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Need to grab something quick for lunch? These fast spots—from the decades-old institutions to some newer places—are sure to please. They also showcase the wide variety of cuisines available in West St. Paul. You can try something new and globally inspired, without ever leaving town.
Counter Service Restaurant Reviews
Here are our reviews of some of the local fast casual places to eat in West St. Paul:
1264 S. Robert Street / alibababestgyros.com
Ali Baba has been serving Greek and Lebanese food on Robert Street since the 1990s, surviving a brief stint with competitor Dino’s Gyros directly across the street. They are a family-owned restaurant with a large menu of combination dinners, entrees, sandwiches, and appetizers. They serve tasty offerings like creamy, fresh made hummus, a variety of kabobs, crispy fried falafel, and spanakopita.
When I am stopping in for a quick lunch, I usually choose one of the combination specials advertised on a sign at the front counter. On a recent visit, we ordered a gyro sandwich, well-spiced lamb shaved thin on a warm, pillowy pita. We also ordered a gyro plate, which had the same lamb on top of a bed of fluffy, turmeric-spiced yellow rice. Both were topped with a bright tzatziki sauce. The sandwich meal comes with a drink and crisp, fresh French fries. You can also purchase gyro meat by the pound to enjoy at home.
There is a small, unassuming dining room (that when we visited was closed for COVID-19) and a recent addition of picnic tables on a front patio.
879 Smith Avenue S. / amorecoffee.com
I wouldn’t say I chose my house solely on its proximity to Amore Coffee, but it certainly factored into the decision. When you’re a regular at Amore, the staff will greet you by name, know what you like to order, and the ultra cozy, laid back atmosphere will function like a second living room. Amore has a chalkboard menu full of your typical and creative coffee and tea drinks. My go-to is Vienna, a latte with honey and cinnamon, that is always expertly crafted by the friendly staff.
In addition to comforting beverages, Amore also is a solid choice for lunch, either eaten at the coffee shop or packaged to go. Pretty much everyone in my family likes to order the soup and sandwich combo. The soup rotates daily and is always chock full of warm, homemade flavor. My kids are excited when tomato basil is on the menu, but I love the chicken enchilada, beef and tortellini, and the exceptionally creamy chicken wild rice. There’s a wide variety of sandwich fixings and breads to please everyone. I usually go for a turkey with avocado, but a BLT on a bagel also hits the spot.
870 Dodd Road / elcubanorestaurante.com
Located at West St. Paul’s most frustrating corner, El Cubano gives you a reason to stop your car instead of trying to sail through as fast as possible. The restaurant started as a food truck and opened a physical location in June 2019. The restaurant weathered the pandemic by turning its tiny parking lot into an adorable patio with palm thatched roofs. It feels like a little tropical getaway in the middle of West St. Paul.
The food feels like a getaway too—with a large menu of Cuban and Dominican flavors. You can’t go wrong ordering any of the sandwiches, particularly the Cubano, with tender shredded pork, ham, and swiss grilled crisp and served with yuca fries. The yuca is made even better with the house Mojito dip—a tangy garlic oil. The plates are excellent as well. On a recent visit I tried a special with thin slices of steak and sweet red peppers, served on a bed of rice with black beans and plantains. The appetizers are practically meals themselves, like the papa rellena (a decadent ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with meat and deep fried), empanadas, croquetas, and loaded tostones (plantains topped with onions, pork, and cilantro lime sauce).
World Famous Momo
1318 S. Robert Street / Facebook
I had never tried momo before World Famous Momo opened, though I have always been a huge fan of any kind of dumpling. Momo are Nepalese dumplings filled with meat and vegetables. World Famous Momo opened on Robert Street in June of 2021, with a small but mighty menu of steamed momo, fried momo, samosa, bara, and mango lassi drinks.
The momo are filled with spiced chicken, and have a flavor profile reminiscent of curry. I preferred the fried momo, which are seared on the bottom like a potsticker, and steamed on top. The samosas were also stellar, stuffed with potatoes, peas, and spice wrapped in a crispy fried shell. Both momo and samosas come with spicy tomato sauce and tangy tamarind sauce.
The owners were extremely friendly and gave us mango lassi to try, which caused us to immediately order a couple to share. They were refreshing and sweet, but not cloying. Everything was fresh and homemade, and you can dig in right there at one of their tables, take it home to enjoy, or even buy frozen to cook yourself.
For more to eat in West St. Paul, see our other restaurant reviews—which will include several other local fast casual places not included in this round up.
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