Despite her halo of kindness, Treats’ owner Trisha Seng is watching her business—and clientele—like a sugar-high hawk. She knows winter is a difficult time for anything ice cream-related in Minnesota. After all, when it’s icy outside and your business hinges on a chilly, non-deliverable sweet infused with cereal, what’s a small business owner to do?
If you're Seng, you stay very, very positive!
Open since June of this year, St. Paul’s cereal bar—located uncomfortably close to Grand Old Creamery and yet nothing like it—had a banner summer: “Oh my god, it exceeded our expectations in every way!” Seng gushed on a recent morning. Outside, the late September atmosphere was dreary. But inside, her shop was anything but as berry neon lighting reflected off portraits of famous cereal mascots from the ’90s and upbeat music hummed.
We’d gathered because Seng and her sibling-business partner, Minh Dinh, had invited a handful of us preview to her plan for weathering the next eight* months.
Spoiler alert: The solution is waffles. (The solution to most of life’s problems is, of course, waffles.) But also: coffee drinks. (Again, the solution to most of life’s problems is coffee.**)
To be clear, Treats' waffle and coffee bar additions are just that. Their regular menu of cereal-blended ice cream concoctions served in Crayola-colored cones or boba teas and milk drinks are sticking around, and everything is available from open to close. Seng saw room for growth. She told of how the first hours of each day were the shop’s slowest, so she began experimenting with what she could do in a limited space.
In the early stages, Seng used a crew of regulars as taste-testers for her house-made waffle batter. “We have these girls in the neighborhood… they stop down after school, and I’d let them try what I was working on.”
Rather than pulling this waffle-coffee-breakfast idea from nowhere, Seng took the girls’ reactions to heart, incorporating them into the items you’ll find on the menu today. This makes Treats' expansion pretty cool; the evolution and growth of the place is rooted in the people who love it most.
And, for once, it's priced accordingly. At $5.75 and under, Seng hopes her tricked-out waffles will keep everyone coming back—from her youngest regulars to anyone looking for a little edible sunshine in our cash-strapped world.
A waffle they've named "It's B-A-N-A-N-A-S" is the most breakfast-y of the fancy bunch. It comes topped with sliced bananas, caramel drizzle, powdered sugar, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Meanwhile the "Nutella ella ella" (Oreos, Nutella, and powdered sugar) and "Bonfire Treat" (toasted marshmallows, graham crackers, and powdered sugar sprinkled over a Cocoa Pebbles and chocolate chip-infused waffle) were created for the more decadent crowd. A plain waffle option is on the menu, as is the choice of a gluten-free batter, which Seng created herself to have a lovely puffy and crystallized texture.
Lest you think Treats' additions are an all-out sugar fest, the coffee menu hides subtle delights meant to cut through the sweetness of the house's specialty items. With the exception of the unwieldy new Campfire Lava hot chocolate, Treats' coffee bar is playing things straight. They're offering oat and almond milk alternatives, as well as a number of flavored syrups. A personal favorite from the menu was the turmeric chai, with just enough spice and bitterness to delight the tongue, even after bombarding it with many flavors.
If coffee and waffles seems like a hint about where Treats is headed, you're not wrong. Though the shop already opens daily at 11 a.m., Seng says she's hoping to start offering breakfast hours beginning at 7 a.m. very soon.
*Maybe an exaggeration? TBD!
Treats Cereal Bar & Boba
770 Grand Ave., St. Paul