7th Street Social is hit or miss

The new St. Paul eatery jumps between highs and lows

7th Street Social is hit or miss

Don't miss our photos from 7th Street Social...

Let's begin by clearing up one significant detail: Though 7th Street Social has a similar moniker, the new St. Paul restaurant is not associated with Northeast Social or Eat Street Social. Rather, as a server informed us, the term "social" refers to the design of their menu, which is composed of dishes large and small that are meant to be shared.

These two little nuggets of knowledge are good to keep in mind when ordering, first because the portions are absolutely colossal, and second because the bar program at 7th Street doesn't take the same approach as the other unrelated Socials. Though somewhat adventurous in flavor and ingredient combinations, the cocktails here aren't made with designer bitters or topped with a frothy cap of whipped egg white. Drinks may be devilishly strong — like the St. Paul Sour, which was indeed mouth-puckering, with Bulleit rye, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a float of red wine — and other times so gentle you might wonder if there's any alcohol in them at all, like the Dirty Boy, a Jameson, ginger, and grapefruit drink that went down like breakfast-bar juice. This uneven treatment applies to the overall experience at 7th Street Social, which was marked by inconsistency and a stark range of highs and lows that left us wondering what the average visit was really like.

The house-cured salmon plate is a safe bet
Alma Guzman for City Pages
The house-cured salmon plate is a safe bet

Details

7TH STREET SOCIAL
2176 W. Seventh St., St. Paul
651-330-4688; seventhstreetsocial.comsmall plates $4-$12; entrees $12-$24

Related Stories

More About

West Seventh Street, particularly the blocks more removed from the busy downtown area, is peppered with under-appreciated dive bars, longstanding family-run restaurants that haven't changed so much as the wallpaper since they opened, and some hidden gems that regulars prefer to keep that way. While the area is not entirely devoid of dining options, the residents just up the hill at the edge of Highland Park and across the river in Mendota Heights are hungry for a new go-to neighborhood eatery that's fresh yet familiar. In so many ways, 7th Street Social ticks those boxes. It's roomy and well divided, with a mix of intimate two-tops, space to accommodate large groups, and spots at the bar where you can dine alone or watch the game with a buddy. The menu has enough meat-and-potatoes-type dishes to make your grandparents comfortable, a few dishes that will intrigue your foodie friends, and a simple Margherita flatbread or plain griddled cheeseburger for the kiddos. But the restaurant's blind spots are significant and tend to cluster around the two big S's: service and seasoning.

Imagine a Venn diagram where circle A represents food with good flavor, circle B represents food with proper texture, and the intersection, C, represents food that has both. There were only three things we ate at 7th Street Social that fell squarely into the C category: the house-cured and cold-smoked salmon served with crostini, chopped hard-boiled eggs, creme fraiche, whole capers, and minced red onion; the lean and subtly salted, house-brined pastrami that comes on the otherwise average Reuben; and the smoky, ultra-tender prime rib, which was gorgeous and blushing when served as a carnal slab, but also lovely piled generously on a crusty roll for a French dip sandwich. The style of their prime rib may be a little different, but we'll go out on a limb and say that 7th Street's rivaled the famous cut at Kincaid's and for a fraction of the price.

A handful of small plates passed muster, including the crispy hand-cut parsley fries topped with bubbling, broiled Ellsworth cheese curds, and the pickled beets punctuated playfully by a jalapeño vinaigrette.

Less successful items included the pot roast, which was presented with three monoliths of meat, each tender enough but lacking in salt; carrot rounds bigger than a silver dollar; and a mountain of skin-on mashed potatoes that were stodgy and almost sweet. While the fried chicken did have a lot of herb and salt seasoning on the very browned exterior, there was not a lot of flavor or juiciness upon biting through to the meat. The texture of the accompanying biscuit was just sublime — layer upon soft, flaky layer of dough — but it was without the buttery, salty taste you expect from a biscuit, especially one that promises to be chock full of the sharp flavor of cheddar cheese.

Don't miss our photos from 7th Street Social...

The most disappointing of all dishes was also the most expensive thing on the menu. In the $20-plus range for entrees, people don't necessarily prepare themselves for a life-changing moment, but it's only natural that their expectations start to increase as prices go up. 7th Street's lobster skillet pot pie with cream gravy, bell peppers, and peas hinted at having a rustic, New England fisherman's-lunch type charm to it, but unfortunately the herbed biscuit top suffered the same problems as the one that came with the fried chicken, only this time the texture was off, too. Moreover, the topping creates an airtight seal on the bowl, trapping steam in and cooking the chunks of lobster until they're tough and chewy.

One of the most interesting things about 7th Street Social is how intentional the owners are in their collaborations, all of which are with St. Paul-based companies. The beer batter for the beautifully bronzed onion rings is made with Summit; there's a gigantic Kro-Nut stuffed with sweet, peanutty, maple-laced pastry cream and crushed Nut Goodies — a nod to neighbor Pearson's Candy; and the pot roast is braised with Flat Earth's Cygnus X-1. These are nice touches, but the execution needs polishing.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
7 comments
dugsterdiver
dugsterdiver

I had a great burger and bloody mary today at lunch. Service was great. I will be back to sample more! Happy hour looks awesome. Can't please some folks I guess...

Sandy Kelly
Sandy Kelly

Gross. That toast is burned and what are those weird piles of muddy looking stuff?

psyche136
psyche136

My server was a little...overenthusiastic...and kept referring to myself and my dining partner as "you guys" (a personal pet peeve of mine, particularly when at least one of us is female), however both the Ruben and the Prime Rib French Dip were fantastic. The entrees don't come with fries or chips, (fries are $2 extra), but the coleslaw that is included with the entree is tasty (although those who prefer stronger flavors might find it a little bland). 

Chuck Pittman
Chuck Pittman

went there and had the worst service ever. The food is laughable for the price. i would rather go to JR Macs down the road and get a burger cooked the way i want it for $6 cheaper.

Ran Dazzle
Ran Dazzle

reviews have not been great..and whats with all the crappy service in town? I cant find a waiter job and there are lots who don't know how to do it..

Jay Boller
Jay Boller

Sounds pretty hit or miss to me.

 
Loading...