Momento Restaurant + Bar is betting on downtown St. Paul.
Its location is a familiar one — the former Pazzaluna. Like its predecessor, Momento is operated by Morrissey Hospitality, which also has the St. Paul Grill. But unlike the previous occupant, the restaurant is about half the size and filled with natural light and light-colored fixtures. The seats and booths are more casual, and an open-air bar anchors the center of the room. The menu is also completely remade, with casual fare to suit office lunchers, weekend brunchers, happy-hour goers and even families wandering in from nearby Rice Park.
In the back are two massive murals from local artist Adam Turman, whose distinctive, colorful depictions are filled with Minnesota fun. A couple of neon signs create Instagram moments so potent that even we couldn't resist hoisting up a burger and snapping a pic.
Location: 360 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-223-7000, momento-stp.com.
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri-Sat.
The food: One important piece of Pazzaluna that has remained is the wood-fired oven. Dishes that lean on the cooking method include wings, pizzas and a side of roasted cauliflower. Appetizers start at $12 for bacon-loaded French fries and entrees are priced up to $24 for salmon coated in Calabrian chile-spiked honey.
The In and Around Burger ($14) was presented as an homage to the California fast-food chain In and Out Burger, but the result was more steakhouse than drive-through. A hefty beef patty is topped with caramelized onions, cheddar, tomato, lettuce and a special sauce. And a sausage pizza ($21) arrives with legitimately spicy Calabrian chiles and a smattering of fresh arugula.
Kids and those who never pass up a chance to play with food will love the build-your-own ice cream sandwiches for dessert ($10.) Chocolate chip-toffee cookies arrive warm from the oven along with an array of toppings — M&Ms, chocolate chips, maple-glazed pecans — and large scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Drinks: Beers on tap include popular local players alongside big-name brands as well as an N/A beer from Bauhaus. The short and well-selected wine list suits casual drinkers at affordable by-the-glass prices that range from $8-$16. There's a super Tuscan for $12.
The full bar pours classic cocktails ($9-$11), including a smoked Old Fashioned made with rye. And a tart ginger shrub is among the four nonalcoholic craft cocktails ($6-$7).
Social hour heralds the return of happy hour with $4 draft beers, $6 wine, $7 cocktails and food discounts.
The vibe: The vibe check is set to casual: flip-flops and jorts are as welcome as Dockers and Perry Ellis.
Fresh air: There's expanded outdoor seating on the sidewalk alongside the restaurant that gets some nice afternoon shade, ideal for warm-weather happy hours.