Italian Beef at BJ’s Hotdog Shoppe in St. Paul

BJs Hot Dog Shoppe in St. Paul

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

There are three reasons to love BJ’s Hotdog Shoppe in St. Paul. In order of importance, they are: the service, the Italian beef sandwich, and the cake.

BJ’s is the sort of magical place that takes its customers by the hand. If you’re new to Chicago-style sandwiches and hot dogs, owners Bub and Jan (natives of Joliet, IL) lovingly guide you through the process, asking about your likes and dislikes, and carefully creating a sandwich just for you. Topping combinations are practically limitless, so it’s like edible OkCupid — BJ’s wants to find your perfect match.

From a list of hot dogs, Italian sausage, nachos, and tamale boats (you heard me), we were coupled with the Italian beef sandwich ($6), dripping with delicious meat juices (we ordered it “dipped”). The thing was the size of a missile. Juicy, salty, thinly sliced beef piled with wonderfully crunchy giardiniera, sauteed onions, and some melty Swiss was a serious love song to our most ravenous moments. BJ’s Italian beef is the sort of thing you want to wake up next to after a big, debauched night. Hey, it’s a cheap date, too.

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And the cake ($2.50 a slice)! Jan makes it herself, a rotating arsenal of Southern favorites like caramel cake, lemon cake, and red velvet cake. Oh, red velvet cake, that poor victim of trends. Jan’s makes it into something worth craving, with a close, angel-soft crumb and barely sweet cream cheese frosting.

This little shop is a blast of fresh air, steered by a pair of the kindliest souls to chop an onion. If their warmth and enthusiasm for filling bellies doesn’t get you buying 15 slices of cake to go, then you ought to see the Wizard about a heart.

BJ’s Hotdog Shoppe, 1990 Suburban Ave, Suite 1994B,  St. Paul, MN 55119; 651.528.7254

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About the Author

Emily Schnobrich

Emily comes from a family notorious for dunking whole pieces of cake into cold glasses of milk. It’s no surprise she inherited their angry sweet tooth and a devotion to pudding. Between a string of restaurant industry gigs, she has tutored writing, biked across Quebec, studied cheese, and baked cakes professionally. A perennial Minnesotan, Emily is at home in South Minneapolis where parking is prolific and the livin' is easy.

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