The Mississippi is more than the dividing line that gives our Twin Cities their namesake-- it’s a picturesque reason to hop on a bike and marvel.
While our 10,000 lakes (the real number is actually closer to 15,000) get all the play, start at the River Road and head over the Lake Street Marshall Avenue Bridge for true aquatic inspiration.
Head into fairest Mac Groveland, taking part of its nickname from prestigious Macalester College. Equal parts posh and friendly, you’ll get an instant feel for how sophisticated yet affable St. Paul can be, particularly when the academic year is nigh, and the crispiness of autumn is on the horizon.
- First, begin on the Minneapolis side of the Lake Street-Marshall Bridge and cross into St. Paul
- Continue onto Marshall Avenue
- Turn right onto Cleveland Avenue
- Turn left onto Summit Ave
- Turn right toward Cambridge Street
- You will arrive on the Macalester College Campus in 13 minutes (about 2 miles)
A few standout places worth breaking a final seasonal sweat for:
Khyber Pass Cafe
This family-owned and operated Afghani restaurant has been going strong 27 years thanks to its intense attention to detail and irreplaceable anchor to the neighborhood. Generations-old family recipes, organic ingredients, always-scratch technique, and super-attentive service make Khyber Pass the one you will remember long after you’ve headed back home.
Grand Catch Seafood Boil
The latest restaurant from celebrity chef Sameh Wadi, Grand Catch takes Southeast Asian-style seafood boils and puts a worldly spin on the genre. Choose your fish, choose your sauce (spicy isaan to Louisiana, it’s all good), choose your spice level and sides, and a more unique-yet-tailored meal you will not find. Extra perfect for enjoying on the cute sidewalk tables and watching the semester come together-- Macalester is right across the street. Don’t forget your crab-emblazoned bib for inevitable drips and splashes.
Shish Mediterranean Kitchen
A boxer-turned-chef has made this wee storefront the Middle Eastern institution of your dreams, with high-octane Turkish coffee guaranteed to keep you going all day, grilled kebabs served with garlic sauce that will keep you talking about it for years, and hummus and pita to keep you coming back. Shish even has burgers and chicken sandwiches, if you must.
This newcomer to the neighborhood has been inspiring major chatter among people who love to eat and drink, and do it in a space with all the charm of a favorite neighbor who loves to share and cook. With Estelle's coastal European menu with St. Paul-level pretension (read: none) you’ll not just eat well (arancini, salt cod fritters, handmade pastas) you can feel good and relaxed while doing it (a record player in the corner, easygoing chef’s counter, $7 glasses of Cava).
St. Paul Cheese Shop
If you’re on the move, get the sandwich of your grab-and-go dreams at this amiable little cheese counter, where they build the sandwich with world-class cheeses, made-to-order, excellent for stashing in your bike bag and enjoying at the riverfront. After a sammie plied with real imported Raclette or Comte at St. Paul Cheese Shop, you won’t be able to face a cellophane-wrapped, soggy mess again.
Haven’t you heard? The Tennessee Hot Chicken craze (founded by the one and only, Black-owned Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville) is a bonafide, legit craze, inspiring potato chip flavors to ramen. Get St. Paul’s version, Nashville Coop (yes, including “MN Nice: No Heat”) available in strips, sammich, or on Texas Toast. Don’t forget slaw to tamp down the burn.
Mecca Bos is a Twin Cities based food writer and professional chef. Thinking of tacos and travel are hobbies. Her work can be found at meccaboswrites.com