The Restaurant Guide: DOWNTOWN ST.PAUL

| September 26, 2012 - 8:11 PM

Cossetta Italian Market & Pizzeria

Italian • $ • 211 W. 7th St., St. Paul • 651-222-3476

You want a gabagool sandwich? Fat-noodled manicotti in red sauce with fistfuls of real parm? A slice? Foccocia? Tins of amaretto biscotti, paper-thin slices of bresaola, a brick of tiramisu, sausage and peppers, veal Parmesan, wee jars of imported anchovies and 30 kinds of olive oil? All done with attention to tradition, the way it was done a century ago? If Lidia Bastianich is coming through town with her friend in orange Crocs, this is where you'll take them, in order to prove we know how to do things old-school in the Twin Cities. New York may have Eataly, the shining temple to all things Italian and eatable, but we've got Cossetta, the iconic landmark with the autographed Sinatra on the wall. Now, this already formidable shrine to eats from the boot has undergone a grand expansion, and you'll get all the things listed above, a kajillion more, and well, more, more, more. A gelato case, an espresso bar, an in-house bakery and pastry kitchen, a serious rooftop bar and restaurant (scheduled for next summer) and hopefully, hopefully, a basement wine shop as things continue to progress. I think we can all raise a glass of Chianti to that. MECCA BOS

Amsterdam Bar & Hall

Dutch • $ • 6 W. 6th St., St. Paul • 651-285-3112

Poor downtown St. Paul, with its reputation as a ghost town past 8 p.m., the little city where they roll up the sidewalks after dark. Amsterdam has come to the rescue, with live music nightly and a bustling bar vibe. But what about the vittles? Sometimes, you need just a little something, and nothing more, and Amsterdam has nailed this particular craving. What do you want to eat when you're drinking a bunch of good beer (about 20 on tap, starting at four bucks)? You want a sandwich, of course -- lovingly tended, reasonably priced and sized so that you can have more than one. Enter the broodjes -- it's a Dutch thing, along with the inspiration for the rest of menu. It's a bit bigger than a slider but not by much, stuffed with your pick of good things -- smoked pork, flank steak, house-made sausage, lots of vegetarian picks, too. Add some truly superior house-cut fries, garnished with diced onion to give them a bewitching funkiness, along with, say, curried ketchup. All of this is served in a paper-lined basket, and less than 10 bucks for the whole shebang! It starts to make lots of other places feel like a straight ripoff. Also, Belgian frites and select beers go for $2 each at happy hour. And hey, ear candy to boot.M.B.

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Babani's Kurdish Restaurant: Middle Eastern. Eatery claims to be the country's first Kurdish restaurant. (544 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-602-9964)

DeGidio's Restaurant and Bar: Italian. Old-school family restaurant that serves up one of the best renditions of that controversially named sandwich, the hot dago. DeGidio's version is saucy and sloppy and best eaten with a fork and knife. (425 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-291-7105) (James Norton)

Tanpopo Noodle Shop: Japanese. Simple meals of noodles and broth are perfect cold-weather fare, and the atmosphere is as civilized and relaxing as it gets. Sushi specials and killer soy-ginger chicken wings add a more accessible touch. (308 Prince St., St. Paul, 651-209-6527) (J.N.)

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Downtowner Woodfire Grill: American. Woodfire grilled steaks and seafood, Persian fire-roasted kabobs, gourmet pizzas, extensive wine list and a full bar. (253 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-228-9500)

Faces Mears Park: American. At David Fhima's remade LoTo, the main menu's format covers a lot of bases: sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas and a handful of familiar beef-chicken-fish entrees. (380 Jackson St., St. Paul, 651-209-7776)

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 with French fries and vegetables. (605 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-292-9421)

Red's Savoy Pizza: Short on ambience but long on legions of satisfied pizza fans, this bustling St. Paul landmark serves thin, crispy-crust pizzas with the standard toppings, along with a selection of pasta dishes and American favorites. (421 E. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-227-1437)

Ruam Mit Thai Cafe: While it's not much to look at, this humble St. Paul Thai eatery boasts the depth and flavor typical of true Thai delicacies -- all the gastronomic fireworks with none of the fancy visuals. (475 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-290-0067) (J.N.)

Sakura Restaurant & Bar: Japanese. Sushi and a full Japanese menu. (350 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-224-0185)

Senor Wong: Asian/Mexican. This is a kitchen that can juggle both tricked-out nachos and spring rolls overstuffed with snappy shrimp, thin slices of roasted pork and tons of fresh herbs. There are fat and feisty wok-fried pork dumplings as well as what might be the best sweet potato fries in town. (111 E. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, 651-310-9664)

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)

Trattoria da Vinci: Italian. Italian restaurant featuring live jazz. Menu may include gnocchi with Bolognese sauce, risotto and veal saltimbocca. (400 Sibley St., St. Paul, 651-222-4050)

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Forepaugh's: American. Upscale dining in a Victorian mansion. Seafood entrees show flair and nuance. (276 S. Exchange St., St. Paul, 651-224-5606)

Meritage: French. Meritage doesn't bill itself as a seafood restaurant. But that's exactly what it is, plus a whole lot more. Chef Russell Klein skillfully finds parity between classic and contemporary, formal and casual. Anyone who loves lobster will adore Meritage. A Wild fan in search of a phenomenal burger, equally addictive French fries and an ice-cold beer will feel right at home seated next to a table of special-occasion diners, and vice versa. (410 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-222-5670)

Pazzaluna: Italian. Upscale restaurant serving stylish presentations of classic Italian dishes. (360 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-223-7000)

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St. Paul Grill: American. Classic hotel restaurant popular with businesspeople. Steaks, chops and fresh seafood are offered. Sunday brunch is popular. (350 Market St., St. Paul, 651-224-7455)

Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market: American. Located opposite the St. Paul Farmers Market, this temple to locally raised foods offers a serene dining room, a more casual lounge and an open-all-day market and grab-and-go counter. (289 E. 5th St., St. Paul, 651-699-3536)

Kincaid's Fish, Chop & Steak House - St. Paul: Seafood/ steakhouse. Modern version of a classic steak and chop house. (380 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-602-9000)

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