J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly have been busy. Between summer 2016 and March 2017, they opened two restaurants, Red River Kitchen and Bar Brigade. And now they’ve added Delicata, a casual Italian eatery in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul helmed by Noah Barton (former executive chef at Chino Latino). The newest member of the family has a lot in common with Punch Neapolitan Pizza. Like that local institution, Delicata offers a concise, pizza-focused menu emphasizing fresh ingredients in a family-friendly environment. And like the newer Punch locations, Delicata is counter-service only.
But this newbie isn’t a knockoff. It adds unique twists to familiar dishes, often with great success (though limited, at times, by poor execution, but more on that in a bit). Take the Antipasto Platter ($12), for example. With sweet, plumped grapes, spicy giardiniera, savory gigante beans, salty cured meats and olives, and crunchy almonds, it’s a delicious adventure in flavor and texture.
Another starter, the Grilled Artichokes ($7) is a refreshing departure from standard artichoke dips: A quartet of smoky hearts pairs brilliantly with bright, nutty romesco sauce. Heaped on expertly bronzed crostini, the “dip” is spot on. The Big Mixed Salad ($12) also excellently updates a classic: We’d be thrilled if pickled onions, gigante beans, prosciutto, sliced egg, and marinated tomatoes became staples in pizza parlor salads.
Several pizzas showcase the Delicata team’s creativity and commitment to killer ingredients. The humbly named Pork Sausage ($12) is one of the most satisfying pies we can recall. It’s piled high with zesty meat, pillowy ricotta, and tender fennel slices; vibrant oregano and punchy romesco pull the aggressive elements into a cohesive whole.
The Delicata Pizza, made with the eponymous winter squash ($12, top) is another inventive eye-opener. We were skeptical that combining naturally sweet squash and balsamic vinegar with salty prosciutto and blue cheese would work. But where we expected a power surge, instead we got a great balance of sweet and salty (if perhaps a bit too much blue cheese). A veggie option ($13, above) with artichoke, spinach, feta, and olives on rich red sauce doesn’t break new ground, but it’s as tasty as the more adventurous combos.
Delicata’s short list of desserts distances the restaurant from the pack. We’d travel far and wide for the Coconut Cake ($6). As one of our dining partners exclaimed, “That’s what dessert should look like — just stupid good.” Topped with small peaks of light meringue, the cake is moist, airy, and just the right amount of sweet. Slightly burnt shredded coconut is the secret not-secret ingredient, adding depth and texture to an already great slice of cake.
Both types of gelato we tried — pistachio and strawberry ($5 each) — held their own against the pastry. A little less dense and a little creamier than average gelato, these offerings explode with flavor. Given that Delicata bills itself as a pizza and gelato joint, we were surprised that it serves gelato from Sonny’s and Zia’s Gelato rather than make it in house.
Our excitement about Delicata’s desserts was, nonetheless, unable to smooth over the restaurant’s inconsistency. Some pizzas arrived crisp and adorned with beautiful leopard spots, while others showed up floppy and without char. Depending on the night, the Cheesy Garlic Bread ($5) was unappetizingly greasy or well-balanced and satisfying. Even the Big Mixed Salad varied visit to visit. After winning us over during on our first trip, it bombed on the second — limp greens seemed like they’d been dressed earlier in the evening rather than to order.
Delicata has the right ingredients to become an excellent neighborhood restaurant: a friendly vibe, comfortable indoor seating, a spacious patio, interesting yet approachable food, and rosé on tap. Given Fratzke’s and O’Reilly’s respective track records, we’re confident that Delicata will fix its consistency issues and, with a little luck, enjoy Punch-style success.
Jane Rosemarin edited this story; James Norton has worked closely with Noah Barton at Chef Camp.
Pizzeria and Gelateria in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul
1341 Pascal St
St. Paul, MN 55108 CHEF/OWNERS: Noah Barton / J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly BAR: Beer and wine VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Yes / Yes ENTREE RANGE: $9-$14 NOISE LEVEL: Moderate HOURS: Mon-Fri 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sat and Sun 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (Brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m., beginning Sept 23) PARKING: Street
St. Paul’s iconic Strip Club Meat and Fish will be shutting its doors later this year, with a planned closure date of July 1. Chef J.D. Fratzke (above right) attributes the upcoming closure to an amicable parting of ways with owner Tim Niver (above left), and promises news on new projects soon. This post will be updated with additional details later today as the Strip Club makes them available. The Strip Club opened in 2008.
Update: Here’s the restaurant’s official press release about its upcoming closure.
February 1, 2017 Dayton’s Bluff Saint Paul, MN
To our friends and patrons:
The Strip Club Meat and Fish has enjoyed nearly ten years of operation in Dayton’s Bluff and Saint Paul. It has been a fabulous run, however, we have decided not to renew our lease ending in July, 2017. We’re Not Done! We are announcing our closure now so that our friends and those who still haven’t joined us might be able to do so over the next 5 months. Get your unused gift cards out and join us at one of our tables until July 1, 2017.
We retain possession of The Strip Club space until the end of July. Our restaurant will still beavailable to large groups for either business or personal dinners and celebrations until the end of the month. Also, we invite our aspiring restaurateur peers an opportunity to host pop ups in this unique and special location.
Other changes are occurring along with our announcement. Our final brunch service will be held on Sunday February 12, 2017. We will be serving Mother’s Day and Easter brunches by reservation. Our new hours of operation as of February 14, 2017 will be Tuesday through Saturday evenings from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. We will be closed on Sundays and Mondays.
We are commonly associated with what we lovingly call our “sister restaurants” Saint Dinette and Mucci’s Italian. We are a family of restaurants by nature and ethos but are independently owned and operated and both continue to be healthy and happy businesses. We appreciate your ongoing support and patronage.
THANK YOU!!! We have been truly blessed to own and operate such a wonderful place in the amazing city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Your trust and support of us will be an enduring force behind our progression as professionals and humans. We look forward to providing excellent food and service to you until our final night of service on July 1 st . Come see us.
If you walk to Red River Kitchen at City House (at 258 Mill Street) from Downtown St. Paul, consider it a self-guided tour of the past and present of “the most livable city in America,” culminating at a historic and picturesque site that you (maybe) never knew existed. And then eat delicious food.
Walk past the under-restoration Palace Theater, with its optimistic signs promising a 2016 reopening. See Mickey’s Diner and the mysterious Original Coney Island Tavern, which was most recently open for two days in February 2016. Pass through Rice Park on your way to the Science Museum, where you’ll take the elevator (no admission necessary) to the Mississippi River flood plain. A short distance away, you’ll see your destination: a decommissioned grain elevator, known as City House, poking its tower up from behind some recently completed apartment buildings. Cross the tracks and Shepard Road, pass the fountains that look like the uprights of a collapsed bridge, and turn right when you get to the path next to the river. You’ll see the Red River Kitchen trailer (mostly blue and parked next to the Mississippi River) up ahead.
The setting is stunning. The grain elevator’s cavernous warehouse has been faithfully restored. Glass garage doors blur the line between indoors and outdoors and offer Instagram-worthy views of the Mighty Miss and Harriet Island across the way. Gigantic ferns hang from the rafters over high-top and picnic tables. About half the warehouse is reserved for games — beanbag toss sits out all day and other games come out to play in the evening. Signage explains the history and workings of the place and is well worth reading. Because this is parkland and water flows nearby, the place is vaguely reminiscent of Sea Salt at Minnehaha Park.
Brought to you by Matty O’Reilly of Republic and JD Fratzke (chef / owner of Strip Club Meat and Fish and Saint Dinette), the endeavor began (prior to Fratzke’s involvement) a few summers ago as a food truck. It’s named for an ox-cart trail that ran from Winnipeg (hence the Red River) to the Twin Cities. There is a kitchen in the warehouse, but it is used mostly for prep. Everything you order comes out of the trailer. City House is on the flood plain of the Mississppi, so if the water rises, they can just hitch up the kitchen and drive away.
This permanently parked mobile kitchen is sending out some good food. We tried the Kielbasa ($9) with kimchee on a brat bun. The fluffy griddled bun and the toothsome dog were well matched, but the kimchee felt out of place. It was funky, sour, and flavorful, as good kimchee is, but it overwhelmed the affair.
Tacos with mahi mahi ($7 for two) were a solid selection, especially for the price. Single corn tortillas cradled fingers of grilled fish topped with pineapple salsa with roasted corn, onion, and pepper. The tortilla brought charred flavor, the fish was meaty, and the salsa added tropical sweetness.
The Lowertown neighborhood of St. Paul is becoming one of those special neighborhoods with a little bit of magic dust on the streets, where on a gorgeous summer night you can go to dinner and then wander a block over to a nearby park and catch a live band, and then wander another block over to the minor league baseball park to sit in the stands and catch a few innings of high-school baseball.
You have classic architecture, Mears Park, the farmers market, and the majestic, recently remodeled Union Depot. Just a year ago, the light rail rolled in, delivering wide-eyed passengers from as far away as the Mall of America and Downtown Minneapolis. This summer, CHS Stadium opened, rescuing the glories of Saints baseball from an industrial no-man’s-land.
This is the setting in which Saint Dinette opened its doors in late June in the Rayette building, kitty-corner from the central branch of the St. Paul Farmers’ Market and one block west of the entrance to the Saints’ stadium.
Owners Tim Niver and J.D. Fratzke, have bet the long game on St. Paul with the Strip Club Meat and Fish, and with a third partner, Brad Tetzloff, have doubled down with Saint Dinette — it’s right there in the name’s reference to the local team. The restaurant is deliberately of the neighborhood, sitting in a large space typical of Lowertown, with tall ceilings, cement floors, and unadorned walls. The focus of the room is the giant windows that look out over the farmers market and the hilly Lowertown streets.
The food, however, has a broader scope, and that’s reflected in the other part of the name: Dinette. Originally intended to be a casual riff on the French food of Montreal, the concept expanded to include the French-influenced food of North America in general, from Montreal to New Orleans to Puebla, Mexico (where many French settled in the 1800s). Chef de cuisine Adam Eaton and general manager Laurel Elm (who are engaged — awwww!), both formerly of La Belle Vie, ate their way through the three aforementioned cities, discovering influences as disparate as Mexican, Southern, and Jewish, all woven together with the French.
The menu, which we’ve been assured will be changing regularly (some of the dishes described below are already no longer available), reflects these varied influences, but all of the food is familiar — casual comfort food, made vibrant with novel accents: a beet salad with herring or a blintz with foie gras.
On our first visit, we started with the Watermelon Gazpacho ($5). The cold tomato soup is ratcheted up with abundant black pepper and mellowed with pickled watermelon rind and bits of cucumber. Cilantro oil drizzled over the top balances the acidity with a swoon-worthy result that is herbal, fruity, and garden fresh.
The Trout Rillette ($10) comes in a jam jar, the perfect container to show off the cross section of the light pink fish, which is topped with creme fraiche, vibrant orange trout roe, and green baby chervil. The menu said small-s “saltines,” so we figured the dish would come with house-made soda crackers, but like Heinz ketchup, the original is hard to beat. A plate of twin-wrapped big-S Saltines served as the perfect substrate for our rillettes. The slightly smoky fish, the creme, and the delicate roe were excellently balanced, atop one cracker after another, till the jar was empty.
The Beet Salad ($10) — with beets rolled in pastrami spices and accompanied by thin bagel toasts and matjes herring — proudly bears its Jewish-French-Canadian roots. The plate is drizzled with whipped cream cheese and droplets of golden oil. Beets are piled with the pickled herring and topped with watercress and yellow and orange flowers. The colorful salad tastes as good as it looks. Sweet and salty, briny and earthy, creamy and vegetal: all collide. So often found with cheeses like blue or goat, beet salad is reinvigorated with a mild, firm herring.
The Parisian Gnocchi ($9 half / $16 whole) was another hit. This style of gnocchi, essentially poached pate a choux, or profiterole pastry, is less dense than potato gnocchi, though we found them to be slightly chalky. Green from the ramps, with flavors of garlic and onion, each dumpling was browned on one side, giving the soft dough a textural base. The gnocchi were tossed with a generous amount of oil and topped with fried nettles and fresh nasturtium leaves.
The Smoked Marlin Enchilada ($10 one / $18 two) divided the table. Covered with a rich, astringent mole, the corn tortilla was filled with a mixture of pureed potatoes and smoked marlin. Some tasters loved the filling’s soft texture, and others found it puzzling and lacking in focus, as if the marlin were lost in the potatoes.
Divided by the enchilada, the table was reunited by the Popover ($5). The golden-brown, lumpy crust hid a chewy, eggy crumb that instantly melted the accompanying pat of honey-drizzled butter. The sweetness was the perfect prologue to the Half Chicken ($24 half / $40 two halves), which arrived boneless, white and dark meat wrapped together around dirty rice, and fried in a light, salty breading. The bird is cut into five or so pieces, offering a cross section of the meat, which looks almost rare in the center. Rest assured, we were told, the bird is fully cooked. Initially prepared sous vide, which leaves it incredibly tender and juicy, the bird is stuffed, dredged, and fried only after it is fully cooked. The gravy was fine, but the chicken didn’t need it. Fried sprigs of thyme made a tasty garnish. Already stuffed, we made enough room for a half chicken, but alas, we were too full for dessert.
We returned on a Sunday morning for an early brunch and were greeted by many of the same faces from our first visit. Even with the passage of a few days and the weekend throngs, these pros remembered us and took the time to say welcome back. That’s some good front-of-house.
Brunch was no less impressive than dinner. The Everything Bagel ($12) came with a Montreal smorgasbord of beet-cured salmon, whipped cream cheese, pickled cucumber, capers, sliced hard boiled egg, red onion, and a garnish of fresh dill. The bagel’s crust was bubbly, offering the perfect amount of resistance, and the crumb was light and yeasty. This was as good as any bagel we’ve had between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and San Francisco Bay. The salmon was also top notch. Fresh and buttery, it yielded to the teeth, instead of pulling, as lesser lox can. For the same price as a bagel with Gaspé Nova lox at Russ and Daughters, it’s enough to make any mensch kvell.
The potato sope ($10) was a fried cake made of masa harina and potato that was served with chorizo, fresh watercress, ramps and jalapeño, and an egg sunny-side up. Unlike the neatly arranged, carefully sliced smorgasbord, the sope was all mixed together into a beautiful, aromatic mess. The sope itself had a nice crisp exterior and a sweet, doughy interior, and the sausage tasted like a chorizo / breakfast sausage hybrid. Without the sausage, this is an excellent option for vegetarians.
The coffee, we should note, was smooth, non-acidic, and roasted medium to dark with hints of chocolate, and our cups never dropped below the halfway mark.
In our most recent (certainly not final) visit, we aimed to sit at the bar and take in the crowd, pre-Saints game.
The Fried Smelt ($6) and Corn on the Cob ($7) were both outstanding. The little fried fishes, served with remoulade and topped with fried watercress, were a delight to eat: a little crunchy, a little chewy, not overly oily or fishy. And we loved the fried greens that Saint Dinette is using as a garnish. The corn, a riff on elotes, is served as two half ears, each with adorable little corn holders. With visible char lines from the grill, the ears are rolled in mayo and teeny-tiny lobster roe and topped with cotija cheese. The corn was cooked perfectly, and it would be hard to think of anything that can’t be improved by a smear of mayo and fresh, crumbly cheese.
The Cheeseburger ($12) was in keeping with the latest (and most welcome) trend of double-patty, flat-top burgers with American cheese. On a soft bun, with pickles, it’s perfect and easily as good as Revival’s version. The Bologna Sandwich ($10), in which thinly sliced, house-made bologna visits the flattop and is crowned with American cheese, was a let down. It wasn’t bad, but our expectations had been raised impossibly high by nearly everything else we’d eaten. Hoping for transcendence, we found that in the end it was just a bologna sandwich.
For dessert we tried the Blintz ($8). The crepe was folded around a tiny amount of creme fraiche mixed with foie gras, and the result was the height of richness. The sweet, acidic, blueberry topping cut it a little bit, and powdered sugar rounded out the palette. It was good, but next time we’re going for the Churros.
After three visits, we can safely say that the staff is firing on all cylinders. The servers and bartenders are friendly, knowledgeable, and clearly having a lot of fun. It’s infectious. With only a couple of exceptions, the food was outstanding. Chef Eaton paints with a broad brush, while maintaining a focus that allows gnocchi and cheeseburgers to sit next to each other on the menu and at the table.
The prices hover around fair. While $24 seems steep for a half chicken, the bird itself is mightily impressive, and the preparation is involved. On the other hand, the generous half serving of gnocchi felt like a bargain at $9. Prices for canned beer push at the ceiling. $6.50 for PBR? $8 for Surly Furious? Let’s crack one to the hope that this isn’t the new normal. On the other hand, local craft beer on tap at about $6 a glass is more than fair, and so the was the Summer Bourbon ($10), a well-balanced cocktail with tastes of apricot and orange, bitters, and gomme syrup.
For those of us not lucky enough to live in charming Lowertown, the neighborhood has officially become a destination, and Saint Dinette plays no small part in making it worth the trip. They caught (or probably brought) their share of the magic Lowertown dust.
261 E 5th Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
651.800.1415 Owners / Chef: Tim Niver, J.D. Fratzke, Brad Tetzloff / Adam Eaton Hours:
Tue-Thu 5-10 p.m.
Fri 5-11 p.m.
Sat 9 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sun 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Mon Closed unless the Saints play at home Bar: Full Reservations: None Vegetarian / Vegan: Yes / Ask Entree Range: $8 – $40 Parking: Street parking, public ramps
Note: The description of the gnocchi was changed to reflect the fact that they were made from pate a choux rather than puff pastry.
This story was sponsored by the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. It’s the third of a five-part series that will run on Heavy Table. Chef J.D. Fratzke of the Strip Club Meat and Fish cooked a wilderness feast in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area for a group of six travelers — you can read all about it here. These are his notes — about his relationship with the Boundary Waters, about finding food in the wild, and about how he cooked that meal.
The last time I came up to the Boundary Waters on a solo trip was in September of 2014. I set up my camp on an island in Newfound Lake about two miles from Prairie Portage, an old voyageur route that serves as the gateway to Quetico on the border with Canada. The sun set while I made myself a humble supper of noodles in broth with chunks of kielbasa sausage. I snuggled up to a log bench and ate straight from the pan by the light of my headlamp. Gorged and exhausted, I stoked up my campfire, pulled Jim Harrison’s The Road Home from my dry bag, and settled into the old wolf’s storytelling.
When I started to nod off, I looked up from the pages and out over the lake. An odd, pale smoke seemed to be coating everything. My fire wasn’t the source; it had burned down to coals. The air was dry, so I knew it wasn’t fog. I turned off my lamp and stood up and realized I was casting a shadow. Turning around, I was lit up by the brightest full moon I’d ever seen. Stumbling dumbfounded to the rocky point of the island, I felt like I had stepped into the spotlight of some ancient stage. I was struck, in that light, with the notion of the tens of thousands of moons these waters had absorbed, the storms, the snowfalls, the people like me and so unlike me who had slept where I was sleeping.
The wonder of the Boundary Waters is its ability to place us in vastness. In a sense, like all true wilderness, it is a time machine. It is one of the few places where we can walk through pure prehistory — and it is every Minnesotan’s birthright. We should all be proud of that. We should all make an effort to protect that.
When James and Becca invited me to make a winter trip up to Ely and cook outdoors for Dave and Amy, I leapt at the chance. I’m a true believer when it comes to Save the Boundary Waters, and I had followed the Freemans’ trip on Twitter. I considered it a tremendous honor to cook for them. James and I discussed logistics, I squared the day away with my family and my staff, and I set to work on a menu.
Time would be tight, leaving after a busy Saturday dinner service. I thought about the hike in, what we could carry, what kind of calories we would need, what we could do over open fire and a wood stove, and how I could best bring all of the heart of the Boundary Waters into the meal. My mind went to work: Sunday morning? We’ll need a bloody mary. Grab the house mix and a bottle of Prairie Vodka.
While I prep, they’ll need nibbles with the drinks. Braunschweiger and salami on crackers. Can’t do the BWCA without walleye; smoke some fillets and make a mousse to go along with the cold cuts. Buffalo quail over the campfire will warm everyone from the inside out. Venison for sure … as ancient as MN itself.
Ducks too? Their eggs with the venison like a steak and eggs. Their legs confit-ed and simmered with beans — for loads of carbs to fuel the hike out. Wild rice polenta like grits. Add pemmican to tell the story of voyageurs and their rubaboo. Sweets to finish. Chocolate for energy. Chris’s brownies and the griottes cherries. Dust them with powdered sugar to look like the snow surrounding us. Spruce tea for warmth, digestion, vitamin C, and a taste of the Ojibwe traditions we’ll need to honor …
Knives, pans, eats, and towels got boxed up, the preplist was ticked off, snowshoes and thermals stowed in the back seat. My mom’s knit hats as gifts for all my new friends. I kissed my girls goodbye as they slept, fired up the Subaru, cranked up The Tragically Hip, and rocketed north in darkness to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, that grand cathedral of ice and pines.
We had a glorious day in great part to Steve and Steve having set up camp with a couple of roaring fires. The warm tent made for a fine refuge and good company. The day flew by, the food was easy to cook and gratefully had by all. While the venison was being devoured, I took a deep pull of 18 year old scotch from James’ flask, excused myself from the tent for a minute and walked about fifty yards out into Fall Lake. I breathed deeply in the brightness of the afternoon and felt myself swell with a familiar rush of emotion — one I’ve felt in every trip I’ve ever taken to the Boundary Waters – that of gratitude and true happiness. I’d offer that the greatest gift of wilderness is how it allows us to be our truest selves in a place of purity. While that can be had in solitude, it is even better savored with friends who delight in sharing the experience. I’m blessed to say on this day, for me, it certainly was.