Like Butter Bakery Cafe, its similarly named (but not related) counterpart across the river, The Buttered Tin has become Lowertown St. Paul’s sun-soaked, Kickstarter-funded source for breakfast, lunch, and baked goods. Helmed by co-owners Jennifer Lueck and Alicia Hinze (who doubles as the cafe’s pastry chef), month-old The Buttered Tin is already gathering weekend crowds for its egg-based breakfast menu with a few original twists and a bakery case full of tempting sweets. But whether you’ll leave with a happy belly depends on how you order from the uneven assortment of dishes.
First off, the successes: Trout may not normally feature on your breakfast menu, but if it’s the expertly smoked fish in The Buttered Tin hash ($11, above), it should. Tender, flaky bites of fish nestle beneath a soft-poached egg with a yolk that smoothly blends with horseradish — and chive-spiked cream — perfect for dipping your thick slices of toast into. The breakfast hot dish ($9) varies daily, and if the cafe features the ham, gruyere, and mushroom version, rest assured you can dig in happily. The fluffy fresh eggs balance the saltiness of the ham and nuttiness of the cheese, and the generous amount of mushrooms makes the dish seem more virtuous.
The huevos rancheros benedict ($9, above) combines so many favorite ingredients — avocado, black beans, corn, and spicy ranchero sauce — and would be a real winner if not for the soggy, limp cornbread upon which the eggs and vegetables are stacked. A firmer crust on the cornbread would allow it to better support the ingredients without becoming just a sauce-soaked pillow.
The Pig’s Eye Breakfast ($10) pulls through on its promise with the eggs and crispy bacon, but the accompanying home fries are cooked unevenly and feature more peppers than potatoes. The thin, tangy buttermilk pancakes are perfectly proportioned to soak up syrup, but at $10 for three medium-sized pancakes and a crumble of bacon, the dish seems overpriced compared to the other breakfast dishes.
Rarely are desserts criticized for being not sweet enough, but The Buttered Tin’s assortment of baked goods need a kick in the sweet tooth to be craveworthy. Those longing for Hostess products may go for the ho ho cupcake ($2.50) or Lowertown twinkie ($2.50), but neither really excite the palate, lacking the sugary comfort of those classic snack cakes. One expects a bakery version of packaged snacks to taste better, but these treats didn’t raise the bar that Hostess set long ago. Same with the chocolate chip blondie ($2.50) — it holds the distinction of the first dessert I’ve failed to finish.
The Buttered Tin fills a space for fresh, close-to-home-cooked breakfast in Lowertown but could use a few tweaks to make it a reliable destination. We’ll give the cozy cafe another shot, but the bakery case needs a sugar rush to get up to par with its competitors. After all, this is the land of 10,000 lakes and (it seems like) 10,000 bakeries — one storefront’s weakness is another’s opportunity to gain valuable sweet-tooth market share.
The Buttered Tin
Bakery and cafe in Lowertown, St. Paul
237 7th St E
St. Paul, MN 55101
OWNERS / CHEF: Alicia Hinze and Jennifer Lueck / Jason Schellin and Hinze
HOURS: 7am-3pm daily
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: No
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No
ENTREE RANGE: $5-11