Tag Archives: St. Paul Restaurants

Saint Dinette

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Recently, Rob ripped a Best Burgers page out of our most recent copy of Mpls St. Magazine. I can’t seem to find the specific article online, but many of these restaurants were listed with top burgers.

If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that Rob has a thing for burgers. He has written a Top 10 Twin Cities Burger list for me many, many times. It really should be updated again!

We do not have a shortage of great burgers in this area, so finding the opportunity to make a trek out just to try a new one is sometimes a little more daunting then just grabbing a bite to eat nearby.

However, I found the opportunity to try one at Saint Dinette in St.Paul:

  • Rob had been out of town for two consecutive long weekends, so I was eating really healthy! (Read: It was time for a burger.)
  • We had a Groupon for Wabasha Brewing that was expiring soon.
  • I wanted to combine it with dinner in St. Paul. I scanned Rob’s burger list and made the suggestion when he arrived back in town from Sedona.

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First thing to note… Saint Dinette is kind of hard to find. We plugged the address into The Google, but we couldn’t find it on the block where it was supposed to be. We decided we just missed a sign and parked at the Farmers Market parking lot and decided to find it on foot.

Still no luck.

It ended up being on the other side of the street and the only marking was a sandwich board on the sidewalk, which we couldn’t see while driving because of the cars parked on the street.

Per our usual, we pulled up to the bar. Despite a wine list that had much more than the Usual Suspects and some interesting cocktails…

IMG_5140…I promptly ordered a W00t Stout because I saw the tap handle. That’s one hard-to-find beer! I seized the opportunity.

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I considered getting something other than a burger from this delectable menu…

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But a cheeseburger still sounded so good to me.

I made the right choice.

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The perfect bun sear, two thin patties (you can’t order the temp here, but that doesn’t really matter!) and melty, gooey cheese.  Simple goodness. We didn’t even consider splitting and I’m glad we didn’t.

We did order a bucket of fries to share.

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It could have fed three or four people! We probably didn’t even need them. They weren’t anything too special, but the salty goodness kept us dipping back into the bucket. For the record, Rob and I rarely use ketchup. But these crinkle cut classics are the sort that marry with ketchup perfectly.

I finished off my evening with an espresso. I love when restaurants offer this. So the moment we parked our butts at that bar and I spotted the espresso machine, I knew this would be my meal-ending fate.

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And it was perfect.

No regrets.

Saint Dinette‘s simple cheeseburger is worth the trek. Thank you, Mpls St. Paul Magazine, for keeping us up-to-date on what we must try in our Twin Cities.

Do you follow your local food trends and try the best-of new restaurants?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Scusi – St. Paul {Closed}

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I’ve been to Scusi a few times before.

My first experience was about a year ago when a friend of mine was in town and we had just enough of a window of time to meet for brunch. She brought a couple of in-laws with her. It was perfect because Scusi is known for its “family style” and dishes are meant to share. Plates are on the table when you arrive.

The plates are on the table when you arrive, but not the wine!

Once you put your order in, dishes come out as they are ready, not all at once. This part is more tapas-style than family-style. I like it. If you don’t like to share, this place is not for you. But I think it’s more fun to get a taste of several different items than just one entrée. I remember loving just about everything we ordered for brunch that day (including the bottomless mimosas!) However, one particular item stands out in my mind – the Smoked Gouda Hash Browns. {Picture the heavens parting here.} I’m not a huge fan of smoked cheeses, but something about those pieces of potato-and-cheesy goodness made them a thing of beauty.

Unfortunately, Scusi is no longer open for brunch. 😦

Somehow, Scusi needs to find a way to make those Smoked Gouda Hash Browns part of their main menu!

Pretty please?

Since then, Rob and I have been there on several occasions during the evening. The first time, we had reservations, but still had to wait – maybe we arrived too early? My memory is failing me on that part. We made our way in to the packed, narrow bar area to select from the wide array of wines by the glass. {More on that in a bit.} That night, we ordered a nice salumi platter (the sopressata was my favorite!) and some olives. I’m sure that was also the night I had to try the San Marzano Pasta with Meatballs. Sure, I said that I’m not a fan of spaghetti and meatballs, but Scusi’s menu had me at San Marzano. Rob and I originally experienced these delightful tomatoes on our Honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Now I eat them at every possible opportunity.

Of course, we washed our meal down with a good bottle of Italian wine.

The Wine

Scusi has a unique mix of Italian wines and Cal-Itals (California wines made in an Italian style or with Italian grape varietals.) Many of the wines are offered by the glass because they are “on tap”. The “tap” is a wine dispenser system that also helps preserve the wine remaining in any opened bottles. Having so many offerings by the glass gives diners the opportunity to try different wines rather than share a bottle or order a taste of a more expensive wine that would normally be offered by the bottle only.

At Scusi, the smallest size glass a guest can order is a quartino. This is equivalent to about a glass and a half or about a third of a bottle. The wine is served in a mini carafe so that the guest can top off the wine at his or her leisure. Wines can be ordered by the mezzo (half-bottle) or the bottiglia (bottle), as well.

We’ve found that when we’ve ordered red wines by the glass at Scusi, they’ve been a little too cold for our liking. While there is a misconception that red wine should be served warm or room temperature {it should be more like cellar or basement temperature}, our red wines seemed like they had just been taken out of the fridge. We felt that the temperature really masked the flavors these wines had to offer.

On our third visit, we sat at the bar again, but decided to order a bottle due to our experience with the temperature of wines by the glass. As she opened our bottle of Super Tuscan, our bartender said, “We just got a new system, so you may need to let it warm up a bit.”. Um yeah – like a good half hour. I’m sure not going to wait around that long to drink wine at a restaurant. They must have kept the bottles in a cooler as well? Our glasses immediately fogged up from the cold wine when it hit the glass. We had to hold both hands around our glasses to try to bring the wine down to a desirable temperature.

The Food

We’ve ordered different dishes on each visit. In no specific order, here are our thoughts on some of them:

  • Shrimp Oreganata – I was looking for something a little healthier when I ordered this, but it was unimpressive. I expected more flavor.
  • San Marzano Pasta with Veal Meatballs – Savor every bite! It’s worth it!
  • Pizza – Rob ordered pizza and while I thought it was good, I remember that he thought the crust hadn’t much flavor. However, when I asked him recently to comment, he couldn’t. He just said that it wasn’t very memorable.
  • Short Ribs – Rob said they were nothing special, but fairly priced.
  • Truffled Mushroom Lasagne – I think this was the best dish we’ve ever had a Scusi! It was the featured special of the day, so you won’t find it on their regular menu. 😦 I did notice; however, that it was one of the specials during Restaurant Week.
  • Chocolate Cake – This was the cake I talked about in my Quality over Quantity post. I wanted a bite of rich dark chocolate and I got a humongous piece of not-so-great cake.
  • Izzy’s Graham Cracker Ice Cream An absolute highlight! You are going to be surprised by how good this is!
  • See below for detailed info on our food from our most recent visit…

Our Most Recent Visit:

We made reservations and sat in the restaurant. We couldn’t decide on a wine and eventually ordered a Cal-Ital recommended by our server. Although still slightly chilled, it came to our table at a much more acceptable temperature than on our previous visits.

Once again, we started with the Salumi Platter:

The sopressata remains my favorite!

Rob’s pasta:

Tortellini with Sausage Ragout

Rob was not impressed: “While the tortellini were packed with cheese and cooked nicedly, the dish overall was very bland and the sauce was essentially red water.” I tried the dish. He was right. It was lacking flavor. Neither the sausage nor the sauce had it.

My pasta:

Shrimp Ravioli with Vodka-Rose Sauce

This dish was so flavorful that it would be what Rob calls “ridiculous!” or “just silly.” I love it when he uses that to describe food he really loves! Since he wasn’t able to taste this pasta due to his seafood allergies, I described my dish to him as such. While the sauce made it somewhat rich, I’d get this again in a heartbeat.

Dessert:

Izzy’s Graham Cracker Ice Cream (alongside a scoop of vanilla)

When we found out that they were again offering Izzy’s Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Rob said he wouldn’t share! I had to get my own. When I asked him to tell our blog readers his thoughts, he said, “Nothing tastes better in Minnesota than this ice cream. Enjoy in moderation…no more than 6 bowls.” While he says that for emphasis, he could barely finish his two scoops and I most certainly did not finish mine! I guess this is a rare occasion when you get quality and quantity.

While we love the wine bar concept of Scusi, we find the restaurant to be a little inconsistent in both its wine and food. The next time we go, I’d like to try the cheese plate and give the wines by the glass another shot. We’ll just have to get there early to get a seat at the bar. And if the Truffled Mushroom Lasagne or Smoked Gouda Hash Browns find their way onto the menu, those just might be ordered, too. 🙂

Have you been to Scusi? If so, what did you like about it? Do you have a favorite Italian Restaurant or Wine Bar?

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

Restaurant Week

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Does your city have a Restaurant Week?

I love Restaurant Week in Minneapolis/St. Paul! It comes around two to three times per year and is advertised in Mpls St. Paul Magazine. Restaurants all over the Twin Cities participate by offering $15-$30 three-course lunches and dinners. Diners can choose from a small selection of (hopefully) some of the best food the restaurant has to offer.

This season’s restaurant week in the Twin Cities is Sunday, February 26th through Friday, March 2nd.

Reservations are Highly Recommended

One year, Rob and I spent nearly every day of Restaurant Week trying out several of the restaurants! While our expenditures definitely added up in the end, we did enjoy a few dinners that would have cost the same for the entree alone. We also found a few exceptional places that we’ve returned to again and again.

Our favorite way to enjoy restaurant week is to browse the list of restaurants online. All of the restaurant week menus are listed there! Since there are so many restaurants participating, we can choose one that has a menu with the most interesting or healthiest options. We like to try restaurants that we haven’t before. However, if any of our favorites are participating during restaurant week, we are sure to take advantage of the special pricing!

Do you have a restaurant week where you live? If so, do you take advantage of it? What Twin Cities restaurants are you planning to or would you attend during this Restaurant Week?

We will be sure to update you on our choice this week!

Cheers~
Carrie