a weekend buffet/brunch that looks like it would be a good value. I've never tried it, though.

              ETA: And while we're on the subject of St. Paul restaurants for which I have had (Chatterbox Pub) or haven't had (Happy Gnome) a slight change of heart, I did recently have a pretty good meal at Blue Door Pub. I think if you just stick to their basic Juicy Lucy it will probably come out okay. It's the crazier, more creative burgers that are problematic, I think, in terms of being raw and/or excessively greasy. I've also had a change of heart re: Shamrock's. I've had some pretty good burgers there. Not the same as or as good as the Nook's (exhibits 1 & 2: the uber-presence of pickles and the way they cut their onions), but completely acceptable for bar food.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                The Broiler used to be good - not spectacular, I'll grant you, but good for a burger and a malt - but since the Rudolph's management team took over a few years ago, it's become a complete tragedy. I miss the old version, but, at this point, would rather see someone who knows what they're doing take the space.

                I wouldn't be sad to see Chatterbox go, either. I don't know why we can't get a decent all-around American place in Highland. That'd be lovely.

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Completely understandable regarding the Happy Gnome - there are certainly better places you can find any of their dishes in the Cities. I generally stick to the sandwiches, burgers and small plates. I have had some very forgettable items there (e.g., various pizzas, lobster roll, pappardelle), but there are also some that are consistently good (e.g., game burger, fried veggie juicy lucy, marlin sandwich) that will keep me coming back. Though, admittedly, it's the beer selection and the ambiance that are my top priorities. And Firkin Fest. And their scotch selection.

                  Regarding the Chatterbox, I haven't been for breakfast, but have had consistently terrible food during lunch and dinner. I'll still stop in occasionally for a game or risk or Trivial Pursuit and a few beers though.

                  1. re: mull0263

                    Yeah, I probably still wouldn't send you to Chatterbox Pub... Like I said, the breakfast is fairly acceptable. Not sure about the rest.


              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                Brain fart. BK became a DQ Grill and Chill (home of food whose only color is brown). I thought Pizza Hut became DQ. But Pizza Hut became an apartment building.

                1. re: Brad Ballinger

                  It's a great responsibility, Brad, to remember not only the current restaurants in any given location, but all of the restaurants that preceeded them! As a relative newcomer, I am not fettered with any of that knowledge.


                  1. re: Brad Ballinger

                    That's what I thought and said (re: BK becoming DQ), but then I threw in a mention about food poisoning at a different restaurant and the whole post got pulled. Cripes.

                    Anyhoo - still love Happy Gnome and I've recently had some good crab cakes there. Are they the absolute best crab cakes I've ever eaten? No. But pretty darn good and fairly meaty. Personally, I love their burgers, but I think some other options are good too. Totally get it if you don't want to go back though. I've had some crappy experiences at beloved places for everyone else that I won't be returning to either.

                    1. re: Seige

                      What do you especially like about their burgers? They do have a lovely patio and I'm trying to cram in a lot of patio dining while the season's good... Maybe I should give them another shot.


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Their burgers are nicely sized (even on the large size), juicy (not greasy), well-flavored, well-cooked (i.e. for me - medium - not cooked to an oblivion), and they're a bit different. Hubby loves the game burger (bison/elk combo) and I love the duck burger (sans goat cheese - I'm severely allergic). The angus cheeseburger is good too, but it's fun to have a burger that's a little out of the ordinary.

                        It doesn't look like the gnocchi is on the menu anymore. Maybe they recognized some issues with that one - not sure.

                        1. re: Seige

                          Interesting about the gnocchi--it was an appetizer, but I think it was a regular menu item, not a special or anything. Just as well they took it off. Those burgers do sound really appealing. Maybe we'll try to get back there while the weather is good to try those. I hope the kitchen won't be in too much chaos with the sous chef leaving.


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            They do switch up the menu occasionally, but the burgers are always available. It looks like they have wild game poutine now which could be dangerous!

                            1. re: Seige

                              You know, I can do a calorie-splurge for a burger once in awhile, but poutine is absolutely off limits. The best I can hope for is a dining companion orders it and I can poach a taste... Sounds awfully tempting though...


                          2. re: Seige

                            Replying to myself, but we went to the Happy Gnome Sunday night. They've changed up the menu again and now the Angus Cheeseburger is topped with braised short ribs. OMG - so good! Hubby got a Cuban which he also liked. Only saddness is that the crab cakes are gone. :(

                      2. re: Brad Ballinger

                        I stick to the foot long chili dogs and cool treats but never recall ever seeing or hearing about any "Brown Colored Food!" If I want an ALWAYS delicious burger I live 5 blocks from The Nook and really close to BDP.

                        1. re: Fudist

                          I never associate The Nook and BDP with delicious burgers. I haven't been to the Happy Gnome for a while, but the last few times I've enjoyed their burgers. But to each their own.

                          1. re: foreverhungry

                            Conversely when I think delicious burger, I think The Nook. Or Shamrock's.

                            1. re: ChillyDog

                              Nook is the only sit down place I get a burger in the twin cities. 5 guys the only fast food place. I agree CD. Granted last time my fries were off at the Nook but I easily could have said something and they would have replaced them.

                  2. As I scan this thread quickly, I come up with two conclusions:

                    1. In St. Paul, there isn't much new going on in the restaurant business..
                    2. In St. Paul, memory of the old quickly eclipses fascination with the new.

                    Disclaimer: I live in St. Paul and do not hate it.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                      So true! And notice that the conversation quickly turns to places to get a hamburger. I think there's a moral to the story somewhere here.
                      Disclaimer: I live in St. Paul and I love hamburgers.

                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                        Well, the critic at the PiPress apparently agrees with you, today she published her round up of The Nook, DeGidio's, The Lex, Mancinis, and the St. Clair Broiler.

                        But, honestly everything else (aside from what's been mentioned in the OP) that's "new" in St. Paul is either a food truck or pretty familiar, but it's also all pretty good: Foxy Falafel and Colossal Cafe. Cossetta's market and deli have re-opened in their new space and their new restaurant Louis is slated to open mid-November. Bread Chocolate and Cake has re-opened, but in Mendota Heights, which is St. Paul'ish but mostly worth mentioning because it's worth mentioning. In the not quite a restaurant category are Lynden's Soda Fountain and Cow Bella Gelato.

                        There's been some tamale action in the skyway as well as the opening of "the Doghouse," and this "Four Inn's" place that I've never heard of that got new ownership.

                        Nothing very burger-y among the newbies. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          The Four Inns is an oddity in the St Paul skyway. I've never eaten there, but it is very popular. Judging from appearances only, it reminds me of a truck stop diner. "Vintage" decor, daily specials, a lunch counter in addition to table service, and a line out the door at lunch every day. It's one of those places that you walk by and can smell the undersized exhaust hood as well as the remnants of the pre-smoking ban days.

                          1. re: blue_skiesMN

                            Well, that does sound rather burger-y, thus proving Sue's corollary to Jim's Theorem of St. Paul chow. It also sounds unfortunately unappealing, though one does wonder why the place is so packed. Nostalgia?


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Packed because it is a place that you can actually sit down and be waited on for a reasonable price. The food is diner"ish" and not all awful, but certainly not chowish by any standards. It is the only place I know of downtown outside of Mickey's where you can get a real breakfast - eggs your way, pancakes, etc... It is for the most part freshly made to order unlike many of the other skyway spots where the food is cooked before hand and held in steamers.

                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                            Just a quick correction. That's not Bread Chocolate and Cake but Bread Coffee and Cake.

                          3. re: JimGrinsfelder

                            This thread is less evidence of St. Paul's restaurant activity and more an example of the usual topic dynamics at work. A discussion named "New Xyz Restaurants" has almost no chance of being maintained as an ongoing compendium of what's happening in Xyz..

                            This thread was active for just a few days, which is about all it takes for people to get the news about the two places-to-be that were nothing more than signage at the time of writing. It re-surfaced not because nothing else had happened in the last two months, but rather because somebody linked to it as a reminder that Bon Vie's move/replacement had already been written about.

                            All this tells us is that not enough happened in the days after August 16 to keep this thread at the top of the active list. By that time, everyone had moved on to discussions their eating schedules for the State Fair.

                            1. re: KTFoley

                              Ok, here's my list of recently (last 10 years?) acquired worthwhile new restaurants in St. Paul in no particular order:

                              Maverick's for Roast Beast Sandwiches
                              iPho by Saigon/Saigon Bakery for Banh Mi
                              Pho Cadao for Pho
                              Indochin for beef with fried potatoes
                              Cow Bella (on my to try list)
                              Little Szechuan for most of their menu
                              Ristorante Luci/Hosteria I Nonni for high-end Italian
                              Tea House 2
                              Pizza Luce
                              D'Amico & Sons
                              Los Ocampos
                              Meritage & Heartland (There are 1/2 dozen places on the other side of the river I'd go to first if I'm in the mood for schmancy food)
                              Izzy's & that cupcake/macaron place on Marshal.

                              It's not a bad list, but with the exception of Indochin and the Gelato place on Grand, nothing on it is new in the last year.

                              1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                Thanks for the tip on the beef with fried potatoes at Indochin...that's a favorite dish of mine I crave now and then...

                                But, Jim, I'm kind of confused by your list because some of these restaurants have been around a lot longer than 10 years (from what I understand. I personally have not lived here even 10 years...)

                                And if you're making a list of noteworthy "new" in the past decade restaurants, there are a ton more than what you just listed: here are a few in St. Paul proper (ie., not even including Roseville and such) that are new in just the past few years: Cheeky Monkey, Joan's in the Park, Flamingo, Homi, Ngon Bistro, On's (and BTD a year or two before that), Big Daddy's, Bulldog, St. Paul Cheese Shop, Kopplins, Black Sheep, Barrio, Mojo Monkey, Blue Door Pub (burger alert!), Scusi, Bars Bakery, Burger Moe's (burger alert!), Hmong Village, Senor Wongs, Asian Deli, Maisson Darras, Two Smart Cookies, Lynden's Soda Fountain, a bazillion food trucks, and (debating whether to add this last somewhat questionable handful) Amsterdam, Faces, Bin Wine Bar, Salut, Rusty Taco, American Burger Bar (yes! alert!), Twisted Fork, Palumbo's ... Even a little older than that but still newer than a lot of restaurants on your list, The Strip Club, Shish, Shamrock's (sound the alert), Mango Thai, Happy Gnome (ding ding ding), Highland Bakery and Cafe (try the Nepalese side of the menu)...

                                I realize St. Paul hasn't added restaurants at the rate Minneapolis has, and certainly not as many high-end ones, but isn't half bad considering the economy we've been mired in...

                                Have you tried Colossal Cafe or Foxy Falafel, which are both new this year?


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  TDQ, this was poorly communicated attempt at making the point that the list (and St. Paul) doesn't contain many new restaurants.

                                  I have to get to Foxy Falafel and will try Colossal Cafe too. I'm not so much of a Falafel fan, I guess that's why I've been slow getting to it.

                                  1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                    Sorry, Jim, I wasn't trying to be dense. Well, if you do make it to FF or CC, please do let us know if you can add them to your list of favs!


                                    1. re: JimGrinsfelder


                                      Just so you know I was blown away by Foxy at Kingfield market this spring.

                                      Disclaimer #1 - I am a carnivore
                                      Disclaimer #2 - I don't like deep fried food

                                      End result, I am now a Foxy Falafel regular.

                                      Beet or curry falafel are both my favorites.

                                      Go forth and falafel.

                                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                        Starting this weekend (Nov 3), Foxy Falafel will be serving Sat/Sun brunch too. The menu includes several new non-falafel items.


                              2. Another newbie to add to the list. Chez Arnaud just opened on Grand between the St. Paul Eye Clinic and US Bank - just a 1/2 block east of Lexington. It's in the little building that used to have a linen shop - right next to Tibetan Arts. It just opened mid-last week and hubster and I checked it out on Sunday. Illusive little place since I workout almost every day at the Anytime Fitness 2 doors down and I had no clue anything was happening there until I saw it on my Grand Ave Business Facebook feed, but I digress.

                                It's a very bright little shop of breads, pastries and some lunch/breakfast items (sandwiches, pastas, quiches). As you make your way in the door, you're immediately greeted by a glass case full of different types of bread and pastries. You then make your way down the long, narrowish path past a case of sandwiches and other savory items to the case of dessert pastries. Although we didn't try any on this trip, the breads looked delicious. There is also a little area in the back with a few tables where quite a few people were enjoying coffees and light snacks. They've made very good use of mirrors in the space which makes it seem much larger than it is.

                                For our first foray, we went directly for the dessert pastries. There was a good selection, but we decided to go with a traditional napoleon, a nun (cream puffs filled with chocolate cream), a lemon tartlet, and a large raspberry macaron. So far we've only eaten the napoleon and the nun, but they were both pretty good. For comparison's sake, based solely on those 2 items, I'd say it's not quite the level of Patisserie 46, but better than Pardon My French - as far as French pastries go. I do still love my Bars Bakery and in my opinion, it's still pretty hard to top them for more American bakery items. In any event, they're a nice little addition to the 'hood and I look forward to trying some of their breads soon.

                                It looks like they have locations in Maple Grove and White Bear Lake too - - and they also have a Facebook page -

                                17 Replies
                                1. re: Seige

                                  I have to say, I am not too impressed with them. I am quite patient when being served, having had many service jobs. But the young lady waiting on me was beyond incompetent, to the point that another waiting customer admonished her for the way my order was being handled.

                                  The product is professional and competent, but quite uninspired. Just classic French fare. Not to say that isn't wonderful, but just not that exciting.

                                  What really bothers me as a longtime Crocus Hill resident is the fact that they opened DIRECTLY across the street from Wuollets, which has been there (including its previous incarnation as Bungalow Bakery) for at least sixty years. This is NOT good business and I feel very un-neighborly. Also, both Cafe Latte and Bread and Chocolate are only 3 1/2 blocks away (and have served the neighborhood for over 30 years). Did this stretch of Grand really need another bakery or cafe? Why not open in Highland or down by Macalester?

                                  One other thing should be mentioned: This is only a retail location, the product is baked elsewhere. Do not expect that "bakery" aroma when entering.

                                  1. re: gryffindor249

                                    Like I said, we just got some desserts to go so I did not have the same "waiting on" issue that you apparently had. Personally, I didn't think opening across from Wuollet's was the end of the world. In my opinion, they serve relatively different things. Yes, still baked goods but not the same kind of baked goods. And Bravo Bakery is technically only 4 or so doors down from Wuollet's too. I suppose the same could have been said about them?

                                    Like I said, it's not Patisserie 46 and it's definitely not up to French pastries I've had in France but it's not bad if you're looking for that kind of thing and you're in the 'hood.

                                    1. re: Seige

                                      Bravo Bakery is not really a bakery. And it serves a product that is so far different than what else is served in the area, let alone the region.

                                      1. re: gryffindor249

                                        Bravo Bakery isn't a bakery? I guess it's been awhile since I've been, but they haven't stopped making glorious cream puffs and tropical fruit cakes? I get your point that Bravo's offerings are pretty limited and very different than a typical bakery, but their baked goods are pretty good.


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          I think they are a cafe.

                                          I went back to the Grand Ave Arnaud today. Still not blown away by the product, but some lovely young ladies waited on me.

                                    2. re: gryffindor249

                                      Wuollet's is over priced and below average. They are consistently on Deal of the Day sites (indicating just how overpriced they are, also possibly desperate).

                                      1. re: semanticantics

                                        I laughed when I saw the prices of their baguette. I will go to Rustica, save money, and have a better product. A doughnut should never be near $2 unless its a bacon maple doughnut.

                                        1. re: brlattim

                                          It does surprise me what Wuollet charges for donuts. The only ones they should be charging over a dollar for are the Fried Cinnamon Rolls and the German Chocolate one. And no, their baguette is nothing special (though their Salt Rye is).

                                        2. re: semanticantics

                                          Wuollet is a shortening and food coloring bakery.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            Agreed. I just don't get Wuollet's. It must be a local thing, familiar, childhood memories, etc. It looks good, but flavor and depth are lacking. Add to this, pricy!

                                            1. re: docfood

                                              Wuollet's is the St. Clair Broiler of bakeries.


                                            2. re: sandylc

                                              Absolutely agreed. Barely a notch above the bakeries inside grocery stores like Cub and Rainbow.

                                          2. re: gryffindor249

                                            Cupcake was going to settle into that area, too.

                                            And, without ranging too far off topic, CVS opened right across the street from Bober's on Grand. I know the guy who owned Bober's was ready to retire by the time CVS opened, but I don't know how much CVS's presence accelerated that.

                                            I do wish GABA would (or could) work harder to encourge more unique businesses on Grand. Too many chains you can find elsewhere and a fair amount of duplication (bakery places, eyeglass places, ... But I suppose they don't have any influence on that at all.

                                            1. re: gryffindor249

                                              Have had several wonderful experiences at the White Bear Lake location. I guess I am not as concerned with the product being baked 15 minutes away.

                                              All business deal with competition - Walgreens/CVS, Cub/Rainbow, Home Depot/Lowes/Menards, fast food chains etc.

                                              I am sure it came down to location, availability, rent, etc. We should be happy it wasn't another panera!

                                            2. re: Seige

                                              Thanks for the tip! I was actually at Creative Kidstuff about a month ago and wanted to take the tot somewhere nearby for a snack. All I could find within sight was Wuollet's or Starbucks, nothing savory, all sweet. And at Wuollet's, I struggled to find something small and snack-like to feed a child.

                                              Maybe Chez Arnaud could have filled the gap? One of their sandwiches or quiches might have hit the spot.


                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I've been to the Maple Grove location and not had a problem with service. At least at that location everything is made there, from scratch. I think it's wonderful. And since Maple Grove is almost all chains, we feel pretty lucky to have such a high quality bakery in our area.

                                            3. Had a great casual dinner tonight: Foxy Falafel and Cow Bella. Both quite nice.