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The 12 Best Neighborhood Intersections in St. Paul

Lexington & Grand, Chavez & State, and more of the Saintly City's crucial corners.

Photo by Weston M. via Unsplash

There are thousands of intersections in St. Paul. But they’re not all created equal.

In determining this list of the city’s very best, I used my own methodology. The key question is what constitutes an “intersection.” How far away from a corner can we include a business, bar or restaurant? In this case, I drew an imaginary radius of approximately 300 feet (half a St. Paul block length-wise, or one block short-wise). Anything falling in the circle was fair game, though I had to be approximate in places without a straightforward grid.

Some honorable mentions of corners that didn’t make the cut: West Seventh Street & Michigan have a solid and diverse restaurant base with Tori Ramen, Pajarito, and Keenan’s Bar. Add in the CSPS Hall and Cooper’s Foods, and it’s rock-star old-meets-new. On the other side of town, if you like working-class immigrant food, it’s hard to top East Seventh & Arcade with a half-dozen Korean, Central American, and Mexican restaurants and markets surrounding the state’s only Mexican consulate. At least until Tavern on Grand finally closes, the corner of Grand & Dale will always be special to me, with Cucaracha, an excellent hardware store and other shops alongside the city’s best liquor store (at least according to Racket). Get there to admire the Gorbachev mementos while you can. 

Finally, if I made this list a few years from now,  it would have to include Payne & Case. With Brunson’s Pub and Tongue in Cheek already in place alongside classic flower, uniform, and shoe stores, it’s already great. And the corner is about to get a big Latino restaurant incubator slash food hall. Check back in a few years to have your mind and taste buds blown. 

And as for the best intersections in Minneapolis? We've got a list of those right here.

Google Streetview

12. Grand & Snelling

Food and drink: Breadsmith, Bar + Cart, My Burger, Jamba Juice, St. Paul Cheese Shop, Dunn Bros (OG), Nothing Bundt Cakes, Caribou Coffee
Other things: Next Chapter Books, Macalester College

The original (almost entirely unchanged) Dunn Brothers is a good place to start, and the corner of Grand & Snelling is one of my favorite places to chain shop. Bar + Cart is an amazing addition (the old Khyber Pass location) and a rare St. Paul late-night spot.

The bookstore is great. My Burger is affordable, I guess. (I don’t know what they sell at Nothing Bundt Cakes.) The only downside here is that Coastal Seafood moved from its old strip mall; along with Macalester College taking up half the intersection, it limits the potential. Add in the must-have baked goods at Breadsmith and possibly the city’s best sandwiches at St. Paul Cheese Shop, this is a power corner for the bougie and the broke college kid alike.

Inside the Uptowner Café on GrandGoogle Maps

11. Lexington & Grand

Food and drink: Uptowner, Bravo, The Lex, Iron Ranger, Woullet Bakery
Other things: Irish on Grand, Good things gifts, the Spectacle Shop

Just a mile east, Lexington and Grand has some legendary spots. Most notably you’ll find The Lexington in all its 1940s old-school glory. (I went to my prom dinner there; today it’s both exactly the same, and much better.) 

Add in a great cake bakery, a tiny Taiwanese cream puff joint, and a down-to-earth Iron Range-themed pub serving porketta, pasties, and a good selection of craft beer. Start your day with a breakfast at the never-changing Uptowner Café, you could happily spend the rest of it without leaving this corner.

Em Cassel

10. University & Western

Food and drink: Mandalay Kitchen, Peking Garden, Thai Cafe, Little Szechuan.
Other things: Hmong American Partnership, Little Saigon Supermarket, Langano Ethiopian Market

Bring friends to Little Szechuan hot pot joint for a uniquely delicious collective experience; its bright yellow building also hosts an ever changing array of small entrepreneurial Asian-American businesses. Across the street sits Peking Garden, which transformed the old Mai Village location’s koi pond and Chinese wood architecture into St. Paul’s most bustling Chinese restaurant. Mandalay Kitchen is the city’s newest Burmese joint, serving food you can’t find anywhere else (at least not written in English). The Thai place is the first one I ever went to in St. Paul, over 20 years ago. There are a few small-scale Asian markets, and even an Ethiopian one with coffee and deli food: all reasons to explore the heart of “Little Mekong.”

Google Reviews

9. University & Raymond

Food and drink: Herbst, Spicy Feta, Dual Citizen, Caffe Biaggio, Key’s Café (OG), Workhorse Coffee, Dogwood Coffee, Roundtable Coffee
Other things: Twin Cities Reptiles, Barely Brothers Records, Noll Hardware, Shag Studio, Minnesota School of Bartending.

I once shopped at Herbst when it was a weird old grocery with canned vegetables; it’s now a high-end farm-to-table restaurant. This is an up-and-coming corner, with no fewer than three great coffee shops. There are at least two spots for both high- and low-brow dining, and a brewery that awaits to hold any number of friends coming off the light rail. Throw in one of St. Paul’s weirdest local businesses in Twin City Reptiles, and Sharrett’s Liquors anchoring the venerable “Security Building,” and you have the best of the Green Line.

Facebook: Shamrock's Grill & Pub

8. West Seventh & James

Food and drink: White Squirrel, Joe & Stan’s, Shamrocks, Pi Chay Thai
Other things: Center for Lost Objects, North Garden Theater, St. Francis Bowling, Music Go Round, Shop Country Vintage, Daily Dose Retro, Best Pawn Jandrich Floral, 7th Street Tattoo, Artista Bottega gallery, St. Paul gallery

It’s hard to beat these two bars: Joe and Stan’s, a great dive with pull tabs, deep fried tacos, bingo and karaoke, and White Squirrel, an elegant and intimate spot for amazing cocktails and a rotation of great bands on a small stage. A half-dozen interesting shops make this corner a must for window shopping, and with arguably the city’s best burgers at the (always packed) Shamrock’s Bar and a solid hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, this corner showcases West Seventh Street.

Google Streetview

7. Como & Carter

Food and drink: Nico’s Tacos, Finnish Bistro, Colossal Café, Lanna Thai
Other things: Marigold, Little Wine Shoppe, Tim and Tom’s Market, Fratallone’s, Carnegie library

The jolly English village vibes might be a bit much, but you can’t find its match for walkability and quality this side of Minneapolis's Linden Hills. Everything you need is within a stone’s throw of the gas station. What I like most is the small-scale diversity: a coffee shop, a restaurant with beer, a restaurant with tequila, a Thai place, plus basically every other staple good you might want. Tim and Tom’s is my favorite metro corner market, and the hardware store covers everything else but clothing. An N/A wine and CBD shop moved into the old liquor store, while it moved kitty-corner cross the street. Next to the best Carnegie library in the metro, verily this corner defines quaint.

6. Grand & Cambridge

Food and drink: Italian pie shoppe, STP meat shop, Pad Thai, French Meadow, Sencha, Indochin
Other things: Patagonia, Wet Paint, indie bookstore, Fratallone’s

In my mind, this corner is a satellite of the Macalester College campus, which is why it’s so nice. (I’m pretty sure they own most of the buildings.) Everything here is the cream of the crop. Patagonia speaks for itself. Wet Paint, Fratallone’s, and St. Paul Meat Shop are all best in class. French Meadow has admirably taken the place of the old coffee shop. Sencha, Indochin, and Pad Thai are all good, and just different enough to make it interesting. There’s even a tiny used bookstore and local tee shirt place to sate your endless collegiate (or reunion) curiosity.  

Google Streetview

5. Ford & Cleveland

Food and drink: Centro, Highland Grill, Panera, Quixotic Coffee, Tiffany’s, Icchido Ramen
Other things: Half Price Books, Target, the OG STP strip mall, Schuler Shoes, Highland Theater

Ah, Highland, where you can almost smell the midcentury vibes. “The Village,” as the olds say, remains a place to be. It’s not great for restaurants, though Centro is a nice change of pace, but Tiff’s is a legendary Tommie hangout and Half Price Books and a tiny Target make this a retail destination too. Quixotic Coffee is excellent if you can find a table, and Highland Grill boasts arguably the best happy hour in the city. Throw in a few chains and old-school shops, and this is St. Paul strip mall heaven.

4. Grand & Victoria

Food and drink: Billy’s, Café Latte, Bread and Chocolate, Chipotle, Cooks/Bellecour
Other things: Trade Winds, Lovesac, EVEREVE, Poppy Fun Fashion, Red Balloon, Mischief Toys, CorePower, so many salons

Café Latte is an unchanging world to itself. No matter what the neighbors mutter, I’ll always appreciate Billy’s, the only truly grimy spot on the Avenue. Bread and Chocolate brims with the North Face crowd, and you can’t go wrong with a Chipotle burrito. 

That said, this corner’s at a nadir. Grand Place, the ill-fated 2000s retail development with parking where the housing should go, is now completely empty. Once the best shopping corner in the city, though, this place still punches above its weight. Red Balloon, Mischief Toys, and Cooks/Bellecour are A+ shops, and add in seemingly every salon in the 651, and the most walkable sidewalks in the city just need two things: more housing and something to fill the empty “mall.”

Facebook: @Cossettas

3. West Seventh & Chestnut

Food and drink: Cossetta, Downtowner Woodfire, Burger Moe’s, New Bohemia, "Truck Park”, McGovern’s, Tom Reid’s
Other things: Wescott Station, Maharaja’s

I have a love/hate relationship to Cossetta, but you can’t argue with its vibrancy. You can always count on both a crowd and Sinatra music, plus all sorts of nooks full of everything from “gabagoul” to pizza slices to a 3D diorama of the old flats neighborhood. Along with Downtowner Woodfire, this is peak Boomer culture.

The corner’s other bars, often full of hockey fans or concert crowds, make up for in quantity what they lack in quality. You could write a whole novel about Wescott Station Antiques, and Maharaja’s should be on the national register just for staying in business this long. 

2. Chavez & State

Food and drink: El Burrito, la Costa, Papa Legba, El Charrito, El Rincon Chalateco, Don Panchos Bakery
Other things: La Monarca Supermercado, Neighborhood House, Hill’s Floral

The heart of the West Side, this corner is synonymous with a century of Mexican-American history. It boasts two mercados, most notably El Burrito and its excellent deli and restaurant. When it’s warm out, their patio is hopping with folks munching elotes. 

Both bars are now fascinating spots: La Costa for sports and Papa Legba for music and neighborhood vibes. There’s an old-school bakery, and a Salvadorean hole in the wall. Neighborhood House around the corner has been a center of the community for generations. This corner should be on everyone's short list.

1. Selby & Western

Food and drink: Red Cow, Handsome Hog, Nina’s, WA Frost, Moscow on the Hill, Yumi Sushi
Other things: YWCA, The Coven, very many salons, Boyd Park

My favorite St. Paul corner, with amazing architecture, walkable sidewalks, and a good smattering of bourgeois diversity. The heart of the “patio district”, you’ll find some of the best restaurant vibes in the city in WA Frost, Moscow on the Hill, and Nina’s Coffee. Handsome Hog’s happy hour is excellent. Red Cow is popular. (RIP Costello’s.) Even the new sushi place seems solid, though I miss the old stationery shop.

With a unique basement arcade, the Blair Arcade is among the most magnificent buildings in the city. The YWCA is the city’s best place to see people on treadmills in old Victorian storefronts. Boyd Park, named for an historic “red cap” porter, has top shelf toddler equipment and public instruments. This is peak St. Paul.

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