In Saint Paul, we hold a deep appreciation for what came before. Just drive down Summit Avenue or through downtown to get a feel of the architecture, and fabric of our city.
While new restaurants are exciting, we also hold a deep appreciation for the businesses that have served generations of hungry citizens. Here you will find an old-school steakhouse with Goodfella’s-styled class, saucy wood-roasted corn on the cob best eaten in a busy parking lot, a late-night dining car, and more. Here are just a few of Saint Paul restaurant icons.
Dinner inside Mancini’s is an event. On Saturday night, the massive parking lot is often filled. Whether stopping inside the 1970’s cool of the massive bar, with giant booths and fabulous live music or setting into one of the dining rooms for a char-kissed steak, Mancini’s has long been St. Paul’s first stop for event dining. The old-school service includes a plate of pickles to kick off a meal. Order the charred buttery bread to round out a meal. Between the entrance and your table, make sure to plan time to read the living history of Mancini’s, told through the numerous newspaper articles preserved on the wall. When this iconic neon sign is lit, there are good times to be had on West 7th.
Francesco Yarusso was an Italian immigrant who first opened a tavern in Saint Paul in 1932. Thanks to Prohibition, the early days meant only near-beer was being poured inside. He went on to open a cafe and set up some of the first bocce ball lanes inside the city. When Francesco retired in 1947, the business he built was handed down to his sons, as Yarusso Bros. Families pile into the dining room for the same homemade recipes that have made this restaurant a long-standing tradition. Huge portions of spaghetti cradle pools of the rich tomato sauce.
El Burrito began as a tiny market by two Mexican immigrants wanting to share a taste of home with St. Paul’s eastside neighborhood. Tomas and Maria Silva would load up their station wagon with fresh tortillas and other staples that, back then, were nearly impossible to find in St. Paul. The family business soon grew to include a bakery, deli, and a full-service restaurant. Now, the entire complex remains dedicated to providing fresh Mexican ingredients and home-style foods to the eastside. One of the best snacks in the summer is to pull into the parking lot and order up elotes or esquites, fresh Minnesota corn is slathered with sauce, cheese, and chili, after being roasted over a fire. Although, a margarita inside and on the patio is a close second.
Looking at the multi-level complex that Cossetta’s has grown into, it’s hard to imagine that this business began as a tiny Italian market. Still run by the Cossetta family, this complex stays true to its Italian roots with one of the finest markets around filled with imported goods and fresh-made food. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a bakery with Italian sweets that seems like it was plucked off the streets of Palermo and dropped on West 7th Street. Grab a New York-style slice of pizza downstairs, or plan a stunning date night up at Louis with one of the best views of the Cathedral around.
Mickey’s Dining Car
Mickey’s is a living legend of a dining establishment, harkening back to 1939 when this brand new, sleek dining car was the epitome of class. Nowadays, Mickey’s is a central piece of the downtown landscape, offering hot diner meals to all of the city’s residents. Freshly shredded hashbrowns are crisped up alongside fried eggs all morning, and skinny burgers and thick shakes take over later in the day.
For over 70 years, Cecil’s has been serving Saint Paul’s best pastrami on rye inside this Highland Park deli. Folks line up on the weekends for giant orders of sliced meats, fresh bread, and that irresistible coleslaw. Kids love eating those crumbly hamantaschen or rugelach on the way home. Inside the full-service restaurant in the back is a homemade matzo ball soup filled with such comfort that it’s been known to actually cure the common cold. The small grocery is also always stocked with Jewish food goods and ice-cold cans of soda.
A jewel inside the historic Cathedral Hill neighborhood, this stunning restaurant has been serving the area since 1975. Inside there are several rooms to dine in, including a more casual bar, dining room, and a basement. When it’s chilly, there’s a roaring fireplace to cozy up to. Long summer nights are best when enjoyed on the expansive patio, shaded by giant trees. The new American menu changes with the seasons, and the chefs in the kitchen.
Grand Ole Creamery
Summer in Saint Paul comes with lines out the front door at Grand Ole Creamery. Family’s wait to grab scoops of ice cream before finding a spot to sit, often on the sidewalk outside. Even during colder months, that sweet smell of the waffle cones being made beckons like a siren song to the rich treats waiting inside. This family-owned shop first opened in 1984 when it quickly became a family-friendly tradition.
DeGidio’s has roots going back as far as Prohibition. Much has changed about the city, and this restaurant since then, but it remains deeply embedded in the fabric of the neighborhood. Working folks know it’s a great place to post up on a bar stool for a quick happy hour. Families pile into the generous booths. In the pandemic, a patio was added for some new, outdoor seats. On the menu are generous portions of red-sauce coated pasta, an old-school hot dago - a mountain of sauce and cheese on bread), and one of the best burgers in the city.
Since 1964 this family-run restaurant has been serving Saint Paul Mexican food favorites. Even as the vibrant neighborhood grew up and changed around it, Boca Chica remained steadfast in serving the carnitas and enchiladas that were born from family tradition.