Minnesota’s state capital Saint Paul is a bustling, cultural Midwestern hotspot with a vibrant dining scene to match. Read our guide to find out about the 10 best dining spots the city has to offer.
Izzy’s cupcakes Courtesy Izzy’s Ice Cream
Izzy’s Ice Cream
Izzy’s Ice Cream, an ice cream parlour with another branch in Minneapolis, is a local successful venture that not only sells sweet treats but also has an equally sweet story behind its formation. Established in 2000, the parlour was founded by husband and wife Lara Hammel and Jeff Sommers, who first met while studying at university and later went on to achieve their dream of opening an ice cream shop. Taking their immersion into the art of ice cream making seriously, the couple were trained by Italian gelato experts in North Carolina and offer a range of ice creams with both international and local flavours like vanilla bean with pure Madagascan extract and Wild Country maple syrup.
Café Latte is a unique restaurant that offers it guests three dining experiences in one go consisting of a gourmet cafeteria serving a range of seasonal soups, salads and design-your-own sandwiches; an in-house bakery selling freshly baked breads, cupcakes, tortes and Café Latte’s specialty turtle cake; and a pizza wine bar offering inventive pizzas, bruschetta and an extensive wine list. Located in the city’s historic and charming Summit Hill neighbourhood, Café Latte has a stylish and modern interior with elements like exposed red brick and ductwork adding an industrial ambience and often exhibits many works of contemporary art on its walls.
Forepaugh’s is an upscale restaurant serving new American cuisine with global influences in a beautiful, historic three storey Victorian mansion adjacent to the charming Irvine Park. Built over 130 years ago, the mansion retains much of its original charm with wooden fireplaces, crystal chandeliers and rare antiques abounding throughout and a lovely outdoor patio that earned it a place in the 2011 City’s Best Outdoor Dining Spots Across the Country list. Executive chef Donald Gonzales is passionate about creating innovative dishes with a farm-to-table ethos and has forged close relationships with several local producers to offer dishes like pan-seared walleye with coconut curry, fingerling potatoes, zucchini, hearts of palm, Chinese long beans, shiitake mushrooms, Thai herbs and Fresno chillies.
After a day of shopping Selby Avenue’s locally owned stores and boutiques, The Happy Gnome, a craft beer bar and restaurant, is the perfect place to stop and relax with a quick drink or meal. The venue, which is decorated in a traditional pub style and features a pretty outdoor patio illuminated by twinkling string lights, has a vast selection of craft beers on tap, with over 70 varieties to choose from such as the locally brewed Surly Bitter Brewer and Summit Extra Pale Ale. The Happy Gnome’s menu focuses on Midwestern fare and features appetisers like the baby back ribs with vinegar chips and slaw and entrees like wild boar chops with milk stout risotto, kale, prosciutto and Madeira mushroom demi-glaze.
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Located in the heart of St Paul’s picturesque Highland Park neighbourhood, Joan’s in the Park is a restaurant and wine bar that provides guests with an intimate fine-dining experience in a friendly neighbourhood setting. The restaurant is a venture between two friends, Joan Schmitt and Susan Dunlop, who met while working at the same restaurant and bonded over their shared dream to open their own eatery, which they achieved when Joan’s opened in 2011. Susan, who is also the restaurant’s head chef, offers a menu of mouth-watering contemporary and seasonal American cuisine featuring dishes like New Bedford Bay scallops with pork belly, sweet peas and truffles, while its extensive wine list will please any lovers of wine.
Meritage describes itself as ‘a little slice of Paris in downtown Saint Paul’, and its elegant, classy interior is certainly evocative of the French capital, with wood-panelled walls and tiled floors giving the restaurant the feel of a Parisian bistro. Chef Russell Klein, who along with his wife Desta Maree runs the restaurant, studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York and creates a menu of classic French dishes combined with modern American fare based around seasonal and locally sourced produce. Highlights include the crispy rabbit rillettes with sweet and sour beets, goat cheese fondant, quail egg and a brown butter vinaigrette and the turbot roulade with herbed scallop mousse, shaved asparagus, pommes duchesse and sauce americaine.
A Russian restaurant and vodka bar, Moscow on the Hill opened its doors in 1994 and describes its cuisine as ‘American upper-Midwest meets post-Perestroika Russia’. Located just a short walk from the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Paul, the restaurant offers its guests a range of hearty Russian comfort foods, with both meat and vegetarian options ranging from familiar dishes like blini to the less well-known like pelmeni – a meat-stuffed dumpling. Dine on appetisers like cured Russian herring with onion, marinated potatoes and dill and entrees including babushka stew – Duroc pork shoulder stewed in a clay pot with vegetables, parsley, mashed potatoes and buckwheat pilaf.
Shish Café is a well-liked restaurant serving Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine located in St Paul’s historic Macalester-Groveland district, also known as ‘Tangletown’ due to its winding streets and diverse range of architecture. The award-winning restaurant, which has been recognised with titles such as Top 5 Metro-Area Middle Eastern Restaurants of 2009 by Minneapolis-St Paul Magazine, has a vibrant and buzzing ambience and is often very busy and popular with students due to its location near Malacaster College. Shish Café’s menu is a showcase of tempting, delicious cuisine from a range of countries across the Mediterranean with dishes like babaganoush, moussaka and kebabs available.
A signature dish | Courtesy W.A. Frost and Company
Established in 1990, The St Paul Grill has been a frequent winner of Minneapolis-St Paul Magazine’s Best Restaurant award winning the title in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Offering a fine dining experience typified by impeccable service and classic American cuisine, The St Paul Grill enjoys beautiful views over the city’s historic Rice Park and include an equally fine interior with a charming dining area and a grand mahogany and brass bar. Dishes include the lobster bake appetiser with caramelised onions, fennel, lemon infused cheese and grilled crostini, and the pork chop entrée with a jalapeno-mint jelly, while the restaurant’s award-winning wine list will please even the most discerning of oenophiles.
Established nearly 40 years ago, W. A. Frost and Company prides itself on being one of Saint Paul’s premier destinations for fine dining and is a regular recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence, alongside other accolades such as Best Seasonal Dining in the Minneapolis-St Paul Magazine Diners Choice Awards. Housed in a historic property built in 1889 in the Richardson Romanesque style with a charming outdoor dining patio, W. A. Frost serves upscale, seasonal American fare, with dishes such as the trio of Pacific Ocean oysters with sesame-seaweed salad, lemon and cocktail sauce, and the pan-roasted half chicken with smoked couscous, grilled asparagus, peas and a chicken jus.