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St. Paul Art Crawl Galleries and Grub

St. Paul Art Crawl Galleries and Grub

What to see, where to see it, what to eat and drink along the way.

Photo: @jessicaturtleart at AZ Gallery
Written by: Mecca Bos


Now that we can safely see art in person, the 30th year of the St. Paul Art Crawl (through December 2021) offers an outstanding way to see much of the city, neighborhood by neighborhood, gallery by gallery.

But art crawling has a way of making a body hungry (and thirsty).

My pick for the ideal place to stop in each part of town for a refuel:

Lowertown Art Crawl Galleries

AZ Gallery
Lowertown Underground Artists
Nautilus Music Theater

With a neighborhood pedigree of people who make their living as artists, Lowertown is a unique part of town that supports the arts with galleries, live music events, sports (CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints is right here) as well as artists of the culinary kind.

Whether your crave is Japanese, Italian, Burgers, Mexican, or beyond, in Lowertown you can get it. There’s hardly a more charming stroll in Minnesota than one that perambulates around the riverfront, the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, Union Depot, and Mears Park, while popping into galleries along the way.

Stop here to eat and drink:

Bars, coffee shops, and restaurants come and go, but too many feel like cookie cutter versions of the ones that came before. Black Dog, however, is the kind of place that’s actually a place, and you get experiences aplenty at this one-stop-shop.

A place for all reasons -- grab a throw pillow and a latte and stay all day, or get a quick glass of wine before heading out for more art. The scratch kitchen does classics for every meal of the day -- don’t sleep on the dishes that lean Mexican -- the kitchen has chops in that department.

Pro tip: Watch their calendar for acoustic live music performances.

University Avenue / Frogtown Galleries

Dow Art Gallery
Front Avenue Tile and Pottery
Spatial Effects Gallery

One of St. Paul’s major Southeast Asian enclaves as well as a smattering of East African, you won’t want for two of Minnesota’s signature cuisines in this part of town. Do yourself a favor and hop on the Green Line, stopping off anywhere that looks good.

Stop here to eat and drink:

Many of our local Vietnamese restaurants fall into the mom & pop category-- simple but mighty eateries designed for quick lunches or casual suppers. But sometimes you want a full experience where only a cocktail (or two,) several courses, and settling into the cushions will do. Ngon Vietnamese Bistro is that place. Oxtail Pho and housemade rye ramen noodles are the things you’re not likely to find elsewhere.

Pro tip: Tunes are on vinyl and well curated. Sit at the bar to watch the turntable spin.


@ngonbistro

West St. Paul

Rafferty Gallery

St. Paul’s historic Mexican and Lebanese enclave offers many opportunities for excellent Mexican eating and margaritas, plus Latinx and Indigenous art and culture. El Burrito Mercado is the almost universally agreed-upon ground zero for all of your Mexican eating and shopping needs, and tiny but mighty St. Paul Flatbread Company offers everything you need for the most epic hummus and tabouleh wrap.

Stop here to eat and drink:

Known as the country’s first Kurdish restaurant, Babani’s is known to locals as a best kept secret (that anyone who knows anything should know.) This family-owned and operated jewel is like an invitation to a hospitable home kitchen with better cooking. Kubey Brinj rice dumplings and lemony, chicken Dowjic soup are must orders. 

Pro tip: Kurdish tea and housemade baklava is the only acceptable way to finish a meal at Babani’s.


@minnevangelist

Grand Avenue

Grand Hill Gallery

Leafy, pretty, and posh Grand Avenue had my 12-yo niece squealing “It’s so aesthetic!” on a recent drive down the ave. And it is. Grandview Theatre, Grand Ole Creamery, The Lexington, and many more historical and storied spots give it a “don’t make ‘em like this anymore” glow.

Stop here to eat and drink:

Bap and Chicken is the inspiration of a Korean American adoptee who wanted to make a restaurant out of his own personal mashup of both cuisines-- and don’t call it fusion. Minnesota is home to the second largest population of Korean adoptees in the nation, and John Gleason wanted a place that celebrates that particular identity. Check out Korean corn dogs and kimchi cream cheese wontons, served alongside with more traditional Korean cooking.

Pro tip: Don’t miss the “wall of adoptees,” portraits of Korean Minnesotans, a unique art piece in its own right.

Downtown / West 7th

George Latimer Central Library


@photostenzel

The area around Rice Park, Central Library, Landmark Center, and The St. Paul Hotel justifies an afternoon of leisurely stroll in its own right. Stop for a cocktail at super Meritage brasserie, or classic steakhouse Kincaid’s.

Stop here to eat and drink:

After checking out the art (and the stacks, and the architecture) at the library, head to Afro Deli for a true taste of Minnesota style pan-African cooking, and return to the park for a lunch in the sun.

Pro tip: The house green hot sauce could be used for currency. Ask for two.


@afrodeli



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