Image: Highland Grill - @highlandgrill
Written by: Joy Summers
Argueably the most important meal of the day, in Saint Paul we take our breakfast seriously, but also not too serious and a whole lotta fun. Check out a few of our favorite spots to fill up in the morning.
The Highland Grill was the original restaurant of the Blue Plate Group, a restaurant company that has grown adept at opening neighborhood-specific diners around the metro area. However, the original remains a very special place where neighbors linger over coffee, catching up on the business of the day. Parents can be seen coaxing their little ones into eating bites while commiserating with friends. The diner’s menu has been updated in recent years, with a crowd-pleasing mix of hearty breakfast classics and more health-conscious options. The sweet potato and kale hash is fresh, hearty first-light fare.
Hot Hands Pie & Biscuits
Pie should be slotted straight into the breakfast food category: it’s sweet, often dairy adorned, and a fantastic way to kick off the day. Even better, Hot Hands Pie & Biscuits also has another hall of fame breakfast decadence: great biscuits. Biscuit and gravy aficionados likely already know that this selection is top notch with a rich and peppery gravy that is, astoundingly, vegetarian. One more not-to-be missed breakfast item is the all but perfect biscuit sandwich with thick, smoky bacon, spicy mayo, a square of melty cheese and a perfectly cooked egg. There’s also coffee, a vital pick-me-up after the substantive b&g.
Rose Street Patisserie
This modern cafe on the lively corner of Selby and Snelling is filled with French pastries from internationally renowned chef John Kraus. The case at Rose Street is like a display of crown jewels with almost-too-pretty-to-eat selections of eclairs, macaroons, tiny lemon tarts, and more. If straight up dessert isn’t your choice, there is also a brunchy selection of dishes including a caramelized onion quiche lorraine or an exceptional BLT made on a perfectly Parisienne baguette stuffed with heirloom tomatoes, gem lettuce, mayo, and plenty of bacon.
A sister restaurant to the diminutive, and fabulous Cafe Astoria coffee shop, this relative newcomer to the West 7th neighborhood has been instantly popular with locals and breakfast lovers. Open Tuesday through Sunday at 7am, Stella Belle’s menu leans into Mediterranean flavors like it’s Manchego draped breakfast sandwich, served with an oozy egg on a brioche bun or the shakshuka, eggs cooked in a zesty tomato sauce. The lemon ricotta pancakes are impossibly light with puckery, rich lemon curd.
This charming cafe on Selby Avenue serves a brief, focused menu alongside its idyllic setting. To enter French Hen, step through Ergo floral next door. Or, if the weather cooperates, grab a sidewalk patio seat and enjoy the bustling neighborhood views. Not to be missed on the menu is the banh mi Benedict that combines the vibrant colors and flavors from the iconic Vietnamese sandwich with rich, glazed pork, tart crisp veggies, poached eggs and a rich hollandaise sauce.
On the corner of Hamline and Grand Avenue, this trim bakery and restaurant is popular early in the day and on weekends. Perhaps the most iconic dish on Colossal's menu are the flappers: massive, yeasted pancakes that are impossibly fluffy and filled with a wonderful tangy flavor. Doused in real maple syrup, they are a scrumptious treat. For those that lean savory first thing in the morning, there’s a rich pork shoulder burrito that is positively crammed with good flavors.
The Buttered Tin
This Lowertown cafe has been popular for breakfast and lunch since it opened. The pastry case at The Buttered Tin is often stocked with frosted cupcakes and other treats to delight the kid-at-heart. The savory size of the menu is all the more tempting with modern twists on diner dishes like a fajita-seasoned steak hash or custardy soft scrambled eggs.
Hope Breakfast Bar
This West 7th restaurant serves breakfast all day, every day and has garnered national attention in the past year. The restaurant’s owners, chef Brian and Sarah Ingram have committed to giving back to the community. Even while restaurants were closed to indoor dining through the pandemic, the Ingrams were serving takeaway meals at no cost to people in need. That legacy lives on with a nonprofit that’s tied to the eatery, and pulling in fans from across the country thanks in part to TV appearances, like when Brian was on Live! With Kelly & Ryan. The menu at Hope is stacked with too-much-is-never-enough menu items like frosting topped pancakes, or an everything bagel stuffed with pimento cheese, cheddar cheese, braised pork shoulder bacon, egg, and hashbrowns. Don’t expect to leave here with any active plans for the rest of the day. This is a meal to luxuriate in, swathed in soft and cozy.
Yes, this is breakfast in a bar. A dive bar breakfast is a hallmark of rural Minnesota, where a beer and a bump might be ordered at any time of the day, especially if there are third shift workers just finishing their day as the sun comes up. Burger Dive brings back that tradition, tucked into a historically blue collar neighborhood with a hearty breakfast selection including, as the name implies, a fantastic breakfast burger. If a more traditional breakfast is your choice there is a whole selection of dinner-plate sized pancakes, a kids menu, and perfectly prepared eggs with all the fixings.
Thirty-Six Cafe is an Instagram influencer’s dream location. An entire wall is covered with blush colored flowers and the smoothie bowls are stunning. However, this little cafe on Grand Avenue is perhaps best known for its souffle pancakes: sky high and jiggly, these fluffy treats take a little while to make. So, it’s best to go with a friend ready for a long catch up over bowl-sized coffee drinks and savor the dishes and memories made over them.
Mickey’s by Willy
And last but absolutely not least, along a busy stretch of West 7th, is a 1950s style diner that often flies under the radar of non-locals. Open 24 hours with affordable prices and hashbrowns so good they’ll haunt your dreams, Mickey’s by Willy is an institution in the Twin Cities. While it shares a name and similar menu items with the downtown diner car, this spot is roomier and easier to access, with plenty of parking. Order America’s Favorite all day with eggs the way you like, those hashbrowns, breakfast meat, and a choice of toast. It’s simple, hearty, and damn tasty. The is also the sort of place where a coffee cup never reaches empty, and the servers take zero flack. Tip generously and appreciate a living legend.
Joy Summers is an award-winning columnist and food writer whose work has appeared in Food Network Magazine, People, City Pages, Minnesota Monthly, Lavender, and Eater. She's been known to take to backcountry roads and plunge into new environments in search of elusive ingredients at their peak. As a passionate storyteller, she strives to connect people with the words that serve them best. She lives in Cathedral Hill with her husband and young children.