W. A. Frost – St. Paul

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After our Restaurant Week failure last Thursday, we had to find another option. From Minneapolis, we ventured across the Mississippi River to St. Paul and just drove. We considered stopping at the Happy Gnome, but the lot was completely full, which meant we wouldn’t be getting a seat there either.

We finally stopped at:

W.A. Frost and Company

It’s located in the old Dacota Building in the Cathedral Hill area of St. Paul. I’d been here a couple of times, but it had been a while and was a first for Rob. Since I knew that the dining room area was a bit more classy than where we planned on dining, we wandered into the bar area to check out the scene. The conversation was animated, the bar stools were all taken, and only a few tables remained. As we sat down, Rob said that the interior with its worn wooden floors reminded him of what he’d picture a turn-of-the-century saloon to look like. He said that he kind of expected F. Scott Fitzgerald to be sitting at the bar. When I started writing this post, I went to the W.A. Frost website for the first time and laughed when I read:

“Enjoy the charm of a turn-of-the-century building with large arched doorways and windows, copper cornices, and walls of sandstone and brick.”

Right on, Rob! {Maybe you should be writing these posts…}

THE BEER:

Since there wasn’t a list of beers on tap, our server rattled them off. Because there were some unique options, I wished for a list in front of me, just to compare. I feel bad having them repeated a few times, but we ended up ordering some of the first ones he mentioned anyway:

Rob opted for the McNeill’s Warload Imperial IPA.This was one of the smoothest Imperial IPAs I’ve tried! It was a little nuttier and less hoppy than other ones I’ve had, but I absolutely loved it. In fact, Rob caught me taking a sneak sip or two.

I ordered the Flat Earth Winter Warlock, assuming it would be a Winter Ale as the name suggests since we find them a lot this time of year. Flat Earth is a local brewery out of St. Paul and, whenever possible, we love to support our locals. The lighter-colored beer arrived in an oversized wine glass. (Yes, this is the technical term for this glass when beer is served in it!)

Oversized Wine Glass for Beer

Immediately, Rob and I thought the server mixed up our order. Usually, high-alcohol beers such as Double or Imperial IPAs are served in these smaller-serving glasses. Rob received his more nutty-colored beer in a regular-sized pint glass. Surely, he received the Winter Ale and I received the Imperial IPA, so we switched.

However, the beer in the oversized wine glass tasted more like a Belgian. Now, while I am more open to Belgian Beers, Rob is not much of a fan. So when the server returned, Rob asked which beer was which so that we could be sure we received the correct ones. But they were correct: The Imperial IPA  was in the pint glass and the Winter Warlock was in the oversized wine glass.

Interesting. We switched back. I didn’t mind having the “Winter Ale” that tasted more like a Belgian, especially if Rob wanted the Imperial IPA he ordered.

When we got home, we looked up these beers online to learn more about them. The Flat Earth Winter Warlock, what I thought was a Winter Ale, was actually an English-style barleywine! Beers dubbed barleywine are labeled such because they can be as strong as wine (averaging about 10% or so), but made with grain instead of fruit. No wonder it was served in an oversized wine glass! But because this beer was lighter in color and had a flavor that reminded us of a Belgian, I don’t think we would have ever guessed it was a barleywine. Here is a where a beer list would have been helpful.

(While we didn’t try any, W.A. Frost also boasts an extensive wine list).

THE FOOD:

With menu items such as sweetbreads, duck eggs, and truffle goat cheese risotto, W.A. Frost is fit for a foodie! And while I’m still a little shy to try some things, the menu was extensive enough that anyone could find something to enjoy.

One of the things I really liked was that the Bar Menu had something called “Micro Entrées”. As one would expect, these are mini-versions of some of the entrées on the regular dinner menu! The Grilled Black Angus Petite Filet I ordered was only $17, nicely charred, cooked perfectly and the perfect portion size! On the side of the 3- to 4-oz cut of exceptional beef were a ciopollini onion and braised greens. Oh my, those greens were seasoned well! Something that would be normally be left on the plate, was probably gone first.

If we were giving out “Perfectly Seasoned Season It Already! Awards”, the braised greens at W.A. Frost would be taking one home!

Angus Petite Filet over Braised Greens with a Ciopollini Onion

While the Chef’s Burger caught Rob’s eye first, he wasn’t in the mood for so much food. So he ordered the Black Angus Petite Filet as well. He was more than pleased with his choice So here was our “micro”-meal:

What a portion size should be. These plates were only about 5 inches square.

Because Rob is a fan of risotto, he decided to order a side of the mushroom-barley risotto to try, which our server said was the best side on the menu. I felt like the barley gave it a nutty quality that complemented the earthiness of the mushrooms. Rob thought the dish was a little sandy, which I didn’t notice at all until he said it!

Barleywine & Barley-Mushroom Risotto

The Ambiance:

As we were eating, we gazed out the big windows and suddenly big fluffy snowflakes fell from the sky. The setting and the bar’s ambiance made me feel like I was in a movie. And after Rob’s F. Scott Fitzgerald comment, I felt like W.A. Frost was the literary haunt to St. Paul as Café de Flore is to Paris.

Furthermore, the cozy downstairs lounge has even more character. I only happened upon it on my way to the restroom. An old espresso machine decorated the entryway and the various arrangements of chairs and couches looked comfortable and inviting. What’s more is that a sign indicated that the lounge is full-service!

If you are looking for a place with overall elegance, great ambiance, excellent food, yet casual offerings, we’d recommend W.A. Frost. Such a place will season your entire experience.

Cheers~
Carrie

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