I know we all live in our own little curated digital bubbles, but my bubble typically includes food and drink news, Twin Cities news, and Twin Cities food and drink news. So I need an explanation for how it is that last week, after scrolling upon an Instagram profile with a little crowned fish as its avatar, I was left thinking, “Hmm, Chip’s Clubhouse? Now what do we have here?”
Chip’s, I learned after a little searching, has been hiding in plain sight. Since opening early last year, which might explain some of my ignorance (I hardly ate in any restaurants during the time I was unvaccinated), its team has been racking up accolades. General manager Tara Coleman (who’s behind Hot Hands Pie & Biscuit) was one of the Star Tribune’s “unstoppable chefs” of 2021; she runs the spot in St. Paul’s Tangletown neighborhood with chef Gina Mangiameli (who moved from Chicago to take the gig) and bar manager Tim Leary (Strip Club Meat & Fish, Hai Hai). It was one of Minnesota Monthly’s best new restaurants last year.
So… I guess that’s on me, then. Time to check it out.
The menu is a barfly’s dream, full of pub favorites with a modern twist. You’ve got classics—Chip’s Pot Roast, Spaghetti and Meatballs—and decidedly less traditionally pubby options like Cheesy Chicken Floutas and a Vegan Bacon Cheeseburger.
In that way, Chip’s reminded me a bit of Bull’s Horn, one of the best bars in Minneapolis, where the standouts are also the staples. Both boast a top-tier, reasonably priced smash burger ($10.95 at Chip’s, $9.75 at Bull’s Horn) and both offer a mushroom patty melt, which for my money is a perfect sandwich. Like Bull’s Horn, which pivoted to take-home ramen kits during the pandemic, Chip’s offers Pork Belly Ramen ($17.95). It’s a little unexpected next to fish and chips and creamed spinach, but it also makes sense—few stews are heartier than glazed pork belly swimming in spicy tonkotsu broth.
We snagged one of the half-dozen high tops in the bar area on the left and settled in with some cocktails—a velvety little bourbon number called The Falcon and a sharp, tart Cardinal, a fizzy blend of vodka, raspberry, and cava (both $12.95). It was a quiet weeknight, with just a few other people sharing drinks as soul songs fuzzed out of the speakers.
I was delighted to see an appetizer listed here that hadn’t appeared online: Buffalo Chicken Dip ($12.95) served with House Doritos. (House! Doritos!) Of course we ordered it, and of course it was great, served warm with crumbles of blue cheese alongside the “Doritos,” which tasted like a less aggressively seasoned version of the stuff you’d find in a Frito-Lay bag, the herbs pulverized a few degrees short of their trademarked counterpart.
We switched to the cheap stuff—Hamm’s and High Life are both among the brewskis Chip’s offers—and ordered some sandwiches. The burger felt like a requisite at a spot like this, and we got the pub-appropriate Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich as well.
The tenderloin was incredible and comically huge; “sandwich” here is used loosely. The skinny, schnitzel-like piece of meat takes up nearly the entire plate on which it’s served. Its bun looks like a silly little hat hiding a small pile of slaw, and a drizzle of mustardy aioli zigzags across the whole thing. You’ll need a knife and fork to tackle it, but wow is it ever worth it.
The burger is a pretty big boy too, simply dressed with garlic aioli and American cheese and snappy onions and long, skinny pickles. It’s savory and perfect in the way a classic cheeseburger should be, nestled in a squishy, buttery bun. Would recommend.
If the photos I’ve shared here look a little orange, that’s not because I’m bad at editing photos. (OK fine, it’s not just because I’m bad at editing photos.) Chip’s is dimly lit, and everything is washed under warm orange lighting that adds to the cozy feeling. It’s comfortable, with deep green and ochre walls that make the space feel intimate and brick accents behind the bar that give you the sense that it’s been here forever, even if it did only open last year.
The space is small and unassuming—we literally drove past the place and had to circle back to find it under its small green awning—which makes it feel all the more intimate. (Look for the signage for Coleman’s Hot Hands Pie & Biscuit next door if you miss it.)
Welcome to my bubble, Chip’s. We’ll be back.
272 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul
Wednesday – Saturday: 5-9 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.; 5-8 p.m.