Sakura Blossoms

After years of renovations St. Paul's longtime treasure Sakura cries out for rediscovery

These home-style meals and casual, inexpensive snacks prove an irresistible draw for two fairly disparate groups: first, homesick Japanese expats, often 3M and Unisys employees, who can be found at two or three tables near the sushi bar, and second, youngish St. Paul couples with a child or two in tow. Nearly every time I've been to Sakura I've seen a table or two with a little blond-headed child munching on a chicken skewer or gumming a tempura shrimp.

I spoke to Miyoko Omori, Sakura's owner, on the phone for this story, and she told me that these St. Paul children have been instrumental to Sakura's past. She started the restaurant when her marriage dissolved, on little but hope and prayers. "When I first opened in Galtier Plaza, we had a lot of babies come in, not like most Japanese restaurants," she said. "First, they might eat rice, or chicken on skewers. Then, over time, I've seen it so many times, they just start eating authentic Japanese food. Now these babies grew up to be young women and young men. They come in on a date. They see me grow from zero to what I have now. I see them grow from zero, too, and now they bring in their own little ones.

"There's always a family feeling in St. Paul," Omori continues. "It fits my personality, I'm a homey person. My theory for restaurants is, I want people to go out of here with a happy face. I try to give them a warm meal and a friendly face that brings it to them."

Sakura's slow and painstaking renovation was worth the wait
Jana Freiband
Sakura's slow and painstaking renovation was worth the wait

Location Info

Map

Sakura

350 St. Peter St.
St. Paul, MN 55102

Category: Restaurant > Japanese

Region: St. Paul (Downtown)

I told Omori that it was unusual for someone to have such humble ambitions, especially after such a hard-fought expansion. It was also unusual, I noted, not to raise the prices to reflect it. Which is when she told me about the radical theories that underlie Sakura now. "When you get older," she told me, "you don't ask for so many things as you want to when you're young. Dozens of purses, a better car. What I have now is appreciated, being healthy, not so much material stuff. What I want now is to get [the restaurant] stabilized, and then I want to do volunteer work for children who don't have parents. That's the only thing left to do on this earth, I think. So many people have given me so much, I want to give back in return or I will never feel okay."

And that is exactly what makes Sakura such a sock in the eye.

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