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Dinner near Macalester College

I'm going to be at beautiful Macalester College for a few days in June. We have one dinner out. What are some great restaurants near Mac? Money isn't an issue, but delicious is of utmost importance. Many thanks!!

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  1. On's Thai restaurant on University Ave a half block west of Snelling. Not only is it world class Thai food, it is relatively inexpensive and fabulous. Check out On's on this site.

    1. If you're at Macalester, you're not far from any of St. Paul's better restaurants. The restaurants I consider to be good and near Macalester include Shish (Middle-Eastern) and Indochin (Vietnamese/fusion), but I would not consider them the greatest restaurants in St. Paul.

      For that, I would nominate Meritage, downtown. I've seen mixed reviews of Heartland, with some reviewers indicating that they're not performing up to their previous standard, though that still results in an excellent food experience even if the service and value don't match.

      And, finally, if "unusual" counts high, St. Paul features good restaurants with uncommon cuisines like Kurdish, Cambodian/Hmong, or Ethiopian.

      12 Replies
      1. re: steve_in_stpaul

        How does Joan's in the Park stack up to Meritage?

        1. re: mtbwustl

          Meritage is probably the best restaurant in St Paul. Joan's is really good, but has more of a neighborhood feel whereas Meritage feels like a French brasserie in Paris. It just depends on what you are in the mood for.

          Other ideas close but within a couple of miles:
          Carmelo's - Italian
          The Nook - Best Burgers in the Twin Cities
          Scusi - Italian
          Barbary Fig - Moroccan
          W.A. Frost - Fine-dining and a great patio
          Risotante Luci - Red Sauce Italian
          The Copper Dome - Breakfasts (pancakes)

          1. re: Db Cooper

            I really wouldn't recommend Carmelo's - it's sub-par Italian with mediocre service.

            Frost is a great recommendation if you're looking for something fancier - especially if you're entertaining clients.

            1. re: gildeddawn

              Huh. I was there at Carmelo's a few months ago and had an excellent veal picatta. Maybe I just caught them on a good night. It wasn't busy at all either which was nice as we were looking for a quiet option. You may have been there more often or more recently.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                It was a while ago that I was there - more than a year. Maybe they've improved. It was never terrible or anything, just completely unremarkable.

              2. re: gildeddawn

                WA Frost, in their Bar, downstairs Lounge, or on the Patio, isn't really fancy at all, and actually quite laid back. The food is still elevated, and service is more formal, but no need to dress up or feel you're in a stuffy joint.

                  1. re: american_idle

                    A recent dinner at Frost's was catastrophically bad. The menu has been dumbed down and changed to incorporate some weird, out of sync North African influences. Our experience was so bad that I don't anticipate returning. It's too bad. If the Rupps devoted sufficient resources to bring the food service up to a level that matched the decor, they would have a true destination restaurant.

                    1. re: bill1jan

                      I have the same feelings about WA Frost's. At best, the food has been very good. At worst, the food has been mediocre and the service atrocious. The last time we went (a couple of years ago) was during the summer on the patio. It took an hour to get one set of drinks and two appetizers out, while the staff were hanging out talking by the bar. We haven't gone back since, and never will. There are too many good places in the TC to spend money at that pay better attention to both food and service. Frost's makes their living off the space, and that's it.

                      1. re: foreverhungry

                        As noted in my response to bill1jan, I had an amazing meal there, with impeccable service, in the fall. While I know that doesn't mean you should go back, since getting burned once is hard to get over, I feel like Frost is somewhere that's rarely, if ever, let me down. Perhaps you caught them on a terrible night? I've never been in the summer, though, and I know how popular their patio is. Maybe it stretches their staff too thin.

                        1. re: foreverhungry

                          W.A. Frost has never been a go-to place for me, mostly because it's wildly inconsistent. Over many years, I've had a some crummy meals, some with rotten service, and the rest have been average to occasionally quite good. I've never had a meal there that is truly exceptional or memorable, except for the clunkers--those I remember. Even from one day to the next, however, it's inconsistent. I had something last summer that I loved, went back the next day to have it again, and it was totally different. I would never recommend it to an out-of-towner for that reason. I figure if you're a local, you probably know what you're getting into with Frost. Foreverhungry is right; they make their living off the space.

                        2. re: bill1jan

                          Really? That's a huge shame. Last time we went, in the fall, it was absolutely spectacular. I wonder if it's just a bad patch, or maybe a couple of bad dishes?

              3. Grand Pad Thai is our go-to Thai restaurant. Can't speak for authenticity, but it's delicious and right next to Mac.

                1. Not been, but hear raves about Joan's in the Park which I just noticed you mentioned down the post. Meritage always gets shout outs, but their menu rarely inspires me personnally.

                  1. I would highly recommend Joan's In The Park. Very fine food.

                    Also the Barbary Fig on Grand Avenue is superb and unique. Great North African food.

                    Ngon on University is also worth a trip. The menu is split between traditional Viernamese fare, and more classic European stuff. Plus a good winelist.

                    1. Brasa, farther down Grand Avenue (toward St. Paul) is also really good.

                      Ice cream is also delicious in the area! CowBella for Gelato is just west on Grand from Macalester. Izzy's is not too far away for housemade ice cream.

                      1. Another vote for Joan's, less than two miles away and the patio is open. They've even improved the wine list--a little.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Brad Ballinger

                          Oh! Patio! They don't say anything about it on their website. I sure wish they'd proceed with the plans I heard a year or so ago to start serving Sunday brunch on the patio. Sadly, it's only dinner service (still) according to their website.

                          Personally, I'd give the nod to Meritage over Joan's, but Meritage isn't really near Mac, either.


                          1. It's great that Shish is a great deal and great food for breakfast to dinner and it is right smack there.

                            Brasa is a casual great place.

                            On's for Thai. and also around/on Snelling, Sole Cafe for Korean. Ngon's WAY down University for fancy Vietnamese.
                            There's a Vietnamese on campus--Indochine...not sure about it though.

                            The Lexington is fancy time and great vibe in the bar and just down the street. It's across from D'amico's which is good too.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: stepawayfromthetable

                              The Lex was bought and is closed in June 2013 for renovations. I've never been overly impressed with it, but others like it.

                              1. re: bob s

                                I liked their bar...wasn't sure if it was still around though. Agreed it was overpriced but my old (over 60) friends really felt comfortable there.

                              2. re: stepawayfromthetable

                                Ngon is 1.6 miles away from On's Thai Kitchen, or 2.7 miles from Grand / Snelling (Macalester).

                              3. Where'd you go? if its not too late already id put in a second for Heartland of Mertiage - with the edge going to Heartland because, to me its got more local flavor (whereas mertiage is a very solid restaurant, nothing about its is particularly minnesotant/upper midwestern).

                                it looks from your posting history like youre from texas - as a Mac alum id also point out that your not very far from pretty much anywhere in Minneapolis or St Paul (assuming you have a car).

                                If your goal was to get a sense of the walkable-student friendly (or popular-with-student) places, some of these recommendations are spot on, but if you were just out for the best meal possible, or to show a student a slice of off-campus out-of-bubble life, id take the time and go a little further afield (im sensing that this is what youre looking for givent he money isnt an issue note).

                                as much as i love both meritage and heartland (though i moved away a while ago and only get back to the twin cities once or twice a year now) if i had just one meal in MSP id run, not walk, to Alma in minneapolis. (well, id drive, which google tells me is a 15 minute drive, very reasonable by my current NYC commute standards and not too far to go for some really exceptional food).

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tex.s.toast

                                  I'm working on a follow up post, but I had a great time! Mac is such a wonderful college, and the Twin Cities are a delight!