For all of the charm of old buildings, they often have structural issues lurking around every corner. Such was the case with the former home of Coffee News, the cafe on Grand Avenue on the Macalester College campus that is now the second location of French Meadow Cafe and Bakery. Once French Meadow began renovations in the space, they realized that it would be a much bigger job than anticipated. Now, months after their original opening date, and nearly 29 years after opening their flagship location in Minneapolis, French Meadow's St. Paul outpost is open.
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The room is a beautiful mix of exposed brick and ductwork, delicate branches, artful light fixtures, and iron sculptural elements. As with their original location, diners order organic goodies and coffee at the counter and then take their seats while the food is prepared. The menu is the same as at French Meadow's Minneapolis location.
Unlike their Minneapolis spot, there's a long, sleek bar next to the St. Paul kitchen where guests can choose from several taps and bottled beer as well as a choice selection of wine.
Beyond the kitchen, we could see through the back door and window that construction crews were working furiously on a new patio. If everything goes smoothly, it should be ready by the time the weather cooperates.
We stopped in early in the day to sip a Cafe Miel: espresso and creamy milk spiced with a little cinnamon and sweetened with honey for $3.75.
The pastry case is packed with cakes, bars, rolls, scones, mini cupcakes, croissants, savory biscuits, and more. There are some gluten-free and vegan options available, as well as downright decadent dishes like a cream cheese and strawberry jam-filled croissant.
A daily fruit and nut pancake selection is available, one for $6 or $8.50 for a stack. The thick flapjack took up the entire plate and we can't imagine what army would need to feast on more than one. That day's selection was topped with dense nut butter, slightly sweetened whipped cream, and pickled raspberries that we'd eat by the bucketful. A drizzle of Wisconsin maple syrup made for a divine breakfast. The side of thin, crispy bacon ($4) didn't hurt anything either.
Our only disappointment was that the wifi isn't up and running yet -- an especially painful letdown as this new cafe is the sort of comfortable, cozy spot we wouldn't mind hanging around all day.
1662 Grand Ave., St. Paul
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday
Happy Hour: Monday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m.