The flood of openings that hit — and transformed — the Saintly City’s dining scene during the past 12 months was almost too great to measure. But here goes.
After portions of the Market House Collaborative revealed themselves in late 2017, all the components — Octo Fishbar, Peterson Craftsman Meats, Almanac Fish, the Salty Tart and Birch’s Lowertown, along with a crowd-pleasing winter home for the St. Paul Farmers Market — coalesced, in a great way, in 2018.
That Lowertown project was bookended on the calendar by Keg and Case Market. The impressive food hall is drawing legions of diners to a long ignored treasure — the historic Schmidt Brewery complex — with a well-curated mix of the familiar (Sweet Science Ice Cream, Five Watt Coffee, Bogart’s Doughnut Co., Rose Street Patisserie), the fascinating (Forest to Fork mushrooms, Worker B honey products, House of Halva desserts) and the first-rate (Revival Smoked Meats, Clutch Brewing Co., Gatza & Enhancements cheese and In Bloom). How fortunate for Twin Citians that the region’s first modern-day food hall, a trend sweeping the country, is a textbook example of how to do it right.
These two projects weren’t the only newsmakers. Hyacinth brought immense charm, fantastic pasta and deft seasonal cooking to Grand Avenue.
After nearly 20 food-free years at the St. Paul Downtown Airport, Holman’s Table drew diners — at breakfast, lunch and dinner — back to the Art Moderne beauty that is the former administration building. Waldmann Brewery & Wurstery delivered a taste of Germany — through food and lagers — to a meticulously restored and utterly appealing property from the 1850s.
Minneapolitans turned eastward. Rose Street Patisserie, Red Rabbit, Parlour and Nico’s Taco & Tequila Bar all crossed the river, reviving a Starbucks outlet at Snelling and Selby avenues, taking over the former Wild Onion on Grand Avenue, lighting up W. 7th Street near the Xcel Energy Center and replacing what had been the 40-year home of Muffuletta, respectively.
And World Street Kitchen chef Sameh Wadi turned his affection for seafood boils into a global adventure at Grand Catch (more good news on that front can be summarized in two delicious words: weekend brunch).
Finally, Tom Forti converted his Sunrise Market and Cafe into the Iron Ranger (porketta! potika! pasties!) and chef Nate Docken delivered an approachable tasting-menu approach to downtown with Just/Us. Phew.
(Runner-up: With the debuts of Pearl and the Thief, Feller and Brick & Bourbon — along with the late 2017 debut of the Velveteen — Stillwater enjoyed a banner year.)