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need a lunch place we can easily drive to from downtown st. paul

not too far from downtown st. paul---maybe a mile or two or three. and it needs to have good, close parking--which rules out a lot of grand ave options.

I just checked out the Ward 6 menu, but for lunch it looks a little limited.

and of course we want awesome food!

any suggestions?


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  1. What kind of food would you be looking for? I can't really think of a good "Something for Everyone" place, but there are some good options.
    I would say Ngon, Fasika and Black Sea all have street parking but I have never had to walk more than a block. On's has a parking lot. Meritage you could walk to as well as Black Sheep. Shamrock's Irish Nook and the happy gnome both have parking.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mitch cumstein

      Shamrock's has parking? Not trying to be a smarty-pants, but I thought a fire station or something was built there. Did they recently add something?

      In the University Avenue vein, Saigon has a small lot as does Little Szechuan, neither of which has been mentioned yet I don't think.

      Brasa has a small lot but you really need to be almost first, for dinner anyway. I'm not sure how it is for lunch.

      Are the St. Paul locations of Mavericks, Tea House, or Los Ocampo within your 3 miles?


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Not a huge lot but there is one behind the restaurant.

    2. Cheeky Monkey and Salut Bar Americain come to mind as each has a parking lot.

      I like Ward 6 better than either of them, however. Soup, salad, burgers, sandwiches; they do it all well. What more do you need for lunch?

      1. I was going to mention Cheeky Monkey also, because I like it. There are others on Selby Avenue I like. French Hen across the street, Moscow on the Hill, Bon Vie, Mango Thai, and WA Frost.

        2 Replies
        1. re: shoo bee doo

          Cheeky Monkey's meatloaf sandwich is so so good. (cheddar, bacon, spicy mustard, giardiniera, english muffin toast ) Yummm.

          Mango Thai's 'Pad Kee Mao' spicy noodle dish with chicken is delicious too.

          1. re: St3ve

            That meatloaf sandwich is my favorite there also. And I never liked meatloaf before that sandwich.

        2. Thai Cafe, Bangkok Cuisine, Homi Mexican, Bangkok Thai Deli, Cheng Heng.

          1 Reply
          1. re: american_idle

            Also, although all of these are right on University, they either have private lots or communal lots within half a block.

          2. I'm of the belief that limited menus are usually better. It means they have a few items and execute them well. If you are looking for the encyclopedia, Champps is probably your best bet off Larpenteur and 35E. But I think you'll be happier at Ward 6. Between the Reuben or the Fish and Chips, you can't go wrong.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Db Cooper

              The fish and chips at Ward 6 are outstanding! The best in town, IMHO.

              1. re: Db Cooper

                Agreed. Another vote for Ward 6. That would be my top pick. Unless one of you have significant dietary restrictions where that menu won't work for you, I'll take a limited menu guaranteeing you a great meal over a varied menu that could be hit or miss.

                The fish and chips are outstanding, but I'll also give a nod to their burger.

              2. I say Carmellos on St. Clair and Snelling. Their lunch deal is outstanding, and they have their own parking lot.

                2 Replies
                1. re: gryffindor249

                  I haven't had good experiences at Carmello's, for what it's worth. It seems like mediocre Italian, and is always dead as a doornail at lunch.

                  1. re: gildeddawn

                    It's also really pushing the boundaries of a quick lunch jaunt from DT. 10 minutes at least each way.

                2. Often overlooked is West St Paul. A short jaunt over the river. I was at Beruit last week. The pilaf and garlic sauce are amazing. El Burrito Mercado is another great lunch option.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: ssioff

                    +1 to both these recommendations - Beirut is wonderful (anything would taste good with that garlic sauce) and El Burrito Mercado is the closest best food to downtown St. Paul - with a huge parking lot.

                    1. re: ssioff

                      +1 on Beirut. A hop, skip, and jump from DT St. Paul. Parking right out front. Quiet, open space conducive to conversation. Delicious food.

                    2. Yo, Soccermom13!

                      You haven't told us much, other than you want "awesome food." Is this a lunch with colleagues or a reunion with old friends? Do you want a casual or more formal atmosphere? Do you want alcoholic beverages? Are you interested in non-mainstream, ethnic fare or do you want more traditional food? Why is parking such a big deal? (Parking on or around Grand isn't such a big deal.) Give us a clue as to what's going on with your event and we'll be able to give your more appropriate recommendations.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ChancesR

                        Same is true on Selby in the Bon Vie/French Hen area. I've never had trouble finding on street parking at lunch time.

                      2. The Glockenspiel on W. 7th for German food. Small parking lot on the side and usually easy street parking.

                        1. MSP Hounds--YOU ARE THE BEST! So sorry for giving such a short and incomplete post yesterday; I should have given more detail.

                          One in our group of three has trouble walking. This is a lunch of coworkers, and we need to have a short meeting while we meet. We are all good eaters; one of us is new to our work setting, so I am not sure what she likes. The other two of us like almost anything except sushi.

                          I am posting below the Ward 6 lunch menu. When I scanned this lunch menu yesterday am, it seemed limited to me; perhaps I was being a bit unfair. (Edited to add: just looked at the menu again and spotted Fish and Chips under "Food for Drinking"---so we could indeed get that for lunch. As I write this I find myself wondering if I would order a higher fat dish like that for lunch....dinner, no problem....but lunch? I might feel too stuffed to work for the rest of the day......)

                          Love many of your suggestions:
                          **Meritage is always wonderful. I could drop off the less mobile person and find street parking.
                          **LOVE Fasika--and in that area is Groundswell. Has anyone has lunch there? I had one of their cookies--can't remember the name of it--I mean the one with a mini chocolate cut out of MN on the top---and it was fabulous. Coffee there was also terrific.
                          **I fell out of love with Little Szechuan a couple of years ago when the chef left. Has it improved since then?
                          ***I LOVE Tea House and it's close and has tons of parking. Thanks for reminding me of that.
                          **I've read good reviews of Tin Cup---does anyone know about parking there?
                          **Thanks for the Cheeky Monkey reminder. I have been craving meatloaf, so that sandwich could hit the spot. (Although I should just make some meatloaf; I love the CI recipe for it.)
                          **Am I the only one on the board underwhelmed by French Hen?
                          **Mango Thai----I need to check that out..... I fell in love with Lemon Grass which is of course way too far to drive to---it's in a MPLS suburb. Is Mango Thai as good as Lemon Grass?
                          **dbCooper---Champs makes me gag. But I bet it might make you gag too ;0)
                          **ssloff and Anne---YES, you are right. I did totally overlook West St. Paul. Love both your suggestions--Beirut and El Burrito.
                          **ChancesR---Wish we could drink! Alas, no booze at this lunch!
                          **DH adores Brassa, and while I think the food is good, it's never at the top of my list. Not sure why that is.
                          **American Idle---I have eaten at all the places you list except Thai Cafe and been really pleased. I need to hie myself over to the Thai Cafe!
                          ***Slightly Grey---I will check out the Glockenspiel menu. On a 1-10 scale, how would you rate the food there?

                          'Hounds---Thank you so very much. I LOVE this board.

                          p.s. Pls excuse typos. I need about 16 more oz of caffeinated coffee before my spelling and grammar are passable.

                          Ward 6 Lunch Menu:

                          Sandwiches & Salad

                          burger(all sandwiches served with fries)

                          Burger 10
                          Local grass-fed ground beef; add cheese if you like ($1).

                          Fatty Melt 14
                          The love child of a burger and a grilled cheese sandwich. Oh, and bacon.

                          Veggie Burger 9
                          House-made black bean burger with Cajun seasoning. Cheese if you like (add $1).

                          Portobello Grilled Cheese 9
                          Mushrooms, artichoke relish, cheddar cheese, red pepper relish.

                          Pot Roast Sandwich 11
                          Slow-cooked pot roast, blue cheese dressing, lettuce, tomato, onion.

                          Curry Chicken Sandwich 10
                          Wild Acres chicken breast marinated in curried yogurt, with Swiss cheese, arugula, and cranberry chutney.

                          Ward 6 Reuben 11
                          House-braised corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and 10,000 lake dressing.

                          Soup and Salads

                          (salad dressings: balsamic, champagne, or lemon vinaigrette, bleu cheese, ranch, 10,000 lakes)

                          Soup 3/6
                          Ask about today’s selection.

                          Beet Salad 7
                          Roasted beets, salad greens, Minnesota blue cheese, nuts, balsamic vinaigrette. (gluten-free)

                          Eastside Caesar Salad 9
                          Half a head of romaine, housemade nuoc mam Caesar dressing, tomato, garnished with crostini and parmesan.

                          House Greens 5
                          Fresh mesclun with lemon vinaigrette.

                          Smoked Salmon Salad 13
                          Smoked salmon, a bed of mixed greens and asparagus, with a creamy horseradish dressing and panko crumbs.

                          12 Replies
                          1. re: soccermom13

                            Ward 6 is really nice. There aren't a ton of options (especially for this vegetarian), but it's a great place that is trying really hard. That portobello grilled cheese is new, I haven't had it yet. Mom loves the Pork sandwich.

                            Groundswell is somewhat similar. Super cute, friendly, nifty touchscreen system with ordering. Not a ton of dishes, but some quite tasty. Had the Spinach Arugula Salad, Veggie Burger, and Grilled Veggie Flatbread last weekend. Everything was tasty. Prices run a bit high, it's not terrible, but noticeable. Had a fantastic cupcake, salted caramel cheesecake something or other.

                            Tin Cup is in a strip mall with a large parking lot. Never been.

                            Last time I went to Tea House I was severely disappointed with the food, and the service, as always, was atrocious. The one guys presentation of your dishes of walking up, literally dropping the plate in front of you, and leaving is a real charmer.

                            Los Ocampos is right next to Tea House if you're going that far.

                            1. re: american_idle

                              OMG----I meant Buttered Tin, not Tin Cup!!!!!! Blame that on lack of caffeine. Can you comment on Buttered Tin?

                              Thanks, American Idle.

                              1. re: soccermom13

                                HAHA! I was sort of surprised you were so interested in Tin Cup...

                                But, BUTTERED TIN, well, I've only been on weekends, but I like the brunches and baked goods. I'd be surprised, though, if you find their offerings (except for the baked goods) to be any less limited than Ward 6's., and they don't have dedicated parking.

                                Sad to hear about Tea House St. Paul. I've been going to the Stadium Village location of Tea House lately and wasn't aware that the St. Paul location was on the downhill. Total bummer.


                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Another place I haven't been to in yonks that you might consider if someone could weigh in on it is Luci Ancora. They have a small parking lot and I've enjoyed the lunches I've had there (several years ago now, though).

                                  Sorry to hear you weren't happy at LIttle Szechuan. I've been a couple of times in the past 6 months (after a long absence) and thought it was as good as ever. Of course, I practically order the same thing every time I go, so, maybe it's just those Items that they do well.


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Also only been to Buttered Tin on the weekend but liked it. Same gripes as some other places, kind of limited menu, kind of expensive, but a lovely local establishment with tasty food and good service.

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Are you finding the Stadium Village one up to par? I've been three times in the past 8 months, and each time progressively more disappointed. To the point I swore off the place forever after the last time, when I abandoned both the extremely floury and dry scallion pancakes and one of the greasiest yet somehow overcooked ducks I've ever been served.

                                      1. re: clepro

                                        I've been there 3-4 times in about the same period of time and I'd say that each time we've been we've had a dish that was a misfire. Last time our scallion pancakes were too greasy, I thought, but we also ordered several orders (long story) and I wonder if we overloaded the kitchen. We got the tea smoked duck on that occasion too and thought it was wonderful--no complaints.

                                        I like Tea House when I'm in the neighborhood or when I've got less adventurous people along, but LIttle Szechuan is still my favorite Sichuan spot in St.Paul.


                                    2. re: soccermom13

                                      I see I'm too late, but I've been to Buttered Tin for lunch during the week almost once a week. I adore it. It is pretty crowded starting at 11:30, and without outside seating, there may be a wait for a table and they may frown on a longer meeting. It is the same menu every day 7-3, so it shouldn't be any different from folks' reviews of their brunch.

                                      They have a new-ish fall menu with a couple more wintery salads and a different hash. Their specials are always worth checking out. I really appreciate being able to order breakfast-for-lunch.

                                    3. re: american_idle

                                      Groundswell is ok, but overpriced. The best deal is the chorizo and cabbage tacos. Cupcakes were sweetish and pricing unclear. No backs on any of the seats, unless you sit on the one window bench. Not sure why the staff seemed to have an attitude more suited to a high-end exclusive cafe, rather than an inclusive neighborhood place. The best thing is the craft shop and the super helpful and engaged manager there. The vibe: "We're so cool, we don't care if you're here" from the other staff.

                                      1. re: teamkitty

                                        Gosh, that was not my experience at Groundswell. I have only been once, but I remember leaving thinking if it were in my neighborhood I would be a regular. As for the chairs, three months ago the place was full of ordinary chairs with backs. There are a few stools at the counter but other than that there was nothing unusual. It seems strange that they would change them out.

                                    4. re: soccermom13

                                      I don't think it would be easy to have a meeting at Groundswell. I tried it there for the first time a few weeks ago. It was very crowded about 2:00 pm on a weekday, but it has a nice atmosphere.

                                      I had the southern grilled cheese, which consisted of a nice pimento cheese. Pimento cheese has been on my radar lately. I really loved this version and would go back just for this sandwich.

                                      The coffee was also great.

                                      1. re: soccermom13

                                        I'd probably give the food a 7-8 - my favorites are the sausages. If you stick with what they do best (stay away from the burgers or deep fried fish) you'll be fine.

                                      2. Hey MSP 'hounds---Thanks for your responses. Lots of good options here :0)

                                        1. reporting back, fellow 'hounds:

                                          We went to Cheeky Monkey and my two dining companions loved it. I ordered the meat loaf sandwich which I felt was overpowered by the strong taste of one ingredient---perhaps a strong mustard. If I ordered this again, I'd quiz the staff on exactly what ingredients it includes and ask them to eliminate the ingredient I suspect is the one I didn't like. I think I would have really enjoyed this sandwich without the mustard or whatever it was that dominated so much.....

                                          One of my dining companions ordered a warm kale side with a lemony dressing which tasted fabulous.....