The Restaurant Guide: St. Paul neighborhoods

Updated 10/11/2013

New and old spots evoke historic charm and neighborhoods on the rise.

WARD 6

American • $$ • 858 Payne Av., St. Paul • 651-348-8181 • www.ward6stpaul.com

Let’s all raise a glass to Bob Parker, shall we? Better yet, someone ought to throw this guy a parade down Payne Avenue. His Ward 6 is demonstrating the transformative power that food and drink have in turning around ignored if not downright troubled neighborhoods. Located in a former taproom for the nearby Hamm’s brewery (with a gorgeous, lovingly restored oak and mahogany bar to prove it), Ward 6 focuses on chef Liz Olson’s modern short-order cooking. Half of the moderately priced menu is devoted to libation-loving grazers, with old-school items along the lines of crispy-skinned chicken wings, excellent hand-cut skin-on fries, a decent cheese plate and a few ridiculously fatty slabs of pork belly, their barnyard excess cut by a sharply acidic citrus-cayenne syrup. A chalkboard menu heralds a few specials, and they usually merit attention, particularly whatever meatball concoction Olson has dreamed up. Don’t ignore the value-driven daily dinner entree, either. The kitchen isn’t afraid to embrace its dainty side, with a simple, finely shredded chicken salad tucked into cute little profiterole-like buttermilk biscuits. Vegetarians will be all over Olson’s colorful collection of relishes, so light and imaginative and satisfying — and affordable at $9. A simple weekday breakfast blossoms into a well-executed weekend brunch. Beers are carefully curated, and the bar pulls together a yesteryear selection of well-made cocktails sorted into three priced-to-move categories: $6, $7 and $8. Rick Nelson

 

CLASSIC

MANCINI'S CHAR HOUSE & LOUNGE

Steakhouse • $$$ • 531 W. 7th St., St. Paul • 651-224-7345 • www.mancinis.com

It’s difficult to imagine that everything hasn’t already been said about this West 7th institution that becomes more like a “Sopranos” set with each passing year. And while it’s a warhorse, a stalwart and a classic, it hasn’t lost any of its charm, and it still beckons just about every kind of person at least once a year for that Italian steakhouse beef and an icy martini. The dusky mirrored interior combined with stadium-style seating designed for keeping an eye on the dance floor are completely of a time gone by. As are the couple sipping gimlets at the end of the bar, looking as though they’ve been there since circa 1948, when the place was opened by a man named Nick Mancini. Along with neighbors like Cossetta’s and DeGidio’s, Mancini’s helps keep West 7th’s charming history as a turn-of-the-century Southern Italian immigrant enclave alive. You’ll definitely pay for the dude-food, no-frills meat-and-potatoes grub (surf-and-turf soars into the almost-$50 range), but I like to associate a trip to Mancini’s with a special occasion. Hey, dropping a little coin for your baby’s birthday is a baller thing to do. Mecca Bos

 

BUDGET PICK

THE LITTLE OVEN

The gigantic portions at this hardworking East Side gem feel ripped right out of a truck stop. (1786 E. Minnehaha Av., St. Paul 651-735-4944.)

 

$

CECIL’S DELI: New York-style Jewish deli. Serves borscht, potato pancakes and vegetarian dishes. (651 S. Cleveland Av., St. Paul, 651-698-0334.)

EVEREST ON GRAND: Asian. A mix of Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine, with many vegetarian dishes. (1278 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-696-1666.)

FASIKA: African standards served with house-baked injera, the springy flatbread that is to Ethiopia what the baguette is to France. (510 N. Snelling Av., St. Paul, 651-646-4747)

FOXY FALAFEL: The popular food truck evolves into a quick-service restaurant, anchored by Erica Strait’s enthusiastically flavored, handmade falafel. (791 Raymond Av., St. Paul. 651-243-0813.)

HIGHLAND GRILL: American. Eclectic neighborhood restaurant serving everything from Elvis burgers (with bacon, cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and garlic) to grilled yellowfin tuna. (771 S. Cleveland Av., St. Paul, 651-690-1173.)

LITTLE SZECHUAN: Chinese. Americanized fare and authentic Chinese dishes. Favorites include Chung King chile shrimp and kung pao chicken. (422 W. University Av., St. Paul, 651-222-1333)

PAD THAI GRAND CAFE: Thai. Curries, noodles, veggie dishes. (1681 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-690-1393.)

RUSSIAN PIROSHKI & TEA HOUSE: European. Gem of a lunch spot selling piroskhki, pelmeni and stroganoff — think a budget Moscow on the Hill. (1758 W. University Av., St. Paul. 651-646-4144.)

RUSTY TACO: Mexican. A dozen-plus made-to-order tacos, each priced at $2.50. What’s not to like? (508 S. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul, 651-699-1833.)

ST. CLAIR BROILER: American. Classic diner fare: burgers, grilled sandwiches, comfort food and breakfast options. (1580 St. Clair Av., St. Paul, 651-698-7055.)

SWEENEY’S SALOON & CAFE: American. Neighborhood bar with sandwiches, burgers and pasta. (96 N. Dale St., St. Paul, 651-221-9157.)

TAI HOA B.B.Q.: Asian. Chinese and Vietnamese-style barbecued and roast pork, chicken and duck, sold by the pound. Other prepared foods include chicken-feet salad, pig-ear salad and several dishes that combine Asian vegetables with pig intestines and other parts of the pig anatomy. (854 W. University Av., St. Paul, 651-298-8480)

TASTE OF THAILAND: Authentic curries, soups, salads and stir-fries. (1671 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-644-3997.)

 

$$

BLUE DOOR PUB: American. Gastropub features a range of sometimes outlandishly adventurous spins on the Jucy Lucy stuffed hamburger, as well as other more familiar bar-food favorites. Good local beer list and a friendly atmosphere. (1811 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-493-1865.) (James Norton)

CAFE LATTE: American/bakery. Popular upscale cafeteria noted for its decadent chocolate layer cakes. Large-scale sandwiches are made-to-order with house-baked breads, soups and salads. (850 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-224-5687.)

CHEEKY MONKEY 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. (525 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-224-6066.)

DIXIE’S ON GRAND: American. Lively restaurant serving Southern food, including jambalaya and barbecued ribs. The generously portioned family-style Sunday brunch is popular. (695 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-222-7345.)

GLOCKENSPIEL: German. Traditional food and drink in a restaurant decorated with German-themed frescos. Menu may include roasted pork shank with sauerkraut and potato dumpling, rainbow trout and schnitzel. (605 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-292-9421)

THE HAPPY GNOME: American. Neighborhood tavern is essential for beer geeks, and the food is pretty good, too. (498 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-287-2018.)

KHYBER PASS CAFE: Afghan. Khyber Pass does a good job of reflecting Afghan cuisine with its ambitious but manageable menu. Kebabs, kormas and spicy stews abound. (1571 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-690-0505.) (J.N.)

LA CUCARACHA: Mexican. A varied menu of tacos, enchiladas and other Mexican specialties. (36 S. Dale St., St. Paul, 651-221-9682.)

LA GROLLA: Italian. Diverse menu ranging from the classic cappellini pomodoro to a Norwegian salmon stuffed with crab and lemon/chive sauce. (1806 Selby Av., St. Paul. 651-221-1061.)

LUCI ANCORA: Northern Italian cuisine. (2060 S. Randolph Av., St. Paul, 651-698-6889.)

MAI VILLAGE: Vietnamese. Creative menu offerings go beyond the standard Vietnamese repertoire. The specialty of the house is Bò 7 Mon, seven courses of beef including several you prepare yourself. 394 W. University Av., St. Paul, 651-290-2585)

MOSCOW ON THE HILL: European. 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. (371 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-291-1236.)

THE MUDDY PIG: American. Neighborhood tavern with bistro fare. (162 N. Dale St., St. Paul, 651-254-1030.)

MUFFULETTA: American. Comfort favorites such as pan-roasted duck and chicken breasts rub shoulders with slightly less formal dishes such as a high-end mac and cheese and upscale burgers. (2260 Como Av., St. Paul, 651-644-9116) (James Norton)

NGON VIETNAMESE BISTRO: Vietnamese/Fusion. Great pho, redolent of slow-cooked beef bones, anise and nutmeg, also shows Ngon’s dedication to locally raised meat and produce. Delicious dishes are crafted from Minnesota pork. (799 W. University Av., St. Paul, 651-222-3301)

THE NOOK: American. After a 2010 fire, Ted Casper and Mike Runyon restored their beloved neighborhood pub, and then some. What hasn’t changed is the menu, which still emphasizes big, juicy burgers and fresh-cut fries. (492 S. Hamline Av., St. Paul. 651-698-4347.)

ON’S KITCHEN: Thai. Few Thai restaurants possess such distinctive personality and heartfelt warmth. The menu spans the continuum of home-style and restaurant-style cooking, with street-food fare tossed in. (1613 W. University Av., St. Paul. 651-644-1444)

SAJI-YA: Japanese. Sushi, teppanyaki and a full Japanese menu. (695 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-292-0444.)

SEVENTH STREET SOCIAL: American. Brand new bar and “modern supper club” in Highland Park. Think contemporary comfort fare and gastropub-y dishes such as smoked prime rib, chicken and biscuits, and griddle burgers. (2176 W. 7th St., St. Paul. 651-330-4688.)

SCUSI: Italian. A long list of wine-friendly small plates, starting with a well-sourced variety of cheeses, cured meats and olives, all sold by single bites or in mix-and-match combos. (1806 St. Clair Av., St. Paul. 651-789-7007.)

SHISH: Middle Eastern. The name actually refers to shish kabobs, but when evening rolls around, the sidewalk cafe is packed with hookah smokers. (1668 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-690-2212.)

SOLE CAFE: Korean. This is authentic Korean food: bright, bold flavors, deep, powerful pungency, a vast array of flavorful side dishes and a homey, comfortable vibe. (684 N. Snelling Av., St. Paul, 651-644-2068)

THE STRIP CLUB MEAT & FISH: American. A vibrant menu that skillfully merges an appreciation
for locally raised ingredients with affection for uncomplicated gastropub fare. The restaurant’s namesake dish is a near-perfect New York strip from Minnesota’s superb Thousand Hills Cattle Co. (378 Maria Av., St. Paul, 651-793-6247)

TAVERN ON GRAND: American. Cabin-themed restaurant specializing in walleye. (656 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-228-9030.)

TWISTED FORK GRILLE: American. An outgrowth of the Green Mill restaurant chain, Twisted Fork takes its parent company’s casual dining up a notch with local, seasonal touches. (1342 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-690-5901.)

 

$$$

RISTORANTE LUCI: Italian. Very popular, noisy neighborhood cafe specializing in regional Italian cuisine. Reservations recommended. Vegetarian plates. (470 S. Cleveland Av., St. Paul, 651-699-8258.)

 

$$$$

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. (374 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-224-5715.)