The Bar Guide 2013: Cathedral Hill

Updated 4/10/2013

The quaint St. Paul neighborhood around selby-dale Has all the class and none of the pretension.

A satisfaction-guaranteed drinking experience at the Happy Gnome.

The Happy Gnome

498 Selby Av., St. Paul • 651-287-2018 • www.thehappygnome.com

The Happy Gnome’s walls feature beer memorabilia of all kinds, from melted glass bottles to festival art and woodarvings, but that’s all overshadowed by the 76 taps that crowd the D-shaped bar. High ceilings add to the feeling of exalted status while grabbing some great Belgians. A dining area and bar upstairs were remodeled a few years back. Add to that the extensive whiskey list (ryes, bourbons, single malts, blends, ad infinitum) and you get one overwhelming booze bazaar. It’s a satisfaction-guaranteed drinking experience, unless you’re a purely Budweiser type of person. And there are plenty of gnomes peppered throughout the joint. Spencer Doar

Moscow on the Hill

271 Selby Av., St. Paul • 651-291-1236 • www.moscowonthehill.com

Does anyone know what “Nazdrovia!” even means? It doesn’t real­ly matter: If you indulge in what Moscow on the Hill claims to be the largest vodka selection in the United States, you’ll be saying it. Loudly. A Russian restaurant with serious chops, you’re likely to hear adjacent tables ordering in native tongues, and you’re wise to point and just say you’ll have what they’re having. Which, if you’re doing it right, includes vodka. Lots and lots. Nazdrovia! Mecca Bos

Axel’s Bonfire

850 Grand Av., St. Paul • 651-312-1299 • www.bonfirewood firecooking.com

Long known as a dueling piano bar, Axel’s ivory prangers are currently on hiatus. But the good news is the sculpture of the robot-looking bull wearing Rollerblades and goalie pads is still holding down the fort. That fort, by the way, kind of resembles something between a modernized Wild West saloon and a ski lodge bar. It may be a chain, but we hear they pour a hefty martini.Michael Rietmulder

Muddy Pig

162 N. Dale St., St. Paul • 651-254-1030

At the Muddy Pig, you can simply walk in and pick up a board game to play with a friend. Actually, no one seems to do this — the beer is simply too distracting. It’s always a boon to have a descriptive beer menu when it strays into the uncommon, and the Muddy Pig delivers. Not a place to go for deals, the Muddy Pig opts to host craft-beer events and tastings. Those are the special moments to look out for. S.D.

Sweeney’s Saloon

96 N. Dale St., St Paul • 651-221-9157 •www.sweeneys saloon.com

This Selby-Dale saloon smacks of St. Paul ethos. The unpretentious barroom has a cozy, quiet character and the hometown beer (uh, Summit) is dutifully repped during happy hour. In the summer, the most sought-after seating is on the two-tier back patio, at the outdoor bar if you can’t drink fast enough, or near the towering stone fireplace on chillier evenings. M.R.

W.A. Frost

374 Selby Av., St. Paul • 651-224-5715 • www.wafrost.com

Conjure the word “classic” and what comes to mind? At this stunning Cathedral Hill stalwart, you might almost expect a white-gloved butler to come to your service. And yet, for all its history and gilded charm, Frost manages to remain a place-for-all-occasions; a jeans-clad stop for a pint, a festive birthday party for two dozen, an elegant flute of sparkling in the legendary garden. M.B.