Thanks to Blue Sky Bookkeeping for their support.
There’s a common misconception that West St. Paul is devoid of sit-down restaurants. It likely stems from the chains on Robert Street (like Red Lobster and Timberlodge Steakhouse) that closed decades ago. However, there are many more table service restaurants in West St. Paul than you might realize. My family recently visited four of West St. Paul’s local sit-down restaurants, and will be checking out the rest for an upcoming article.
Be Kind to Your Servers
The past year of the pandemic has been very difficult for all restaurants, but especially those that rely more on dining-in versus takeout. As more people become vaccinated, diners are starting to return. However, restaurants are still struggling with staffing shortages, so if you’re like me and ready to get back out there and start dining out again, make sure to be patient, kind, and tip your servers well!
Sit-Down Restaurant Reviews
Here’s the first half of our sit-down restaurant reviews:
1385 S. Robert Street / beirutrestaurantanddeli.com
I lived in West St. Paul for more than a decade before I ever tried Beirut, which is a shame, because I was missing out!
The dining room, which underwent a refresh just prior to the pandemic, is clean and intimate. If it’s your first time dining at Beirut, you can’t go wrong ordering the mezza—a huge spread of 10 appetizers, kabobs, and rice pilaf. The falafel is crispy and topped with a light tahini sauce. The tabouli is super fresh with a lemony, garlicky tang.
My favorite thing to order are the combination kabobs, so I can enjoy either a chicken or beef kebob alongside a kafta kebob (a ground meat mixture of beef and lamb). The kabobs are served with a satisfying rice pilaf and the star of the meal—the garlic sauce. This Lebanese staple is really more of a paste than a sauce, made from pureed garlic and lemon. It’s a perfect spread for grilled meats or pita, and you can buy a tub to bring home.
433 Mendota Road E. / blvdtavern.com
The extensive menu at BLVD is sure to have something that will please everyone in your party. The sports bar off Christiansen Avenue and Mendota Road has a huge indoor area and a newly expanded patio, if you’re not quite ready to dine indoors just yet.
Our group ordered burgers, Nashville hot sliders, and a chicken quesadilla and were all very happy with our choices. Everyone in particular loved the lightly battered and crisp cheese curds that came with a sweet berry sauce. The bourbon bacon juicy lucy was topped with a salty and sweet warm bacon jam. The sliders had fresh slaw to counteract the Nashville spice. BLVD also has a wide variety of wings (such as Haiti’s Hot, Jamacian Jerk, Bayou Baked, and more traditional options like buffalo, BBQ, and teriyaki) that I’d like to try next time.
There’s an extensive beer list with surprisingly adventurous craft choices available on tap and canned/bottled. There were so many choices of things to eat and drink, we’ll need a return visit soon.
1288 S. Robert Street / fireside-lounge.com
This small and unassuming brick restaurant on Robert Street touts itself as the “Cheers of West St. Paul” and they’re not wrong. Walking into Fireside feels a little bit like walking into a stranger’s wood paneled basement—everyone seems to know each other and that can feel a little intimidating. But don’t let that deter you. You can see why this place has a lot of regulars.
We were seated in a cozy corner booth by a very friendly server and enjoyed a tasty, home cooked meal. The Philly steak sandwich was piled with mushrooms, peppers, and chunks of tender steak that I ordered with a good sized serving of tater tots. My sons each had burgers, and the cheese curd burger was huge and well prepared. The Monte Cristo was a hit at the table as well, stacked high with ham and turkey and served with a strawberry cream cheese dipping sauce.
Fireside serves breakfast daily with a vast selection of breakfast items, from omelets, to stuffed French toast, to a giant Cajun breakfast topped in lemony hollandaise.
973 Smith Avenue S. / foodsmithpub.com
FoodSmith feels like the kind of restaurant that West St. Paul has needed—a chef-driven restaurant with fantastic cocktails served in a clubby environment. A meal at FoodSmith can be as casual or fancy as you want to make it. You can stop in for a lunch of the crispy pub fries served with a tangy aioli, the stellar bistro pub burger topped with jammy onions, or the fresh pesto and havarti chicken sandwich. Or you can have a night out and enjoy entrees like the salmon or the spaeztle, chewy little dumplings served in a creamy cheese sauce, paired with one of the many craft cocktails on their list. My favorite is the walnut old fashioned, which adds a sophisticated twist on a classic. There’s also a small patio for outdoor dining.
FoodSmith recently introduced Sunday brunch, which I can’t wait to try.
For fans of owners’ Ann and Robert Ulrich’s previous restaurant, Mendoberri, some of those menu items like the Viennese chicken schnitzel have found a new home at FoodSmith.
Watch for part two of our series on sit-down restaurants.
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