Restaurant Guide 2011: Cathedral Hill

Star Tribune staff | Updated 8/17/2012

St. Paul's historic Cathedral Hill district, along with the nearby Grand Avenue area, ensconces landmark dining destinations. You can dine elegantly on sustainable, seasonal cuisine in a majestic turn-of-the-century setting (W.A. Frost), or linger over Zakuski and horseradish-infused vodka in the red lounge at Moscow on the Hill.

La Grolla. Photo by Tom Wallace

La Grolla

La Grolla is probably my favorite Italian restaurant in St. Paul. It's a smaller restaurant, with tables tucked into corners, understated decor and big windows that welcome in a lot of natural light. La Grolla has a diverse dinner menu, with dishes ranging from the classic cappellini pomodoro (my favorite) to a Norwegian salmon stuffed with crab and lemon/chive sauce. In addition to the menu staples, the chef whips up a plethora of nightly features. Our server mentioned at least a half a dozen specials, including osso bucco (a veal shank stewed for hours). It's not the most vegetarian-friendly menu, but the pasta is so tasty that I keep coming back for more. There are a few menu items that I have in my La Grolla rotation, and all are perfectly wonderful. Last time, I opted for the penne vodka for my main course. The penne was perfectly cooked to al dente so it still had a bit of a bite to it. And the sauce was lovely -- creamy with a hint of tomato sweetness but not at all heavy or overpowering. Think of a light pink Alfredo sauce without all of the guilt! The portion size was absolutely giant, so I get to enjoy my penne vodka again this weekend. Overall: freat food, fun atmosphere, and good times. I've never had a bad meal at La Grolla, and I expect I never will. --chrissybell06

Mancini's Char House. Photo by Carlos Gonzalez

USER PICK: Mancini's Char House

You can still find them, but every year there are fewer and fewer quality cocktail lounges and steakhouses. Mancini's is old-school, a throwback to when people actually had fun drinking, eating and dancing. I have never had a bad meal or time at Mancini's, ever. I always eat steak that is charcoal-broiled to perfection and a shrimp cocktail. The relish tray and garlic bread will blow your mind. Everything is perfect -- the lighting, the staff, the mood, the vibe, the noise level, the food and the cocktails. You will be treated like royalty. Go to Mancini's before a Wild game, have an awesome supper, drink some fine cocktails, take their shuttle to the game, return on the shuttle after the game and go to their cocktail lounge for a fun night of dancing and drinking. Repeat. God bless the Mancini family! --dog815

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  • BARS BAKERY: Small family bakery known for killer caramel rolls, Bars distinguishes itself with a relatively limited selection and a high quality quotient. --James Norton
  • SWEENEY'S SALOON & CAFE: American. Neighborhood bar with sandwiches, burgers and pasta.

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Caffe Latte. Photo by Tom Wallace
  • CAFE LATTE: American/bakery. Popular upscale cafeteria noted for its decadent chocolate layer cakes and other sweets. Large-scale sandwiches are made-to-order with house-baked breads, soups and salads.
  • CHEEKY MONKY DELI: American. The menu is simplicity itself: just sandwiches, soups and salads at lunch, with a few entrees later in the day. But it's rare to encounter this level of craftsmanship in the quick-service genre.
  • DIXIE'S ON GRAND: American. Lively restaurant and bar serving southern food, including jambalaya and barbecued ribs. The generously portioned family style Sunday brunch is popular.
  • LA CUCARACHA: Mexican. A varied menu of tacos, enchiladas and other Mexican specialties.
  • THE HAPPY GNOME: American. Neighborhood tavern is essential for beer geeks, and the food is pretty good, too.
  • MOSCOW ON THE HILL: Eurpoean. Hearty, well-made Russian fare (blinis, pierogis, borscht, pelmeni, smoked fish and other standards) is on the menu, along with what has to be the Twin Cities' largest selection of vodkas.
  • THE MUDDY PIG: American. Neighborhood tavern with bistro fare.
  • SAJI-YA: Japanese. Sushi, teppanyaki and a full Japanese menu.
  • TAVERN ON GRAND: American. Cabin-themed restaurant specializing in walleye.

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W.A. Frost. Photo by Tom Wallace
  • LEXINGTON RESTAURANT: Steakhouse. Landmark St. Paul restaurant offering a variety of steaks, chops, prime rib, seafood and pasta.
  • W.A. FROST & CO.: American. The food matches the appealing historic surroundings at this landmark. Chef Wyatt Earl does beautiful things with locally sourced meats and poultry, and small plates boast big flavors.

Minneapolis