It's been an exciting spring at Union Depot in St. Paul. Choo Choo Bob's opened in early May, then Amtrak's Borealis line debuted a few weeks later. Now the owners of the historic Lake Elmo Inn have announced that they will open a restaurant at the rail station in mid-July. The news came Tuesday after Ramsey County approved the lease.

Owners John and Christine Schiltz envision the restaurant, called 1881 by Lake Elmo, to be a place that merges "the charm of a storied past with modern culinary flair, drawing visitors, passengers and locals." (1881 is the year the original Union Depot and the Lake Elmo Inn opened.)

"We want to offer an experience that generations can cherish," Schiltz said in a statement, "just as my own childhood memories of taking the train from Union Depot have stayed with me."

Ramsey County officials have high hopes for the onetime community hub, which helped spur Lowertown growth before the pandemic. The depot is still trying to gain a foothold, although events such as the European Market Christmas Market have helped mount a bit of a resurgence.

"There's just a lot of really good momentum going on here," Lindsay Boyd, the station's general manager, told the Star Tribune in an earlier interview. "I am excited for people to be able to enjoy this property as it's intended and celebrate all the great things that are going on here."

Schiltz said he's "thrilled" to be a part of it. "Opening at Union Depot is the culmination of a long-held dream," he said. "We've been captivated by this space for years and have always seen the potential for a restaurant that could match its historic grandeur. When the opportunity arose ... we knew it was the right move."

The restaurant will be a family affair, with Frank Hopp, Christine Schiltz's son, and Anna Schiltz, John's daughter, both part of the day-to-day operation. The menu, from executive chef Michael Pearson, is inspired by the flagship restaurant and will include both Lake Elmo Inn favorites as well as new offerings made with locally sourced ingredients.

Also look for a bar with craft cocktails, an extensive wine list, a kids' menu and housemade desserts, including the classic Sin of the Inn — a pecan crust filled with caramel, white satin and chocolate ganache topped with white chocolate mousse.

The restaurant officially opens July 18. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., happy hour specials from 2 to 5 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Find more information at