“Oh, DeGidio’s, you are our guilty pleasure. You’re the place to take the kids before the big meet or after a good report card.”
By Jessica Flemming | November 11, 2014
St. Paul, like most other cities, is made up of neighborhoods, each of which has a distinct food personality.
Some are known for Asian eats, others for burgers and beer.
But within those neighborhoods are specific streets where restaurants are clustered. Recently, we were debating which St. Paul street had the best restaurants.
Is it University Avenue, with its embarrassment of ethnic riches? Or Selby Avenue, with its gastro pubs and burger destinations? How about the up-and-comer Payne Avenue, where an exciting new restaurant seems to open every month? Or maybe the sleeper, Cleveland Avenue, with its mix of not only old-school delis and diners but also one of our favorite new chefs?
Everyone, it seems, had an opinion.
So we decided to let you decide.
And what better time to pit St. Paul street against street, bracket-style, than March? We even came up with a clever name for it: Munch Madness.
From now until March 5, we’ll profile eight St. Paul eat streets — giving you all the information you need to make an informed vote. Then we’ll bracket them and let you vote on the winner throughout March.
We start our profiles this week with the street nearest to the newspaper: West Seventh.
For each street profile, we’ll talk about the eight restaurants we think define the thoroughfare. If there are others worth noting, they’ll be listed at the end.
Let the best street win!
WEST SEVENTH STREET
Look, this street isn’t where you go for fancy little plates or chefs getting all creative. It’s where you get a hearty breakfast, a killer burger, a giant pile of spaghetti or a steak cooked medium rare. We love West Seventh’s personality and hope it never changes. Here’s why:
It’s no longer just one restaurant and a tiny market, thanks to a 2012 overhaul and expansion that created a one-stop shop for all things Italian in the Twin Cities. Besides the old standby deli-style restaurant with its giant, New York-style pizza, red-sauce pastas, sandwiches and salads, there are a top-notch, built-in-Italy-and-shipped-here pasticceria (pastry shop), an expansive market, bakery and fine-dining Italian restaurant Louis, which sports one of the best rooftop patios in the Cities. For a true sampling of the breadth of options available at the complex, start upstairs at Louis with a glass of Italian white and share the fantastic seafood-packed cioppino with a friend. Then meander downstairs to the pasticceria, order one of the impossibly beautiful and delicious pastries and eat it in the charming marble- and chandelier-filled space. Before you leave, swing through the market and grab a loaf of crusty bread, some good olive oil and Italian cheese. On your way out, it would be wise to pick up a slice of pizza for those late-night munchies.
Cossetta Alimentari: 711 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-222-3476; cossettas.com
DOWNTOWNER WOODFIRE GRILL
The menu here, heavy on items like bruschetta and fettuccine Alfredo, is straight out of 1999, but we can’t help but love the cozy space, with its pretty stonework walls and three fireplaces. The Persian kebabs are delicious (and contain enough garlic to ward off eight vampires), and the wood-fired pizzas hit the spot and are priced right. Add a glass of red wine or two and you have a romantic date, especially if the snow is flying.
Downtowner Woodfire Grill: 253 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-228-9500;downtownerwoodfire.com
Oh, DeGidio’s, you are our guilty pleasure. You’re the place to take the kids before the big meet or after a good report card. The youngest of our bunch ate so much spaghetti one time he had to “walk it off.” The bright, slightly sweet and garlicky red sauce is the star of the show here, but it’s served on almost everything on the menu, so there’s little chance of missing it. The giant, fluffy meatballs are worth the calories, too.
DeGidio’s: 425 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-228-0118; degidios.com
DAY BY DAY CAFE
This is one of the first restaurants each of our children were introduced to. Its casual atmosphere and quick service are bolstered by the delivery of goofy happy-meal toys by cheerful waitstaff. Everyone is welcome here, and the comforting diner-type food is like a warm hug. We love the Earth Breakfast, the croissant breakfast sandwich and for lunch, the hearty veggie sandwich, which hasn’t changed a bit — nor do we want it to — since we started eating here about a dozen years ago.
Day by Day Cafe: 477 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-227-0654; daybyday.com
Talk about old-school! Mancini’s is straight out of the Rat Pack Era, with the meaty menu, relish tray and cocktails to prove it. The decor hasn’t changed much since then, either. Order a Manhattan and a steak, then stuff yourself with the ridiculously delicious garlic toast, which is cooked on the same griddle as the steaks for added meaty flavor. If you’re not ready to go home when the meal is over, chances are there’s some live music — and lively dancing — going on in the lounge. It’s worth the price of a cocktail for the people watching.
Mancini’s Char House: 531 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-224-7345; mancinis.com
If you’re a juicy Lucy fan, there’s a good one here, but our advice is to skip it and go straight for the Nookie Supreme — two meaty beef patties dripping with American cheese and the restaurant’s special sauce. Let the cheese and sauce from the burger dribble all over your deep-golden, hand-cut fries, which are plenty delicious in the first place, and plan to be full for at least 12 hours. For those of us who prefer smaller portions, the restaurant will make the Nookie in a single-burger version, perfect if you haven’t worn elastic-waist pants.
Shamrocks Irish Nook: 995 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-228-9925; crshamrocks.com
Another throwback, this little supper-clubby spot, formerly Mitch’s Supper Club, is a good place to find not only men of a certain age imbibing at noon (the place makes a decent bloody Mary with a meat-stick straw) but also menu items like chicken Kiev and Cajun chicken pasta that many restaurants stopped serving a decade ago. The chicken potpies and the black-and-blue burgers are mighty tasty, too.
Bennett’s Chop and Railhouse: 1305 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-228-1408;bennettschopandrailhouse.com
7TH STREET SOCIAL
The only notable newcomer on the street, this pub/restaurant is serving some pretty good from-scratch food. The short rib, mac and cheese, Reuben with house-corned beef and decadent, lobster-filled lobster potpie are all worth a chunk of your paycheck. The brunch menu is good, too, and you can get a flight of local beers, which is a fun option.
7th Street Social: 2176 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-330-4688; seventhstreetsocial.com
— Golden Chow Mein (1105 W. Seventh St.; goldenchowmein.com) for Chinese classics.
— Glockenspiel (605 W. Seventh St.; glockenspielrestaurant.com) for German sausages, soft pretzels and beer.
— Claddagh (459 W. Seventh St.; claddaghcoffeecafe.com) for some really good coffee.
— Chris and Rob’s (603 W. Seventh St.; chrisandrobs.com/menu.php) for hot dogs, burgers and pizza.
Jess Fleming can be reached at 651-228-5435. Follow her at twitter.com/jessflem.