Best Neighborhood Cafe (St. Paul) - 2009
The Strip Club
A steak place might not seem like much of a neighborhood cafe, but, well, neither does a strip club. But when it's the Strip Club—capital S, capital C, and named after its premium, grass-fed strip steak—it qualifies. That's because the friendly eatery in the former home of a 100-year-old grocery store has breathed new life into St. Paul's sleepy Dayton's Bluff. The place has cultivated a welcoming, Cheers-like camaraderie, due in part to the force of personality of co-owners Tim Niver and Aaron Johnson, who helped found the modern incarnation of the Town Talk Diner. Chef J.D. Fratzke's menu includes such fancy fare as duck confit and seared scallops—along with a plain old Braunschweiger sandwich, gussied up with port wine-flavored shallots and Dijon mustard. And the food is good enough to please not only the neighbors but patrons coming from the other side of the Cities. The Strip Club's scratch-made cocktails are also among the best in town, and they're ideally sipped at one of the restaurant's second-floor seats, while taking in the view of downtown.