As with many Midwestern towns, St. Paul has a deep appreciation for farmers and locally produced ingredients. Many of the eateries, whether upscale or cheap and cheerful, take advantage of the great local goods. Ethnic food is also plentiful, and we were delighted to get a chance to try some flavors that were new to us.
Smaller and less busy than its buzzing twin city Minneapolis, St. Paul offers a refreshing approach to dining that we quite enjoyed. We took the opportunity to savor the local cuisine, explore the city’s history, and learn about some of the uniquely thriving ethnic communities that call St. Paul home. Now we want to share with you some of our fantastic food finds in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Joan’s In The Park
We love high-quality dining in a refined setting that makes us feel like we’re enjoying something special -- and that we are special. Joan’s in the Park offers that sort of delightful experience with a small and subtly elegant white tablecloth scene. Owner and executive chef Susan Dunlop and owner and maitre d' Joan Schmitt focus on local ingredients that are often straight from the farm. Fresh, seasonal, and thoughtful, the scratch-made approach includes most everything from the kitchen, such as bread, cheese, butter, and desserts.
The co-owners met while working at another restaurant and pursued their dream of having a place of their own. They create an environment that is both charming and inviting, with a menu that highlights quality seasonal ingredients. Hearty appetites will find dishes like braised beef cheeks, farm-roasted chicken, smoked lamb ribs, and ribeye steak. Vegetarians will find plenty to enjoy, too, such as pumpkin ravioli, charred beet, shaved butternut squash, and roasted sweet potato. Save room for desserts such as their Signature Brown Butter Pudding.
You might be surprised to learn that Minnesota has one of the largest populations of Hmong people in the United States. Farmers in Laos and Vietnam during the Vietnam War, many Hmong fought against the Vietcong and Communist forces inside Laos with the support of the U.S. A distinct ethnic group with ancient roots in China, many came to the U.S. as refugees from the wars. The 2010 Minnesota census showed more than 66,000 Hmong in Minnesota, a population that has grown significantly since. The Hmong have blessed their new home with fantastic food finds from their culture’s cuisine.
One of the most exciting places to try the flavors of the Hmong is at the Hmongtown Marketplace. This massive warehouse setting in a converted lumber yard is like a street market with over 100 stores and nearly a dozen restaurants. The grocery section is a revelation, with fresh local produce and special ingredients from papaya, lemongrass, and ginger root to chicken feet, sausages, and Asian spices.
Food adventurer Andrew Zimmern calls the Hmong Marketplace “The Twin Cities’ best-kept culinary secret” for its authentic flavors. Papaya salad, stuffed chicken wings, mok pa, and other Southeast Asian flavors echo culinary backroads far away.
W.A. Frost And Company
W.A. Frost And Company offers the exquisite comfort of a bygone era with award-winning, contemporary American cuisine. Located in the historic Cathedral Hill neighborhood, the magnificent restaurant sparkles with architectural artifacts, gorgeous fireplaces, arched doorways, and masterful design highlights that add to the ambiance. The neighborhood appears in the writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom one can imagine relaxing on the patio outside.
Menus vary based on the season and available ingredients. The dining experience, however, is always one of unhurried elegance. Artisan cheese and charcuterie plates plus seasonal vegetable salads and wraps join classic favorites like grilled salmon and New York strip steak. This is a place to savor desserts like New York Cheesecake with Bordeaux cherry sauce and a Flourless Chocolate Torte. Enjoy the ambiance and the cuisine with a touch of old-world refinement.
Dual Citizen Brewing Company
We love to visit local breweries, and Dual Citizen Brewing Company does not disappoint. Not only is the beer great, but the community-centric approach helps turn neighbors and visitors into friends. They celebrate heritage while taking inspiration from and utilizing local and seasonal ingredients. The taproom is casual and inviting, encouraging “citizens” to enjoy one another as well as some seriously well-crafted brews. Dual Citizen also offers a seasonal firkin, which infuses fruit, hops, spices, and other items into a brew. The mixture then naturally carbonates in a cask for two weeks, resulting in a unique treat for adventurous beer lovers.
Dual Citizen’s seasonal lager program has different lagers throughout the year, such as Helles in spring, Pils in summer, and Oktoberfest in fall. They also create seasonal beers like saison in spring and barleywine in winter. These are in addition to a dozen or so craft beers that flow from their taps. While they don’t have a kitchen in the taproom, the neighboring restaurant, The Naughty Greek, will deliver food right to your table. And, you’re free to bring in any food you have or get takeout delivered to you while you’re there so that you will have a few bites with your brews.
Tongue In Cheek
Tongue in Cheek is most aptly described as eclectic -- and delicious. They are a sustainably-focused restaurant serving lots of vegan, vegetarian, and humanely raised animal products. The bar is quite popular as well, serving specialty cocktails, beer, and wine. Known for approachable fine dining, the restaurant has an ambiance that inspires exploration and fun. Food comes in the form of Teasers, To Share Or Not, and Entrees. There’s also a great brunch if you’re looking for one. The quirky artwork and decor make it easy to dress however you choose and feel equally comfortable. Service is friendly and, at least when we were there, diners ran the gamut from romantic couples to a dad and his kids.
We shared a variety of items that were both fun to order and to eat. Teasers come three in a batch like mini cauliflower tacos called Kennyflowers or East Fried Pride with pork belly and stone fruit. If you want to graze on nibbles only or share a variety with others, you can get a flight of 14. To Share or Not items like Steamed Pork Buns, Chicken and Waffle, and Tuna Tartare are a little bit more substantial. For the full experience, try an entree like their Six Ounces To Freedom cheeseburger, Classic Ramen, or Curry Udon. Vegans find The Vegasm immensely satisfying. Brunch includes brunch favorites like Weekend At Bennies and Croque Hot Damn. There are also some popular eye-openers like the house Bloody Mary, Irish coffee, and mimosas. While the names may be silly, the food is seriously good, with complex flavor profiles and a satisfying variety. Tongue In Cheek is a neighborhood favorite that is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.
Moscow On The Hill
Nestled into a beautiful corner of St. Paul, Moscow On The Hill offers authentic Russian cuisine and a comfortable spot to enjoy it. The restaurant has been family owned and operated for over 25 years, and its friendly hospitality and cozy atmosphere embrace you. In warm weather, the backyard patio is perfect for a peaceful retreat. Not surprisingly, Moscow On The Hill is also a popular choice for celebrating special occasions. Of course, vodka gets its due as well, with over 300 choices, including some interesting house-infused flavors. It’s a cultural experience that tastes good, too.
Authentic Russian favorites are on the menu here. Start with some House Pickled Vegetables, Borscht soup, or splurge on some blini with caviar. Hand-made dumplings are a special treat, too. Entrees include Russian classics such as Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Kiev. Desserts include the traditional Pushkin Torte, layered with chocolate and honey. If you’d like to get the flavors of Russia but want to dine at home, Moscow On The Hill offers a unique Take And Bake Dinner, a meal kit for two that includes traditional Khachapuri Georgian cheese bread, Grandmas Golubtsy cabbage rolls, and a piece of Pushkin Torte.
Grand Ole Creamery
St. Paul offers a sweet ending or anytime treat just the way we like it with good old fashioned ice cream. Grand Ole Creamery was the first creamery in the Twin Cities to serve premium ice cream, and they’ve been at it for almost 35 years. More than 200 flavors offer an ever-changing rotation of deliciousness. They’ve also created some original flavors like Black Hills Gold. Justifiably popular with locals, Grand Ole Creamery was even visited by President Barack Obama, who enjoyed their Black Hills Gold in a waffle cone.
Speaking of waffle cones, they make them right there, and the smell is amazing. Their flavors include the classics like Sweet Cream, Chocolate Chip, Butter Pecan, and seasonal treats like Pumpkin Pie and Peppermint Bon Bon. They also have some unique flavors. Marshmallow Man, Grizzly Grumble, North Country Crunch, and Taro are just a few. We loved the Black Cherry with big chunks of real cherry. You might think they’re a little bit pricey until you realize that when you order a “single” you’re actually served 2.5 scoops of ice cream heaven. Pizza lovers will also note they have added a New York-style pizzeria to the back. Whether you want to finish with sweet or salty, you can have your choice.
St. Paul, Minnesota may be smaller and more subtle than the big, dazzling twin city of Minneapolis, but that is part of its charm. Importantly, there are plenty of fantastic food finds in this diverse and beautiful city. We have provided you with a glimpse of just a few and hope you discover many more delicious delights in St. Paul.
Foodies will also enjoy our other tasty recommendations in the area: