Photo: @hungryrealtor at Due Focacceria
Written by: Joy Summers
The Highland Park neighborhood is filled with the charm of post-WWII houses, sidewalks marked by hopscotch chalk, trees that bend over the boulevards, and a strong sense of neighborhood community. Peppered within this cozy area are restaurants that range from classic deli fare to diner pancakes to exciting fine dining. Get to know this neighborhood.
Restaurants are listed geographically from north to south:
One of the most exciting new restaurants in Saint Paul to open during the pandemic, chef Karyn Tomlinson has established this cozy space as a wonderful date night destination. Myriel is named for the monk in Les Miserables, who provided hospitality to those who needed it most. Inside the menu is a mix of Tomlinson’s rural Scandinavian heritage and refined French training. The daily-changing menu is offered a la cart or a special occasion tasting menu where dinner is the show.
A different kind of Italian eatery, this little restaurant serves great focaccia in several forms: sandwich, cold pizza, or on its own with different kinds of bright sauces on the side. Inside Due there are a few spare seats in an artfully designed space and a full bar. In the summertime, seating doubles with outdoor tables and affordable wines. It’s a neighborhood pro move to stop by for bread and sides before hosting friends for an upgrade on the standard dinner party fare.
Casper & Runyon’s Nook
In Saint Paul, any conversation revolving around great burgers must include mention of the Nook’s selection. This cozy bar, some would affectionately refer to as a dive, is beloved in the city for big beefy bites and a convivial atmosphere. Either grab a seat and a game on one of the TVs upstairs, or wander over to the sub-level Ran-Ham bowling alley.
Poke House & Tea
A popular stop for big bowls of poke, the Hawaiian dish of fresh seafood and veggies. Build your own bowl at Poke House or pick a house-favorite combination of diced fish, savory dressing, and all kinds of crisp veggies. The tea in mention includes a lineup of bubble teas, with chewy tapioca pearls and sweet flavors.
Declaring a favorite pizza can be a bone of contention in some circles. Some expect a certain geometric shape of a slice, and if you’re thinking it’s a triangle, that would be incorrect. Carbone’s stakes a claim that Midwestern pizza is best served on thin crust, with generous sauce, a snow-drift worthy heft of cheese and a pie cut into squares.
Inside this elegant space, classic Italian dishes are given refined, local treatment. Fresh pasta is made with Sunrise Flour, milled in Minnesota and the produce is organic and harvested in the region whenever possible. Luci's menu includes crackly flatbread pizza, tangles of tender fettucini, and roasty duroc pork, and more.
Joan’s in the Park
Tucked into an unassuming building on Snelling Avenue is this darling of a special occasion space. Owned and operated by Joan Schmit and Susan Dunlop, Joan's in the Park is the living, breathing dream of two industry professionals. The service is polished and the food, an ever-evolving tasting menu, is simply stunning. This restaurant is ideal for clinking wine glasses together and savoring an intimate experience.
Established in the summer of 1949, Cecil’s has served Saint Paul for generations. Inside, little has changed since the early days, including the recipe for bubbe-approved matzo ball soup. The building is separated into grocery, deli, and restaurant space. Sit down for a massive pastrami sandwich inside, or grab all the fixings, including the famous coleslaw along with a few rugelach for later.
Every great neighborhood ought to have a full-service diner. Highland Grill serves diner-style food done just a little nicer than the classics. That means giant pancakes and a breakfast burrito the size of a hefty forearm, but also craft cocktails at night alongside steak and pierogies for dinner.
Tiffany’s Sports Lounge
Located right on Ford Parkway, Tiff’s has long been a game day favorite, with plenty of TV’s to catch every angle of the game - especially when the Packers are playing. On the menu, you’ll find wings and tots alongside ahi tuna salad and barbacoa beef tacos.
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.