Heirloom is billed as a “neighborhood” restaurant that specializes in “modern farmhouse cuisine.” As these terms suggest, it’s utterly inviting and the fare is rustic, centered on seasonal and local ingredients. But the food is also beautiful, subtly complex, and, at times, cutting-edge without being the least bit pretentious. Chef Wyatt Evans (formerly of WA Frost) has our attention.
The most unassuming dishes on the dinner menu (brunch is served on Sundays) produced the most high-fives and “hot damns.” The pedestrianly named “meat pie” ($14) turns out to be an adorable acorn-shaped cracker crust filled with a luscious, soul-warming mixture of shredded chicken and pork, cinnamon, and a layer of green tomato chutney. Accompanied by sharp English mustard, raisins, and pickled green tomatoes, the delectable pie skillfully balances textures and flavors. Hot damn, indeed.
Moving from England to Ireland, Evans’ black pudding ($11) is another stunner. Made of pork shoulder, pig’s blood and organ meat (heart and liver), and steel-cut oats (for binding), the “pudding” is really a refined, funky, and delicious meatloaf. A light puree of celery root and thin slices of tart, slightly sweet pickled apples cut the dish’s richness while brightening it. Winner winner, fancy meatloaf dinner.
Welcome to the Twin Cities! Don’t know where to find interesting, high quality food and drink? Whether you’re looking to splurge or eat on the cheap, we’ve got you covered. Looking to drink killer cocktails and treat a hangover the next morning? No problem. Want to know where the locals get their doughnuts, sausage, tacos, and coffee? You’ve come to the right site.
The guide is a collection of places our contributors take out-of-towners (or suggest others take visitors). It’s not a “best-of” list. It’s also not comprehensive. To keep the guide from getting unwieldy, we limited the number of categories and suggestions within each category. Therefore, there are numerous places that we love that didn’t make it into the guide. If you asked us where to eat, drink, and hang out, this is what we’d tell you (and then we’d list a bunch of backup spots). Together, the interactive map (posted at the end of this article), the list, and the corresponding Foursquare list will help you plan your gastronomic tour of the Twin Cities.
After considering feedback on last year’s inaugural guide, we decided to split the document into two parts, one for each of the Twin Cities. As the capital city of Minnesota, St. Paul is receiving first billing. We will publish the guide to Minneapolis in the next couple of weeks.
Locals: Along with using the guide and sending it to folks visiting town, we hope you will add your recommendations in the Comments section (and tell us why our suggestions are completely off base). We update the guide annually, so your feedback helps us improve the document as well as provide out-of-towners with additional suggestions.
Worth the Splurge
Meritage, 410 St. Peter St, St. Paul; 651.222.5670 | Our interview with chef-owner Russell Klein
With attention to detail and consistency that are second to none, Meritage is one of the finest French-inspired eateries in the metro area. But the not-so-hidden secret weapon of this chic, classically excellent restaurant is the seafood. The oysters here are reliably delicious and the varieties change often, and the fantastic wild-caught Pacific shrimp cocktail will redefine your understanding of this often maltreated, usually disappointing dish. The restaurant side is great for a formal affair; the bar side is perfect for cocktails, oysters, and a spot-on upscale hamburger.
The Strip Club Meat and Fish, 378 Maria Ave, St. Paul; 651.793.6247 | Our review of brunch at the Strip Club
While it may be temporarily obscured by the rapid ascendance of its Lowertown cousin, Saint Dinette, don’t forget this lovingly hip tribute to the classic Midwestern steakhouse — the name is unforgettable, as is the food. While steaks are an obvious (and correct) way to proceed at this dark, cozy joint, we fondly remember everything from soups to appetizers to salads, they were so uniformly well-prepared. However far you’ve traveled, settle in, order a cocktail, and unwind.
Tanpopo Noodle Shop, 308 E Prince St, St. Paul; 651.209.6527 | Our look at Twin Cities (including Tanpopo’s) ramen
Yes, they do sushi. But you won’t find any crazy rolls or extensive sashimi offerings here — rather, the nightly maki special plays second fiddle to teishoku (we like the mackerel) and steaming bowls of nuanced, delicate broth and chewy udon noodles. Try the nabeyaki udon: it’s judiciously topped with tempura fried shrimp, chicken, fish cake, wakame, and tamago; each element contributes a unique flavor that complements the broth and creates a harmonious dish.
Saint Dinette, 261 E 5th St, St. Paul; 651.800.1415 | Our review
The second restaurant from the Strip Club’s Tim Niver and JD Fratzke, Saint Dinette features the French-influenced food of North America — 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 ate their way through the three aforementioned cities, discovering influences as disparate as Mexican, Southern, and Jewish, all woven together with the French. Must-haves include trout rillettes, half chicken (pictured above), fried smelt, and cheeseburger. Saint Dinette offers a weekend “grocery valet” so diners can park their goods from the Saint Paul Farmers’ Market while they enjoy brunch.
Heartland, 289 E 5th St, St. Paul; 651.699.3536 | Our interviews with chef-owner Lenny Russo: On cooking | On Heartland’s pork program
A national standard-bearer of “farm to table” dining, chef Lenny Russo combines technical precision with extremely high quality regional ingredients to produce soul comforting, delicious meals. Overlooking the Saint Paul Farmers’ Market, Heartland has earned its reputation as the place for distinctly Midwestern fine dining. If roasted bison is on the menu, get it! And try not to fill up on the house-made rolls and artisanal butter.
W.A. Frost has announced a decent happy hour deal: Seven days a week, 4-6pm and 9-11pm. Drinks for $4 (regional tap beer, select wines, and cocktails), and food for $5 that currently includes the likes of Crispy Calamari with charmoula aioli, Asian BBQ Chicken Wings with lime yogurt and scallions, or Shrimp and Chorizo Croquettes with dill cream and frisee.