A neighborhood institution for generations, The Nook is located across from Cretin-Derham Hall where numerous local sports heroes, including Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer and baseball great Paul Molitor, spent their high school years and for whom the Nook has named many of their burgers. Photographs and sports memorabilia, including Pat Mancini’s (yes, related to that Mancini, of the eponymous Char House on West 7th) purple and gold swimming trunks, crowd the walls. The Nook serves up burgers from a tiny grill, frequently manned by Casper or Runyon. French fries are hand-cut and buns are bakery-fresh from P.J. Murphy’s down the street on Randolph Ave.
Service is cheerful and the atmosphere, family friendly, with the televisions always tuned to the Vikings or Twins or Gophers.
Smaller than its sister-restaurant, Shamrock’s, on West 7th in St. Paul, the Nook is often more crowded. Plan to wait for a table around the dinner hour or whenever an important game is on. Though the menus are similar, the Nook still manages to maintain an edge over Shamrock’s, with burgers with a better char, and consistently crispier fries. Shamrock’s has a more ambitious beer list. With the frequent presence of the owners who are friendly with most of their patrons, the Nook also manages to maintain more of a personal touch than Groveland Tap, another family-friendly bar in the nearby Mac-Grove neighborhood, and tinkers with its menu less. Compared to Matt’s Bar in Minneapolis, which claims to have invented the jucy lucy (the proper spelling, according to Matt’s), the Nook is far more lively, and their burgers achieve the char without tasting thoroughly burned. While Matt’s burgers are indeed crisp, their fries are not.
BEST BET: Any of the burgers, but particularly The Lodge Burger with smokey cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayonnaise or either of the cheese-stuffed, juicy-lucy-style burgers, the Juicy Nookie or the Paul Molitor.
Bar with Burgers in Highland Park, St. Paul
492 Hamline Ave S
St. Paul, MN 55116
OWNER/CHEF: Ted Casper & Mike Runyon
Sun-Wed Kitchen open 11am-10pm; bar open 11am-1am
Thu Kitchen open 11am-10pm; bar open 11am-2am
Fri-Sat Kitchen open 11am-11pm; bar open 11am-2am
BAR: Beer on tap. Wine by the glass.
ENTREE RANGE: ($6-17)