We love going out, but I rarely see our favorite places featured on “Best of” lists.
In all fairness, we aren’t typical downtown bar and restaurant patrons. We have 2 kids plus decidedly left of center food preferences. So here I am making my own “Best of” list.
What’s our criteria for a good restaurant?
We like our food inexpensive, tasty, interesting for me, boring for the kids, totally plant based for both, something hearty for dad and available after 5pm and on weekends. We also like atmospheres where kids fit – no white tablecloths and candles, yes to booth seating and lots of elbow room.
Some of the places we like for the food, some we like for the drinks, a few have both. Every one we feel at home with our young kids. Every one has good value.
I can’t believe this didn’t make the City Pages list for best restaurants before or after a Saint’s game. I’ve written an entire post about how much we like them. They have a room of ping pong tables and Jenga or Connect 4 at every table. The atmosphere is sleek, but relaxed and comfortable due to wide aisles and spaces to play games. Plenty of outdoor seating. Vegans have a few options by thinking creatively about the pizza or shiitake tacos. Centrally located between Mears Park and Rice Park in the Double Tree Hotel.
Best Thai food downtown. Atmosphere isn’t fancy – it probably looked the same 30 years ago. Who cares. The food is awesome. Skyway dad was impressed they serve Michelob Light – he tells me this beer is rare in MN. Located kitty-corner from the Children’s Museum. Dishes are labeled for vegans; tofu and mock duck are on the menu.
This is one of a half dozen fun places to eat and drink along Robert Street across from Pedro Park. The pizza here is heavenly. The kids shared a small pizza for $6 and both got full. Vegetarian and vegan choices are on the menu. Sawatdee, and Keys Cafe are next door. We haven’t tried Keys Cafe yet and Sawatdee is good but not overly kid friendly. Lund’s grocery store has a deli that’s always open too. Every place has outdoor seating across from the park. This “off the beaten path” neighborhood and is often overlooked in favor of the better known Mears Park and Rice Park areas. Better for us locals – less crowded and better prices.
Definitely our favorite bar. They have in house toys! Very effective way to woo our demographic. I wrote more about them here.
It’s a “bring your own food” brewery. It’s around the corner from all the places listed above at Pedro Park. Order take out, pack a picnic, or have pizza delivered. They don’t care as long as you buy drinks from them.
Another downtown brewery but closer to Rice Park, located on scenic pedestrian 7th Place. They have a kid’s menu and give out special placemats and color crayons. Outdoor seating. Reasonable prices. They have many vegetarian options, but disappointedly none were veganize-able. With a few tweaks we’d be regulars.
I’m so happy Afro Deli is here! They opened a few months ago with an exciting, interesting menu, fresh, delicious food, all served up fast and the best part is they are open until 7pm Monday through Saturday. Water has come to the post business lunch fast food desert of St. Paul! I recognized falafel, hummus, gyros, french fries, and sandwiches on the menu, but what is a “Fantastic”? The Somali rice & falafel were huge hits with the kids. Great location off Wabasha on the pedestrian only 7th Place. Outdoor seating.
We like drinking here – coffee, tea, beer, wine. Relaxed, roomy, cozy atmosphere. Fantastic happy hours 7 days a week from 4pm-7pm, locally brewed pints for $3. Menu is simple. It can get expensive if you have a large appetite, but it is organic and locally sourced. Limited outdoor seating.
An honorary mention as they aren’t open on the weekends, are take out only, and can be tricky to find in the skyways. That said, they are uniquely open until 7pm Monday through Friday which means cheap take out is possible after getting home from work or school. They have Thai, Chinese & Vietnamese choices with great plant based ingredients: tofu, mock duck, eggplant, mushrooms, tons of fresh veggies. The chef is great at customizing special requests. $10 feeds our family. We can never decide on one dish and we love leftovers so we spend $16 to $24 instead. They are in the Town Square building or upstairs from the Rival House in the Double Tree Hotel.
On our list to visit soon is Babini’s Kurdish Restaurant.
Our wish list? Mexican. We miss sloppy, saucy Mexican with fresh refried beans, salsa, margaritas, chips and guacamole. Mmmm. I hope a place opens soon. The closest is Barrio, but it’s a notch fancier, more expensive and more crowded than I like with kids. Chipotle needs to stay open longer – weekends and after 6pm please?
Am I missing anything? What’s on your wish list for downtown?