DeRusha Eats: The St. Paul Grill

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It is the epitome of elegance, down to the doorman wearing a top hat and tails.

The St. Paul Grill has been the place in the heart of Minnesota’s capitol city since 1990.

“We’re just so proud of it. We couldn’t be prouder of it,” Phil Jungwirth, President of Morrissey Hospitality, said.

Their founder, Bill Morrissey, came up with the idea for a grand restaurant inside the grand St. Paul hotel.

“Beautiful Rice Park, the Landmark Center, the Hill Library, the Ordway; it’s really in the center of what I think is the best part of St. Paul,” Jungwirth said.

Balancing the classics with newer flavors is the perpetual challenge for an icon. St. Paul Grill’s executive chef Rick Frazer grew up in Minnesota, and described his job as “one of those dream come true situations, working at the best restaurant around.”

Frazer’s menu includes newer things, like a super-vibrant steak salad and the Capital City Burger, topped with thick-cut bacon, smoked Gouda, Surly IPA marinated fried shallots and Fulton Lonely Blonde beer mustard aioli on a pretzel bun.

That burger won the Twin Cities Burger Battle.

“Everyone loves a burger. This is a tough one to beat,” Frazer said.

But the menu still serves iconic originals, like great steaks and a salmon covered in seven-spice butter. It’s a recipe that is like a slightly spicy sweet and sour sauce, and was one of Bill Morrissey’s originals in 1990.

“I think we took it off the menu once, along with the walleye, and there was such an uproar we had to put it back on. It stays. It never changes,” Frazer said.

The service experience and the staff is part of what makes the Grill special.

“I started here in high school as a prep cook, bar back,” Justin Spano, who has now worked for Morrissey Hospitality for 20 years, said.

Spano leads the Grill’s legendary scotch program and Wine Spectator award-winning California cab and Oregon pinot-heavy wine list.

“There could be a table of Wild hockey fans in their jerseys sitting next to businessmen in $2,000 suits,” Spano said.

The goal is to give everyone a special experience.

To that end, they’re doing more special events, he said, bringing in wine makers like Carlo Mondavi, the owner of RAEN Winery in Sonoma County.

“We need to be in great spots around the world. This is one of the finest restaurants here,” Mondavi said.

The Mondavi family is legendary in the wine industry, and has roots in the Iron Range of Minnesota. His family was the force behind Robert Mondavi, Opus One, Continuum, and now he and his brother are making Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast at RAEN.

“It’s always great to have our wines paired with great food. It’s an honor to be able to be on this wine list,” he said.

As diners trend to more casual options, Jungwirth knows the Grill has to keep up. He’s seen other iconic restaurants stagnate and be forced to close their doors.

“The diner today is a lot different than 27 years ago when we opened the restaurant. We have to adapt to that,” he said.

The St. Paul Grill is located at 350 Market Street in St. Paul. For more information, or to make a reservation, call 651-224-7455.

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