The Restaurant Guide: SUMMIT/GRAND/HIGHLAND

Updated 9/26/2012

St. Paul's best neighborhood restaurants range from ethnic stars to fine-dining gems to burgers, burgers, burgers.

Supatra's Thai Cuisine

Thai • $$ • 967 W. 7th St., St. Paul • 651-222-5859

Don't know your tom kha gai from your nam pla? Supatra is here to help. This powerhouse chef, cooking instructor, cookbook author, former grocer, Thai native and St. Paul transplant is nothing less than a state treasure, offering not just some of the best and most authentic Thai food around, but also a lesson in how to do things the right way. And which way is that? With a mortar and pestle, with house-fermented fish sauce, ("Some may even go so far as to say it stinks") and everything, but everything made fresh to order. Supatra Johnson hails from northeast Thailand and found her way to St. Paul the old fashioned way--- by way of love and marriage. A few things to know about her formidable eatery: 1) Use sticky rice to pick up your laab (which is much more pungent and delicious than any you've had before,) barbeque chicken, and grilled beef salads. 2) Northern Thailand is where people really, really like their chiles-you know that No. 5 on the spice scale? Yeah, that. 3) And know that the restaurant is an extension of Supatra's home, where you'll feel very much at, when you dine. Poke your head into the kitchen and say hello. MECCA BOS

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Cecil's Deli: New York-style Jewish deli. Serves borscht, potato pancakes and vegetarian dishes. (651 Cleveland Av. S., 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.)

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.)

Pad Thai Grand Cafe: Thai. Curries, noodles, veggie dishes. (1681 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-690-1393.)

Rusty Taco: Mexican. A dozen-plus made-to-order tacos, each priced at $2.50. What's not to like? There are several scrambled-egg breakfast versions, along with beer, chips, salsa and guacamole. (508 S. Lexington Pkwy., St. Paul, 651-699-1833.)

St. Clair Broiler: American. Classic diner fare, including burgers, grilled sandwiches, comfort food classics and a wide selection of breakfast options, served all day. (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.)

Taste of Thailand: Authentic curries, soups, salads and stir-fries. (1671 Selby Av., St. Paul, 651-644-3997.)

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The 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 neighborhood 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 housebaked 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.)

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. A plethora of nightly specials. (1806 Selby Av., St. Paul. 651-221-1061.)

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

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.)

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

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.)

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

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.)

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

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.)

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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.)

$$$$

Lexington Restaurant: Steakhouse. Landmark St. Paul restaurant offering a variety of steaks, chops, prime rib, seafood and pasta. (1096 Grand Av., St. Paul, 651-222-5878.)

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.)