Where to eat if you’re here for the Winter Carnival

Are you planning to come to downtown St. Paul for the Winter Carnival?

If you’re looking for a place to warm up and grab a bite, downtown and Lowertown have lots of great options, even though the pandemic has claimed a few of our favorites in the past few years.

Here are some suggestions for new and classic places to grab a bite when you’re out and about. Hours of operation might be different from previous years — many restaurants are still dealing with staffing and supply-chain issues that have led to drastic changes. Be sure to call or check websites before dropping in.

If you’re looking for something a little less ordinary, consider dinner and a helicopter ride from Holman’s Table at the St. Paul Airport. It’s $250 a couple, but sounds like an unforgettable evening. Call 612-261-1620 for availability and reservations.

Lowertown
Guests enjoy brunch as they watch a late morning thunderstorm from the windows of Saint Dinette in St. Paul’s Lowertown neighborhood. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Saint Dinette: This eclectic, chef-driven eatery is one of my favorite places to grab a bite and a drink. The bright, modern restaurant has a menu full of eclectic bites from inventive small plates to a buttery, double-patty burger that is absolutely best in class. The cocktails are delicious, too. $$, full bar. 261 E. Fifth St., St. Paul; 651-800-1415; saintdinette.com

Big River Pizza: If you’re looking for a way to feed a crowd, Big River’s affordable, wood-fired pizzas are a great way to go. I especially love any of the vegetarian options — the restaurant sources the vegetables from local farmers, which makes total sense given the restaurant’s location just across the street from the St. Paul Farmers’ Market. $, beer and wine only. 280 E. Fifth St., St Paul; 651-683-2186; bigriverpizza.com

Dark Horse: This dark-wood bar and restaurant has had a lived-in feel since the day it opened. The menu is kind of all over the place, from sandwiches to barbecued meats to wings to pizza. I really like that there are healthy options and plenty of vegetables on the menu as well as burgers and more standard bar fare. Drinks are strong and decent, and there’s a long beer list. $-$$, full bar. 250 E. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-313-7960; darkhorsebarandeatery.com

At the Brazilian steakhouse Bullvino’s Churrascaria in St. Paul’s Lowertown, food is served churrasco-style, in which servers roam the dining room with skewers of grilled meats such as chicken, pork, lamb and steak cuts for diners to choose from. Photographed May 4, 2021. (Nancy Ngo / St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Bullvino’s Churrascaria: This Brazilian steakhouse is expensive, but you get a lot of high-quality meat for that price tag. Grilled meats, often skewered on swords, are served by wandering servers, who dramatically slice bits of steak, lamb, and even chicken and sausage onto your plate until you either explode or turn over a little color-coded cardboard sign at your seat that tells them to stop. $$$, full bar. 289 E. Fifth St., St. Paul; 651-493-3397; bullvinos.com

Noyes & Cutler: The gorgeous space that formerly housed Public Kitchen + Bar has been re-concepted to a modern steakhouse. Chef Aaron Cave has a way with beef — the served-every-day prime rib is fantastic — but also with seafood and upscale comfort foods. Finally, it feels like the food here fits the space. $$-$$$, full bar. 229 E. Sixth St., St. Paul; 651-968-1050; noyescutler.com

Urban Wok: If you’re looking for a quick, nutritious bite, this build-your-own stir fry spot is an excellent choice. Pick your proteins, vegetables, starch (choose from a variety of noodles or rices or zucchini noodles) and sauce, and your creation is ready in a few minutes. $, beer and wine only. 209 E. Fourth St., St. Paul; urbanwokusa.com

Lost Fox: This coffee and sandwich shop by day has a casual dinner menu and cocktails, too. The digs, across from Union Depot, still look mostly the same as they did when most recent tenant Elephant Bar was operating, and that’s a good thing. If you’re looking for a place to warm up and grab an inexpensive bite, Lost Fox is a good bet. $, full bar. 214 E. Fourth St., St. Paul; 651-493-4694; lostfoxlowertown.com

Downtown St. Paul
Afro Deli’s Chicken Fantastic is truly fantastic. (Pioneer Press: Jess Fleming)

Afro Deli: For a flavor-packed, quick lunch downtown, Afro Deli is my favorite spot. African-spiced meats, chapati wraps, the hard-to-explain but oh-so-delicious chicken fantastic and even a cheeseburger are available on this eclectic menu. The space is bright and cheery, and the employees are always exceedingly friendly and willing to answer all your questions. $, no alcohol. 5 W. Seventh Place, St. Paul; 651-888-2168; afrodeli.com

Pillbox Tavern: For casual sandwiches and burgers that are way better than average, hit up this bar and grill, which opened just before the pandemic. Chef Graham Messenger, who has worked in some of the best kitchens in town, produces a bar-food menu at low price points. The Kung Pao Brussels sprouts are particular favorites. $, full bar. 400 N. Wabasha St., St. Paul; 651-756-7566; pillboxtav.com

Pepperoni pizza at Momento in downtown St. Paul. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Momento: Pazzaluna is no more, but Morrissey Hospitality (St. Paul Grill, Tria, Stockyards Tavern and many more) wisely kept the pizza oven and is making tasty pizza and other wood-fired entrees in the space the Pazzaluna bar once occupied. Cocktails are quick and well-balanced and the atmosphere is modern, with Adam Turman murals adorning the walls. $-$$, full bar. 360 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651-223-7000; momento-stp.com

Gray Duck Tavern: In the historic former Lowry Hotel, this restaurant has revamped its menu since the pandemic and is now serving hot dogs, burgers and other bar staples. $, full bar. 345 Wabasha St., St. Paul; 651-340-9022; grayduckstpaul.com

Cossetta/Louis: This long-standing Italian eatery boasts a giant deli, with pastas, sandwiches, salads and pizzas, but also the upscale eatery Louis on the second floor as well as a dazzling pasticceria, the interior of which was imported directly from Italy, and the sweets filling the bakery case are exquisite. Added during the pandemic, Frank’s Levee Tavern is serving Italian street foods. Deli: $, beer and wine only; Louis: $$-$$$, full bar; Frank’s: $-$$, full bar. 211 W. Seventh St., St. Paul; 651-222-3476; cossettas.com

St. Paul Grill: This clubby room is still the place to catch politicians and Winter Carnival royalty imbibing after a long day. The restaurant serves a classic menu of steak, chops and fish, a great burger, and the list of whiskeys and Scotch is one of the most extensive in town. $$-$$$, full bar. 350 Market St., St. Paul; 651-224-7455; stpaulgrill.com

Kincaid’s: There’s a killer happy hour at this fish and chophouse in the heart of downtown, but they also serve lunch and dinner. The seafood offerings are extensive, but there are also plenty of meaty options, including Wagyu sirloin. $$-$$$, full bar. 380 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651-602-9000; kincaids.com

Meritage: Oysters and bubbly after a walk through Rice Park to check out the ice palace and sculptures? Yes, please! Belly up and watch a chef shuck for you or grab a booth and canoodle with your sweetie for the perfect date night downtown. The menu of French specialties are sure to get you in the mood if the oysters don’t float your boat. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$, full bar. 410 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651-222-5670; meritage-stpaul.com

Herbie’s on the Park: This restaurant serves up comfort food and elegant cocktails in a beautiful, historic space on Rice Park. Sit at the gorgeous, front-and-center bar for a signature mule and a plate of wings or a burger and some hand-cut fries, or cozy up by the fireplace in the dining room for a hearty entree. $$-$$$, full bar. 317 Washington St., St. Paul; 651-726-1700; herbiesonthepark.com

Chili Sampler at The Loon in St. Paul. (Jess Fleming / Pioneer Press)

Loon Cafe St. Paul: Minneapolis’ favorite pre-game spot has opened in the former Great Waters spot in the historic Hamm Building, and it is serving its famous chilis, a long list of sandwiches and a bunch of fun appetizers, including a queso with spinach that we love. $, full bar. 426 St. Peter St., St. Paul; 651-330-4777; looncafestpaul.com

Pricing Guide

$: $10-$20 per person for a full meal

$$: $20-25 per person for a full meal

$$$: $25 or more per person for a full meal

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