St. Paul eats

Take a look beyond Minneapolis food.

Nam-Khao and papaya salad sit on a table Tuesday at On's Kitchen in St. Paul. Nam-Khao, a more traditional thai dish, features spiced rice, sausage, peanuts and coconut in a lime vinaigrette.

Sam Harper

Nam-Khao and papaya salad sit on a table Tuesday at On's Kitchen in St. Paul. Nam-Khao, a more traditional thai dish, features spiced rice, sausage, peanuts and coconut in a lime vinaigrette.

Yena Lee

Whether it’s casual eats or fine dining, most students are well versed in Minneapolis’ foodie culture — however, most forget about the nosh St. Paul has to offer. 
 
 
St. Paul’s dining game is as strong as ever with Lowertown becoming a hot spot for new, hip restaurants. 
 
 
Even with the noteworthy newer restaurants on the block, there are some celebrated gems nestled in the city. 
 
 
Casual eats
 
 
On’s Kitchen
 
 
Passing by the restaurant, you wouldn’t even think twice about entering. Located on University Avenue West, this Thai restaurant is neighbor to “e-cig professionals” and an adult boutique.
 
 
The saving grace is, of course, the food. On’s has an extensive menu full of kitschy Thai food favorites and authentic dishes.
 
 
Whether your taste buds lie with a plate of pad thai or nam khao, On’s doesn’t joke around with spiciness. 
 
 
Midwestern tongues beware — if you ask for a seven out of 10, be prepared for a fire-breathing kind of spicy.  
 
 
1613 University Ave. W., St. Paul
 
 
The Nook
 
 
It’s not just another burger place. The Nook even has bowling alleys for customers to enjoy with their food.
 
 
The menu is large — there are enough options to satisfy every type of burger craving. 
 
 
There tends to be some waiting at any time of day. However, the food will all be worth it. Plus, Guy Fieri recently featured the restaurant (for the second time) as part of the country’s 15 best burgers on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” 
 
 
492 S. Hamline Ave., St. Paul
 
 
Cafe Latté 
 
 
It’s basically a giant cafeteria; however, the food won’t bring back memories of Centennial Hall slop. 
 
Cafe Latté’s menu changes daily, but the quality of food stays consistent. Unlike the usual cafeteria fare, Cafe Latté’s staff prepares menu offerings right in front of you. 
 
 
Also, the restaurant’s bakery section is top notch. Different breads and scones are offered every day, though classics like the St. Paul Sourdough never leave the menu. If breads and scones are too savory for you, you can also order cake by the slice.
 
 
850 Grand Ave., St. Paul
 
 
Pricier options
 
 
Meritage
 
 
If you asked me to name a fancy St. Paul restaurant off the top of my head, I’d say Meritage. Meritage is a French brasserie headed by husband-and-wife duo Russell Klein and Desta Maree Klein. 
 
 
The food isn’t cheap, and the menu is hard to understand if you don’t know basic French food words. But the great flavors explain why Meritage has been open since 2007.
 
 
With many of the Twin Cities’ finest restaurants shutting their doors recently, Meritage’s performance is admirable.  
 
 
Also — they have one hell of a brunch.
 
 
410 St. Peter St., St. Paul
 
 
Saint Dinette
 
 
Although the restaurant just opened last year, it’s gained traction in the St. Paul food scene.
 
 
Chef Adam Eaton, formerly of La Belle Vie, crafted Saint Dinette’s menu from North American culinary cultures. You can find a bologna sandwich that will taste nothing like what you expect. And in contrast, Saint Dinette also serves a classic cheeseburger — although different in styles, they both taste divine. 
 
 
261 E. Fifth St., St. Paul