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Minnesota's First Vermouth
By: Jason DeRusha | Posted: 07/14/2014
If you had 24 hours straight in St. Paul with no kids, no responsibility, and no rules, where would you visit?
My wife and I are very lucky every summer to have my parents and siblings take our kids in Chicago. That gives us the benefit of going out without having to worry about a babysitter! We decided to hit up St. Paul this year for all the new restaurants, new breweries, and things that we haven’t had a chance to do yet. Here’s how we fared . . .
Inside the DoubleTree, 411 Minnesota St.
The Graves Hospitality group (formerly of Graves 601 Hotel in Minneapolis) is managing the DoubleTree now, and the hotel restaurant is a doozy! Casual, sporty, fun. The pizza recipes are from Red Wagon (you see them at Linden Hills Farmers Market), and they’re quite good. I loved the Banh Mi Pizza (yes, pickles on a pizza works).
The beer list is good and the servers were all trained by cicerones (beer sommeliers), but I’m more excited by the beer cocktails. Buffalo Water is like a beer manhattan, with Dark Horse Special Reserve Black. Summer Spritz is super-refreshing with Stiegl Radler beer and Aperol. Cocktails are $10, the pizza was $12. Games everywhere, my wife and I sat at the bar and played a game called Jacques London. She won. I won too.
373 N. Sibley St.
Yes, this place is still open. That’s the number one thing people said to me when I told them I was at FACES. It’s been around for nearly 10 years (opened in 2005), and the patio onto Mears Park is one of the best views in the city. The tagine was great! We had a special with cod and sea bass, preserved lemon, and a little bit of sweetness to it. It was complex and delicious for $32, and plenty for the two of us to split. The California salad felt right out of 1995, with goat cheese, pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, and a very heavy red wine-port vinaigrette and the cocktail list claimed to be seasonal, yet had pumpkin spice and many fall ingredients on it, but we’d certainly come back to try the lamb or the spicy seafood tagines.
350 Market St.
This hotel is legendary and gorgeous. From the gardens out front to the doorman wearing a top hat and tails, you have to love the Saint Paul Hotel. Have a martini in the Saint Paul Grill, just one is all you’ll need.
1340 Thomas Ave.
At Groundswell I had the best waffle I’ve ever had in my life. It was made from earl grey tea and some sort of magic. The tea was shredded into tiny little chunks and sprinkled on the top half of the waffle, then baked in. Then they topped it with lemon curd and blueberries, with mascarpone and fresh whipped cream. I’m currently dreaming about this waffle.
Alyssa had the quiche of the day, which was served in an adorable puff pastry with a perfectly dressed side salad (very lightly dressed! Thank you!). The coffee is legit, our food was perfect, I can’t wait to come back with the kids. Oh and they have gifts and cards and jewelry (we bought earrings and a necklace too!). Awesome spot.
758 Cleveland Ave. S
I know this is a food blog, but we went to Stephanie’s, and bought a ton of stuff for Alyssa, because Stephanie’s is the best spot for women’s clothing and dresses in the Twin Cities. So go there.
688 Minnehaha Ave. E.
We just missed the tour (they’re normally at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays, and free if you bring a nonperishable item for the food shelf). But the brewery is open 12-6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday for growler sales, and it’s so cool (plus kid friendly! Tons of games and things to keep the kids busy). This is the old HAMM’S brewery on the East Side, you can feel the history in there. They let us taste any beer we wanted, we really enjoyed the Bermuda Triangle Tripel and the Ovni Ale. The Flat Earth root beer is also killer. The best thing is in the mens’ room: the urinals are fashioned out of beer barrels. Enjoy.
2320 Capp Rd.
Bang Brewing has the most unique brewery you’ll ever see. It’s a 1300 square foot grain bin, and it’s all organic. There are tons of reclaimed materials in there and four beers on tap: Neat (pale ale), Minn (dark mild ale), Nice (stout), Good (I forget). My wife and I couldn’t resist mixing the Minn and the Nice, which worked out quite well. The Minn is dark in color, but smooth and light in flavor, the Nice is nice! The Good was good! The Neat was neat! Super nice people, just a great experience. $6 for a pint but they’ll serve you half-pints for half the money. Now that’s Minn Nice.
989 Payne Ave.
Back to the East Side for a brand new restaurant that I’m really excited about. Tongue In Cheek is from Chef Leonard Anderson who was at The Hanger Room, Aquavit, and W.A. Frost. They do something I loved: $2 teasers. I’d order the whole list: we really liked the roasted pork, scallop crudo, and wild salmon.
I also tried the beef tartare ($11), served on top of a giant block of Himalayan salt. It gave a hint of salt, without taking away from the beef. And then we tried the scallops, served grilled and roasted with potato and pork belly. All great. I particularly like that the cocktail menu is divided into sweet, spicy, salty, bitter, sour, and umami. That’s how I drink! I never know what spirit I want, because I like them all, and it depends what you do with the spirit. The Vicious Bud is particularly good—a hophead vodka, with Letherbee Malort, Amaro and crème de violette ($10).
Can’t wait to get back.
378 Maria Ave.
I never write about The Strip Club, because the owners are my friends, but I love this place. The crispy fried veggies are my single favorite menu item anywhere, and just $4.75. There’s also a small plate with cannellini beans and the best canned tuna you’ll ever have. Chef JD Fratzke’s soups are always perfect, and the hospitality from Tim Niver is second to none. Not just because they’re my friends, but they’ll make you a fast friend, too.
There are so many ways you could do a St. Paul eating tour: the great burger joints (Shamrock’s, Blue Door), the one-of-a-kind spots (Kopplin’s, Lynden’s Soda Fountain), or the classics (Mancini’s, Cossetta). People of Minneapolis and the western suburbs: Do not be afraid! Go for it! And East Siders: tell me where I should hit for my next 24 hours in St. Paul.
Jason DeRusha anchors WCCO-TV’s morning and noon news. His column "DeRusha Eats" appears in Mpls.St.Paul Magazine monthly. See bio
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