The Best Restaurants in St. Paul, MN
As 2017 comes to a close, we celebrate a year in which St. Paul finally comes into its own as a food city. Not that there weren’t excellent eateries in the capital city before, but St. Paul now boasts, at any price range and for any occasion, a selection to impress locals and visitors alike looking for a good meal.
And, just as important, we honor the restaurants that laid the groundwork, that have stood the test of time, that were here long before anyone was looking to the east for eats.
This is the comprehensive, exhaustive list. Everything worth visiting for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a few drinks after, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Note: They are not ranked, and shouldn’t be. The idea of putting a #1 on a list like this is superfluous: If you’re craving a steak, the best Thai restaurant is not going to cut it, etc. These are the best restaurants for what these restaurants are trying to be, and when you want what they got, they’ll give it to you right.
If creative cooking is wrong, there’s no point in being right. Tongue in Cheek confidently does whatever wants, and we as eager diners are all the better for it. The cocktails are equally innovative.
989 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130
Meritage might be the gold standard for classic French cuisine, but Saint Dinette is the young upstart channeling the result of French influence on different regions of North America: Dishes from Quebec, New Orleans, the Gulf Coast together at last under one Lowertown roof.
261 5th St E, St Paul, MN 55101
The very last word in French cooking, and perhaps even better for fresh seafood, Meritage has been open for ten years in downtown St. Paul offering the highest-standard of fine-dining fare and intimate dining experience.
410 St Peter St, St Paul, MN 55102
It’s warm and comforting. It’s pizza and pasta. It’s simple and delicious and unassuming in a quiet St. Paul neighborhood. It’s a best-kept-secret sort of place, that does donuts (only available Saturday mornings) just as well as pizza, bucatini, and mama’s lasagna.
786 Randolph Ave, St Paul, MN 55102
Big and beautiful. The plates, we’re talking about: Supper club updated to represent 21st-century tastes. And the space is big (huge) and beautiful as well, finally giving Grand Avenue the destination restaurant it deserves.
1096 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
Consistent since day one (which was earlier this year), Pajarito offers the growing West 7th neighborhood something special by way of Mexican cuisine: Truly great plates large and small (and sides like elotes-style Brussels sprouts), tacos, salsas, and cocktails.
605 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102
Farm-to-table gets fresh treatment at this little self-described “farmhouse-chic” restaurant. But it’s creativity that’s the name of the game here, with familiar dishes recreated for brunch and dinner with ingredients you might never have imagined.
2186 Marshall Ave, St Paul, MN 55104
Simple diner goodness is enhanced rather than sacrificed to incorporate Korean heritage, and somehow Cook manages to be one of the Twin Cities’ best American diners and best Korean restaurants simultaneously.
1124 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130
There’s something about this restaurant that remains magical after all these years (even after a move to a larger location across the river from downtown). Kurdish classics warm and tangy from lemon and stewed tomato, their fall-off-the-bone-tender meats always done right.
32 E Fillmore Ave, St Paul, MN 55107
Still the gold standard for Ethiopian cuisine. Fasika’s blanket-thick injera, warm and complex spices, and even-warmer hospitality should keep it the gold standard for many, many more years (and lists) to come.
510 Snelling Ave N, St Paul, MN 55104
Great for undecided eaters and eating: They offer small, amuse bouche-sized bites perfect for drinking, mid-sized plates for a quick and hearty meal, and full-sized entrees and sides made for dining family-style. Playfully international. Try the Chong Qing chicken.
345 Wabasha St N, St Paul, MN 55102
What was a beautiful but hollow shell now has heart and soul to spare under the command of Lenny Russo and wife/partner Mega Hoehn. The space really is too beautiful not to have standout food and drink, which we can now say it does after the recent menu revamp.
79 Western Ave N, St Paul, MN 55102
Fried Chicken (the duh menu item here). BBQ. Cocktails. It’s not good for you, but it’s so good for you. We’ll leave it at that.
525 Selby Ave, St Paul, MN 55102
Was Handsome Hog looking sideways when Revival opened up the hill? It’s a different beast altogether. Slow roasted goodness, a much larger menu to reflect Chef Justin Sutherland’s tastes and upbringing, and a brisket that is considerably more tasty.
We wrote about it here: Handsome Hog: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
203 6th St E, St Paul, MN 55101
The kind of place every neighborhood should have. Creative pub food and charcuterie (“food for drinking”) and surprisingly well-made larger plates, like duck breast and polenta, in an a most-accommodating atmosphere that remains welcoming to all.
858 Payne Ave, St Paul, MN 55130
It’s one of those places that has been around so long, and is so beloved, that it comes to represent the area in which it is located: Latte has become synonymous with Grand Avenue for a quick bite cafeteria-style while shopping or a longer evening out for a glass of wine in the back. And, of course, the desserts; simply the best in large and luxurious cakes.
850 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
Stick-to-your-ribs Southern classics get the local treatment at Brasa, and you won’t find a more consistent spot for chicken and cornbread, fried eggs, catfish, slow-roasted beef and smoked pork.
777 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
It might be our favorite Thai place, a few steps outside of the Little Mekong cluster. Hidden in Midway next to the Turf Club (and a great pre-show dinner), the curries, noodles, soups, and salads are fresh and vibrant, representing fully the complex flavors of Thailand.
1613 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104
It’s like fondue for people who want something better than the Melting Pot. You choose your broth, and then everything, from sirloin and tripe to beech mushrooms and Chinese broccoli, that you’d like to cook in it. If you leave hungry, or unsatisfied, that’s on you.
422 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103
The papaya salad here is the very best. Full stop. But it’s one of the very best all-around for Thai food, bringing the dynamic flavors textures of Thailand to the cold and quiet streets of St. Paul quick and efficient every time.
371 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103
It’s a small storefront that represents a time in St. Paul’s history long past. Soul food recipes passed down with no changes necessary over the years. And the wings are those so-good-you-want-to-keep-them-a-secret wings; a hidden gem that only you know about.
Read Brandon Randolph’s wing review here: The Twin Cities’ best places to wing it
647 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104
A temple to everything that’s great about Mexican food in America: Everything is made in-house, even the tortilla chips. Lunch shines, cafeteria-style, or sitting in the back El Cafe for a longer, margarita-filled meal will take you on a trip south of the border without leaving St. Paul.
175 Cesar Chavez St, St Paul, MN 55107
Something of an anomaly: You wouldn’t expect the small restaurant at the base of an obscure apartment building in a quiet residential/college neighborhood to have this innovative, Korean-twisted menu of American classics. But here it is. Cocktails are top-notch as well.
128 Cleveland Ave N, St Paul, MN 55104
Seafood in St. Paul (it was really only Meritage carrying that torch before) got a serious upgrade when Octo opened in October: lowfish tails take the place of buffalo wings, swordfish belly might be just as tasty as its more familiar pork counterpart, and we didn’t even know we needed octopus bolognese in our lives.
289 5th St E, St Paul, MN 55101
The very definition of what a neighborhood bakery-and-brunch spot should be. Bustling through a cozy and quaint space just about every day of the week, at once familiar with the smells of fresh baked goods and breakfast classics in the air; comfortable; perfect.
237 7th St E, St Paul, MN 55101
Can we just say delicious and move on? No? Afro Deli’s pan-African cuisine, Mediterranean influences, put in a blender to also represent American melting-pot mentalities make this a favorite downtown. The Chicken Fantastic (or veggie fantastic is just as good) is out of this world.
5 W 7th Pl, St Paul, MN 55102
We finally have a place that proves, confidently and consistently, that eating vegan (pardon us, plant-based) doesn’t mean eating without flavor or fun. It’s all the food you love to eat (especially during winter), that just happens to be made sans-animal protein.
169 N Victoria St, St Paul, MN 55104
The pho from which the name derives is indeed delicious and some of the city’s best, but we come here more often for their made-to-order banh mi sandwiches (the city’s best in banh mi varieties) and extensive selection of teas and smoothies.
704 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104
It’s a burger. That burger. The one you’ll always think about, bringing back memories of cookouts and coal-fired grills. Of beers with friends. It could be called a nostalgia burger, maybe, juicy, with just the right amount of char, delicious, perfect.
492 Hamline Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116
Our favorite red sauce can be found at Degidio’s. It hasn’t changed since the 1930’s, and it hopefully never will. We’ve mentioned this charming former-gangster hangout more than a few times: for the simple, delicious sauce and pasta, and for the unassuming space and service that always reminds us why we love old St. Paul.
425 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102
New and yet so very, very old. The 1850’s-era beer bar only opened its doors to the public a few months ago, after an extensive 3-year restoration project, to recreate the experience of beer, sausage, and other German specialties of that time in what feels like a living museum.
445 Smith Ave N, St Paul, MN 55102
BDP is like the Nook’s edgier younger brother: classic burgers just won’t do, no, incorporate global and unfamiliar flavors into the Minnesota Jucy Lucy. But they’re all good, or at least worth trying. So much so that they’ve developed a cult-like following. But, with new locations popping up around the metro, it’s not quite as long of a wait to get a table.
1811 Selby Ave, St Paul, MN 55104
Steak and steak and steak and lobster. And chicken if you really want it. But if you’re coming here, it’s probably not for the chicken. This is an old school surf-and-turf institution that we hope never updates, upgrades, or changes at all.
531 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102
A new way to start the morning. Brand new, actually, at least in Lowertown (few are strangers to Salty Tart’s pastries). The space allows for expanded breakfast options, hot and cold drinks, and the award-wining pastries and baked good from the deft hands and palate of the one-and-only Michelle Gayer.
Read our review here: Salty Tart is exactly what Market House was missing
289 5th St E, St Paul, MN 55101
It belongs on the same list of St. Paul spots that haven’t changed in decades and don’t need to. New York deli meets taste-of-Minnesota for big and beautiful sandwiches, soups, and breakfast classics with the always-reliable market and counter up front.
651 Cleveland Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116
Your favorite Chinese-American classics are well-represented here. And then the chicken with pickled peppers. The coconut curry. The chive cakes with broccoli. The unique bursts of savory and sweet and spice that make Cambodian flavors so very different than the flavors you’ll find anywhere else in the city.
448 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103
This is where we go for pho. It comes out quick and steaming hot, so simple and simply the best. Come inside, sit down, order, eat, and leave smiling wide as a happier, better person than when you went in.
500 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103
Big River Pizza
Lowertown was in dire need of good pizza when Big River opened its doors two years ago. Now Farmer’s Market-inspired slices and truly creative pies on a crust that is a thicker, more robust version of the Neopolitan style (a Minnesota-style, maybe?) make everyone in, around, and beyond the neighborhood happy.
280 5th St E, St Paul, MN 55101
Ribs, rib tips, full rack of ribs, ribs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner… An added patio means you can now enjoy your ribs outside. Find your rich and saucy meets here: no need to look anywhere else.
625 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104
Pork-free ramen doesn’t need to be this good, but at Tori is it. They’ve somehow made vegetarian ramen (with a secret “flavor bomb” that is much more dynamic than it sounds) rich-savory-craveable as well. That alone deserves a “best of…” nod.
161 N Victoria St, St Paul, MN 55104
Sitting on the third story or the second-story rooftop patio of an 1870’s-era mansion eating Beef Wellington and sipping martinis as the downtown skyline blinks above you is an experience every city should offer.
276 Exchange St S, St Paul, MN 55102
Pizza is great in just about any situation. And the pizzas here remind why that is: They’re big and floppy and saucy. They’re creative, adding items like Persian beef and hot peppers atop, but they never lose sight of the fact that a slice doesn’t need a whole lot to shine.
512 Robert St N, St Paul, MN 55102
Redefining what a neighborhood restaurant can be – no need for boundary-breaking innovation (though with the size of the kitchen they’re working with we may have to rethink that), just simple and incredibly delicious French classics for the people in and around the area, and anyone else lucky enough to have found it.
470 Cleveland Ave S, St Paul, MN 55105
Khyber Pass is low-key still one of St. Paul’s tastiest restaurants. Always go for the nightly special: Whatever it is, get it. If you’re looking for Middle Eastern cuisine, Khyber Pass delivers every time the deep, arousing flavors Afghani food is famous for.
1571 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
What can we say? If this really is the ultimate list of St. Paul’s best, it would not be complete without Mickey’s 80+ years of flattop magic you get in every bite. You can smell the history baked into the walls. It’s the best place (in the world) for a 3am malt, a 4am cup of coffee, 5am omelet…
36 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102
The exact opposite end of the spectrum from Mickey’s, and yet both represent a St. Paul long past; a city that never needed the future. The Grill is still the high-falootin’, gold-rimmed everything, martinis and top hats experience that crowns an old-soul city like this one.
350 Market St, St Paul, MN 55102
It’s just, how do we say it? Classic. That’s a good word. St. Paul wouldn’t be St. Paul without it, hearkening back to a Little Italy that at one point shaped the area. Be sure to tour the market and pasticceria before, and/or after eating.
211 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102
Another restaurant tucked away in a quieter section of the city. It’s tiny – you probably wouldn’t see it if you weren’t looking for it already. But the big flavors, and focus on fantastic steaks and incorporating local ingredients, are anything but: Joan’s can hang with any restaurant in the state for fine-dining experience.
631 Snelling Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116
We might talk about other pizza places. We have more than a couple on this list, even. And they’re fantastic. But when we’re craving pizza in its most simple, basic, and delicious form – tomato, sauce, basil, crust – Punch is where we go. Every time. With a Punch Salad on the side.
704 Cleveland Ave S, St Paul, MN 55116
It’s an institution. We’ll be the first to admit that we’ve had some stellar meals here, and some less-so. But that’s all to do with who is running the kitchen: Almost every chef that matters in the city has spent time here, and the very best have left an indelible mark on the city’s culinary scene. This cannot be ignored.
374 Selby Ave, St Paul, MN 55102