Best Neighborhood Bar (St. Paul) - 2011
The Muddy Pig
Of all the marks of a good neighborhood bar, maybe the most significant is how quickly and easily it can become the default answer to the question "Where do you want to go tonight?" The Muddy Pig comes up often for St. Paulites who live anywhere near downtown or Cathedral Hill, largely because it fits so many of the more practical criteria—location, accessibility, friendliness—that keep a night out from turning into a night better spent home. The bar is in a lively, traffic-heavy area of St. Paul—Selby and Dale, close enough to the bustle of Grand Avenue to draw that street's shopper crowd—but it's never overloaded with sporting-event patrons or wandering tourists, and even at its busiest it feels more vibrant than suffocatingly crowded. For that you can credit the Muddy Pig's focus on fare that skews classy (savory tilapia sandwiches, walnut-crusted walleye, and a knockout El Cubano are highlights) without being costly, making it more of a refined-palate, drink-and-dine place than a bar to get party-rowdy. Yet it's also a boon for beer geeks. The Belgian-and-microbrew-heavy draft list pushes the four-dozen mark, and Summit and Surly often place the Pig on the itinerary for new and limited-edition product rollouts. Brave the weekend crowds and you'll find out why it gets so packed; stop in earlier and you'll have one of the finest bar experiences in St. Paul.