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Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul

April 8, 2011 7:36 AM

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If your taste ranges anywhere from hipster to high-class, I guarantee at least one of my St. Paul favorites listed below will catch your eye. Similar to my “Best Neighborhood Gems of Minneapolis,” there are many fantastic places to visit in this historic city. If crossing the river is a task, I am going to tease you with several ideas to freshen up your lifestyle, in no particular order.

www barriotequila com Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul


Barrio Restaurant

235 6th St. E. #100
St. Paul, MN 55101
Website | Directory 

Lowertown Anyone who knows me understands I am a huge fan of the Barrio restaurants in the Twin Cities. This location is a sure-thing and a great place to dress it up, or keep it casual. The aura of Barrio St. Paul is sassy-sophisticated. If you are up for a mean margarita, try the Caesar Chavez. Learning to speak Spanish will be on the top of your priority list, post cocktail.

i nonni Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul


I Nonni

981 Sibley Memorial Hwy.
St. Paul, MN 55118
Website | Directory 

Lilydale If you’re response to “What do you feel like doing tonight” is “When in Rome,” that is a sign you should just “do it as the Romans do.” Whether going out for dinner or out for a simple cocktail, I hear people raving about this place, all the time. Their wine selection is broad and the staff is educated and fun. I recommend telling your server or bartender you are looking to try something new. They will know exactly what will be the right fit for you. Oh, and buy some pasta sauce at its market next door. Your friends will think you’re a cooking genius.

evla pottery Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul


Evla Pottery

Evla Pottery
42 Dale St. S.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Grand Avenue Do you remember the scene in the movie “Ghost” when Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are throwing clay on a wheel? (You know the one.) If your answer is yes, this scene will flash though your mind before you can say “hot and steamy” when strolling though this shop. Regardless, it is the vibrant color usage and originality in form that makes this pottery different. If you need to add a conversation starter piece to your home, check out Evla. This was recommended to me by a friend. From him, to me, to you, I guarantee stopping by Evla will be worth the trip (and the gazillion stop-lights).

saigon restaurant1 Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul

(credit: Saigon Restaurant)

Saigon Restaurant

704 University Ave. W.
St. Paul, MN 55103
Website | Directory 

Midway If you’re a fan of a little spice and want to eat lean but filling, the sandwiches here are some of the best in the city. Vietnamese food is one of my long-time favorites due to the variety and use of flavors such as cilantro, lime, chile sauce and red onion. If you like Pho, a type of soup, it also has flavors to match any craving. If you are vegetarian, this is a must-do. Did I mention most of the sandwiches sell for $4 or less? Ask about the “Pho-King Challenge.”

granny donuts Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul

(credit: Granny Donuts)

Granny Donut

1555 Robert St. S.
West St. Paul, MN 55118
Website | Directory 

West St. Paul OK, we know that this one is technically *just* outside St. Paul, but channel Homer Simpson here for a moment. Mmm … donuts. Did you ever cook with your grandma when you were little? Do you remember the smell of treats baking in the oven and the fun glazes she’d use? You will feel like a kid again when you stop by this donut shop. On that note, how often do you get to go to an actual bakery these days? Donuts are baked fresh daily and if you are getting them to-go, you’ll want to sneak one (or two!) on the way home. Try the Devil’s Food or the lemon bismarck.

snuffys malt shop Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul


Snuffy’s Malt Shop

244 Cleveland Ave. S.
St. Paul, MN 55105
Website | Directory 

Highland If you are looking for a classic joint that reflects the old-world character of the city, make an excuse to go here ASAP. My favorite is the butterscotch malt with a burger and fries. Diet starts Monday, right? Great service. Great diner-like experience. If you have kids, get a sitter. Just kidding, kids are always welcome and they’ll love it.

johns pizza Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul

(credit: John

John’s Pizza

616 Como Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55103
Website | Directory 

Como I recently returned from a trip to New York City and of course, I couldn’t leave without sampling the pizza. Since I’ve been back to the Twin Cities, I found a pizzeria that lives up to the flavor and originality of what I tasted in NYC. If you consider yourself to be a true pizza eater, meaning you fold your pizza, then eat it (versus cutting it with a fork), this place is for you. Big slices with an excellent crust recipe will be found here. You may have a natural urge to tuck a napkin into your shirt collar.

the blue door pub1 Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul


The Blue Door Pub

1811 Selby Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104
Website | Directory 

Merriam Park If there’s one thing I love about St. Paul, it’s the random bars, restaurants and retail shops littered throughout its neighborhoods. This restaurant is between a hole-in-the-wall (my favorite) and something upscale. The happy hour will have you saying, “Well, I don’t mind if I do.” The menu will saying, “I’m going for a run tomorrow.” My favorite is the black bean burger and I’m not even a vegetarian.

the strip club Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul


The Strip Club

378 Maria Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55106
Website | Directory 

Dayton’s Bluff My new favorite restaurant, located just outside of downtown, is a step back to the old-world class of St. Paul. The dramatic ambiance coupled with the aromas of steak, fish and grilled lemon are impossible to ignore. Try the Smooth Operator small plate — the crew from Mad Men would be pleased. (You get more than what you pay for. Great prices.)

muffuletta2 Best Neighborhood Gems: St. Paul



2260 Como Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Website | Directory 

St. Anthony Park This is a St. Paul staple, probably a little more familiar to many of you. When you begin to walk to the entrance, you’ll say, “Wow. This place is cool.” I’d recommend this as a second-date place as it is a bit more formal. The gnocchi is amazing.

-Justin Reis is a WCCO intern studying broadcast journalism at the University of Minnesota. His passion for finding the “best” in the Twin Cities is inspired by his role as a group fitness instructor and interests ranging from “anything artistic” to “anything social.” Please leave a comment on what you think of his recommendations.

View Comments
  • Tea asks

    OH COME ON CCO…what about El Burrito!!!!

    And as far as a “bar”…….That’s a good question….I like Luck’s 13 in Mendota (Chad is the BEST bar tender in MN) but it’s not in “St Pual”… anyone?

    • Carmen Quarford


  • Sgt

    What about La Cucaracha Restarant on Dale Street ? Thats a really great place to eat,

    • Carmen Quarford

      No way
      I guess a difference in taste

  • Elizabeth

    John’s Pizza is great! They also have great pasta dishes too. The new building across the street is very nice and roomy.

  • betty

    I checked out John’s Pizza menu. Mexican pizza, give me a break. Having travelled to Naples Italy and having some of the best p;izza I have had in my life, this is an insult. Is there an Italian Burritto or taco, heck no. Please why must places do this!

  • comfyslippers

    Love, love, love Snuffy’s Malt Shop! I don’t go often because I always over eat at ruin my healthy eating habits. But, everyone has to splurge once in awhile.

  • Pate

    Snuffy’s has terrific malts!

  • Sarah W

    Justin!! Great job on these places. I love every single on of them!!! Especially Granny’s Donuts. Oh and Blue Door has the best fried green beans.

    • Justin

      Hey Sarah, Each of these places, I agree, are amazing! I must have to say though, Granny’s is at the top. Love that place.

      I’ll try the green beans at Blue Door!

  • kathy

    Snuffy’s has the worst service ever! Snotty waitresses who clearly don’t like kids, etc.

  • Anna

    Went Snuffy’s just waiting a malt, and had no idea how amazing they’d be! probably the best place to stop by for a cool treat!! :)

  • Nebber

    Good eye, Devoided!!!

  • Jen K.

    BLUE DOOR PUB ROCKS!!!!! The cajun with buffalo tots, yum!

  • Amy

    Barrio lost all their good bartenders. Boo!

  • Carmen Quarford

    Not sure what to catigorize one of my old time favoriites. MANCINI’S CHAR HOUSE the shrimp cocktail with a sweet cocktail and sweet house band and the brothers make for a nice night. Also known for other things. Taste and see. Say Hi to Pat and Johnny for me. I guess there is a third brother Nick Jr. never meet him.

  • Carmen G Quarford

    Granny’s Donuts has been around since forever. They are the greatest. Great to see my son now in his twenties is bringing his girlfriend there. I even make it there with my 11 year old.

  • Them

    How about Wok the dog on university ave and wok the cat on como>

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