BEST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR (ST. PAUL) - 2008
The Happy Gnome
The Gnome is all about choice. To begin with, you have three options as soon as you walk in the swank, wooded interior of this Cathedral Hill tavern. Do you park yourself in the classic bar section, with its long, L-shaped wooden counter and a basketball game playing on the muted TV? In the more pub-like sit-down area, with its creative and reasonably priced dining menu, featuring dishes like chicken and wild mushroom cigars ($8 for a mix of Thai spring rolls with a State Fair chicken sausage) and duck confit bruschetta ($9)? Or upstairs in the "Firehouse" section, with another full bar and a slightly different menu, dressed up by white tablecloths and folded napkins? But by far your most interesting choice will be what to drink. The Gnome has the best beer selection of any bar in the Twin Cities, including 40 craft beers on tap and more than 100 bottled brews of exotic porters, stouts, lagers, and bocks. The menu skews heavily toward domestic crafts—we recommend the Bell's Hop Slam out of Michigan, partly because of its strong citrus aroma and balanced finish, but mostly because of its 10 percent a.b.v.—but no beer-connoisseur watering hole would be complete without a selection of fine ales from Belgium, the beerophile's paradise. The Gnome delivers on this count. Delirium Tremens, Maredsous, and Stella Artois are just a few of the dozen or so Belgian imports available. Feeling Minnesotan? Not a problem—Surly and Summit are on tap. Or keep it down-home with a conventional bottle of Grain Belt.