Photo: Nina's Coffee Cafe
Written by: Joy Summers
From the busy cross street of Snelling Avenue, stretching through the historic Rondo neighborhood and ending in the shade of the majestic Cathedral of Saint Paul, Selby Avenue has become a popular stretch in the city for all kinds of restaurants. From cozy coffee shops to fantastic pancakes to massive seafood feasts to crazy good burgers, Selby Avenue has a little bit of everything wonderful. Stop at these delicious spots traveling east to west.
Rose Street Patisserie
Find world-class Parisienne treats, sandwiches made on the best baguettes around, coffee, andice cream inside this sweet little cafe.Rose Street owner John Kraus is an internationally lauded breadmaker and pastry chef. The case is filled with breathtaking treats as well as some homie favorites that kids will love. The sour cream bread is a favorite to start off the day, laced with warm coffee cake spices.
Long before this block became a bustling commerce center, Neighborhood Cafe was a reliable breakfast spot for college students and professors or families from the neighborhood. It’s an ideal spot for grabbing a bit of free wifi along with a hearty omelette and strong cups of coffee to fuel productive mornings.
Yellow Bird Coffee Bar
During warm weather days, the low slung Adirondack chairs out front are filled with neighborhood folks kicking off the day with powerful espresso drinks. Round out the order with pastries from La Boulangerie Marguerite or a housemade breakfast burrito. Yellow Bird owners John and Suzette founded this coffee shop after a twist in life had them reassessing their priorities. The name is a nod to a little yellow bird that visited John’s father near the end of his life. It’s a lovely tribute and an adorable shop.
Cajun Steak & Seafood
Just as the name would imply, Cajun Steak & Seafood specializes in giant seafood boils and steak. The no-frills space is built for popping in and grabbing a heaping order of Creole-perfumed shrimp, crabs, clams, and lobster. Plus, there’s steak! It all makes for a fabulous mess of a picnic. There’s a park right next to an lementary school across the street to make that dream a reality.
Warm welcoming jazz vibes fill this cafe that’s been a part of the community fabric for over twenty years. Serving coffee drinks named for iconic musicians and a menu filled with breakfast and lunch favorites, Golden Thyme is also a vital link to the historic Rondo neighborhood. Once the heart of a Black community, the Rondo neighborhood was ripped apart when Interstate 94 was constructed right through the middle of it. Now, as the area experiences a wave of gentrification, Golden Thyme remains an anchor to the neighborhood’s history while also making space for its present and future. Plus, the loaded hashbrowns are crispy decadence.
An old fashioned corner scoop shop, 2 Scoops stocks all the good flavors from classic chocolate to special mixes like banana cream pie, studded with Nilla wafers and a marshmallow ripple. In addition to the inner-kid pleasing scoops, there’s a whole savory menu of portable snacks like pizza and spicy hot links.
This wildly popular vegan eatery draws people from all over the Twin Cities for its clever takes on comfort food like a double-stacked burger special sauce and cauliflower Buffalo wings and more. J. Selby's also a kid’s menu and treats like shakes and soyclones (kinda like a blizzard without the pesky dairy.)
Hamburguesas El Gordo
Grab one of these mega burgers with both hands and don’t set it down until you’re ready to walk away. Stuffed inside two buns is a mountain of goodies including cheese, sauce, shaved thin onions, pickled jalapenos, tomatoes, ham, bacon, and a beefy little patty. Even when not feasting on the eponymous burger at Hamburguesas El Gordo, the menu here is filled with hunger crushing options, like Mexican street-style hot dogs and an entire box filled with tacos. It’s no wonder this burgeoning local chain is continually growing.
A smaller outpost of West 7th’s Claddagh Coffee serves coffee and a few fresh baked treats and gluten free donuts from Sift Bakery. While the little shop has switched to outside service only, a few tables and chairs have been added along with greenery to the cute little alley next to it.
A wide-open dining room and a new, little bit of patio space, Louisiana Cafe boasts a giant menu and is especially hopping on the weekends for its extensive brunch offerings. In the mornings the pancakes are the same size as the dinner plate and a wide selection of Benedicts are saucy and stacked with all kinds of meats. For lunch and dinner dishes are typical diner fare.
This cozy little restaurant smells like ginger and red curry: warm scents as welcoming as the hospitality found inside. Entrees like the roast duck make Mango Thai a popular spot for intimate date nights while mango springrolls are perfect for takeout/couch-dining.
Revival Saint Paul
This outpost of the popular fried chicken restaurant has the crispy/juicy bird that launched a thousand cravings. At Revival on Selby, here’s an adorable patio out back, off the busy street and a full bar where most of the drinks are pre-mixed for speedier service. When heading in for dinner on the weekends, when this restaurant can get a bit crowded, bring a little extra patience for wait times. All three Revival locations also deliver through online ordering.
French Hen Cafe
This utterly charming breakfast and lunch restaurant wouldn’t be out of place in Stars Hollow. Enter French Hen through Ergo Floral next door or opt for a seat on the sidewalk patio for brunch seven days a week. The banh mi benedict is a favorite with a medley of brightly colored, pickled veggies, rich pork and perfectly poached eggs served on a griddle-crusted baguette.
The Gnome Craft Pub
This brewpub opened to instant success with two levels of indoor dining and a glorious patio that’s shaded by old growth trees. For cooler nights, there’s even a roaring fireplace outdoors. The Gnome's menu is hearty - with an outrageously large pretzel, a beefy pot pie with a marrow bone peaking out from under the pie crust, and poutine built of jojo potatoes with fried cheese curds doused with liquid cheese, and a rich gravy. This is sweater and sweatpants dining.
Tucked inside a historic brick building, La Grolla’s large windows into its intimate dining room glitter with soft candlelight in the evenings. Inside the menu is upscale Italian perfect for special date nights. Start with one of the bruschetta selections before digging into one of the pastas with creamy or bright sauces.
Sushi fans were thrilled when this Western suburban restaurant opened an outpost on Cathedral Hill. Fresh rolls, artfully prepared dominate the menu at Yumi. The restaurant has built a reputation on its ginormous Yumi rolls that are both fun to order and attempt to tackle in just one or two bites. But there are other Japanese snacks on the menu like crispy, spicy shrimp and big bowls of ramen.
Red Cow is part of a burgeoning local chain that is known for its collective of inventive burgers with thick, juicy meat and all manner of savory toppings. In addition to the burgers, the menu also has a collection of bar food favorites done well and an extensive beer and craft cocktail list.
This contemporary Southern restaurant is nationally known thanks to its chef Justin Sutherland. Sutherland rose to prominence after turns on Iron Chef and Top Chef. He’s now one of the hosts of Fast Foodies on TruTV. Handsome Hog's menu is stacked with slightly fancier takes on Southern fare like chicken and waffles and jambalaya. The bar is heavily stocked with a deep selection of whiskeys.
This coffee shop nestled into a soaring, picturesque building is a literature lover's haven. The space is intentionally set with plenty of quiet nooks for writing and reading. In addition to a whole array of espresso drinks, Nina's has sandwiches and muffins for fueling the writing of the next great American novel.
When the weather is nice, this is one of the most popular patios in the Twin Cities. During cooler months, the bar is intensely cozy and there’s often a fire lit in the dining room. W.A. Frost has become an icon of the area with a menu that’s a mix of elevated bar snacks and splurge night entrees. The wine list is well-known by those who love to find a special bottle to pair with dinner and the cocktail list sports classics done beautifully as well as some of the finest nonalcoholic drinks around. It’s worth noting that at this time, they do require proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
Moscow on the Hill
This stunning Russian restaurant has become an icon of neighborhood eating on Cathedral Hill. In the dark, cold winter there is nowhere better to soak in the chilly season than this cozy bar with a vast vodka selection and a menu with plenty of creamy, hearty dishes to tuck into. In the summertime, Moscow on the Hill boasts a stunner of a patio hidden off the street, an urban oasis perfect for sipping an icy martini. During the day, sunlight streams through the windows and dill flecked potato wedges taste even better than usual.
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.