That's So Saint Paul: Restaurant Must List
Steeped in history and charm, restaurants you've gotta try for a true taste of Saint Paul.
Saint Paul, Minnesota is home to an incredible array of eateries spanning different types of cuisine and service levels. We have history, home-spun ice cream cone stands where families line up all summer long, historic eateries with an elegant coat room and back bar jazz, there are groundbreaking creative forces forging new paths, and beloved, dark bars serving up classic square-cut pizza. We’re a unique blend of cosmopolitan and small-town charm - and we are proud of our culinary scene. There are so many to try, but here are the cream of the crop: restaurants that are steeped in Saint Paul. If you’re going to brag you’ve tasted this incredible town, this is where to start.
For a taste of Saint Paul’s best in long-standing restaurants, check out some of our favorite icons here.
1. Conny’s Creamy Cone
If it’s summer, there’s probably a line wrapped around this small ice cream stand on Dale Street. Conny’s opened over 25 years ago, and it’s since become a warm-weather tradition to line up for a wide variety of soft-serve ice cream with plenty of topping options. Conny’s also has a few savory options, like hot dogs and French fries, but the ice cream is the star of the show.
2. Saint Dinette
Located just a few steps away from Saint Paul’s iconic farmer’s market (one of the few in the state who stock entirely local products), and CHS Field where the St. Paul Saints play, Saint Dinette is an exquisite taste of the city. The kitchen churns out a mix of low and high-brow dishes, all with just a touch of French flair. The ultra-rich, buttery burger is the stuff of legends, and the bologna sandwich covered in oozy cheese is perfect for a pre-game bite. However, the seasonally changing entrees and polished, knowledgeable service also make this a destination for special occasions.
3. The Lexington
This crown jewel of Grand Avenue is a grand building and throwback to previous eras of fine dining. The front room of The Lexington boasts a staffed coat check room, and the interior curved bars are an ideal spot to sip a dirty martini. In the backroom, jazz nights add to the vibe. The menu was created by notable chef Jack Riebel and is full of supper club ready dishes.
This intimate little restaurant is the work of chef Rikki Giambruno and serves a small menu of Italian dishes. At Hyacinth, Giambruno makes amazing work of fresh produce in the summer, and hearty root vegetables in the summer. The ever-evolving menu means there’s always something new to explore. Plus, the well-stocked wine cellar and expertly mixed cocktails make this an ideal space to book and table and linger over long conversations with your favorite people.
5. Union Hmong Kitchen
Chef Yia Vang has become a nationally known chef, but his first foray into the restaurant world was Union Hmong Kitchen, a roaming pop-up whose story matches that of his ancestors. Saint Paul is the proud home to many Hmong immigrants and this take-out-only restaurant serves dishes packed with vibrant flavors from lively sauces, bright herbs, citrus, and peppers. Day-to-day operations are overseen by chef Chandra Walbolt who is serving whole family feasts, spicy tart Kao sen noodles (perfect for summer eating), hot Hilltribe fried chicken sandwiches, and more. Order through Tock.
6. Tavern on Grand
Nothing beats a fresh walleye sandwich, and Tavern on Grand is the number one spot for this unofficial state dish. Get crispy fish fried fresh or grilled with tangy/creamy tartar sauce on soft bread. The smooth wood bar inside is also popular on the weekends for a proper, tomato-spicy bloody Mary. Open since 1990, this is classic Minnesota eats done with expert care.
7. Handsome Hog
Chef Justin Sutherland became a nationally renowned chef after appearing on Bravo’s Top Chef and the Food Network’s Iron Chef. However, he’s not just a personality -- the chef’s cooking skills have long been on display in Saint Paul inside his flagship restaurant, Handsome Hog. In 2020 the eatery relocated from Lowertown up to Cathedral Hill.
This French Bistro right downtown feels like a slice of Parisienne sophistication from Russell and Desta Klien. The dining room at Meritage is ideal for romantic date nights over cassoulet or lively brunches with sumptuous omelets. Warm evenings are best savored on the sidewalk cafe. Plus, the zinc-topped raw bar and side bar are an ideal pre or post-event stop for snacks and cocktails.
For generations, Shish has kept hungry Macalester students and professors fed with a menu of classic Mediterranean and American dishes. Inside this restaurant rotating spits hold the single best gyro meat in the city. The breakfast menu is an undersung gem for starting the day off right.
10. Ngon Bistro
University Avenue boasted a wide array of Vietnamese eateries, each with fantastic specialties that could make for an incredible pho or banh mi crawl. That feast for the senses would do well to begin at Ngon Bistro. The clear pho broth is perfumed with star anise and warm spices. The banh mi is served with locally sourced meats and snappy bright vegetables on crusty bread. However, the full bar available makes this an ideal stop for a special night out with friends.
11. Moscow on the Hill
It’s no secret that Minnesota winters are long and bone-deep cold, something the Russians know a bit about. Moscow on the Hill is dripping in old-world charm with rich scarlet colors and a truly stunning dining room. An ideal evening when the snow is flying includes tucking into a plate of Pelmeni with a shot of ice-cold vodka. However, insiders know that in the summer the back deck and arctic-cold martinis are a beautiful way to enjoy the precious warm nights.
12. Hmongtown Marketplace
This sprawling complex is a gem of Hmong dining and a fantastic place to shop. In the summer at Hmongtown Marketplace, there are stacks of fresh herbs and vegetables, along with all kinds of other goods. Inside, the food is just phenomenal. Order a crispy chicken wing stuffed with ground meat and bean threads with a side of sticky, purple fried rice. Order some rich and deeply spiced short ribs alongside the snappy sausage - richly seasoned with galangal, basil, and chilies. Finish it all off with an order of bubble tea for a sweet refresher.
13. Skinner’s Pub
Part of the blue-collar history of Saint Paul’s West 7th neighborhood includes a fantastic collection of neighborhood pubs. Each sports its own specialty, but Skinner’s is one of the best for affordable beer and cocktails along with fantastic bar food. Skinner’s is an ideal spot to sample the Midwest’s famous square-cut pizza. Those looking for a food adventure should try the Rueben pizza, topped with 1,000 Island Dressing, corned beef, and sauerkraut.
If you're looking for more ways to #DineSaintPaul, check out our Restaurant Guide and don't forget to show us your adventures at #MYSAINTPAUL.