More and more Minneapolis restaurants are heading for St. Paul

Grilled cheese paired with booze: this is what we became adults for

Grilled cheese paired with booze: this is what we became adults for instagram/@o_cheeze

What do Revival, Kyatchi, Red Rabbit, Parlour, Ramen Kazama, Rose Street Patisserie, and Nico's Taco Bar have in common?

These heavy-hitters were among those to blaze a trail for an ever-increasing roster of Minneapolis restaurants to set up shop in that other city—yes, the one so underrated it’s not even rated. Over the past few months, even more Minneapolis establishments have announced they're setting up shop in Minnesota's second-most populous city.

Individually, these moves are exciting! (Sorry, ahem: “Keep St. Paul Boring.”) Seen together, they could be interpreted as a shift in mentality for local dining culture. Let’s examine what we know about the latest batch of restaurants to cross the great divide that is 280.

FireBox Deli
This north Minneapolis barbecue joint will soon have a St. Paul sibling a stone's throw from Allianz Field. Owner Zong Vang told the Pioneer Press the expansion's been in the works for a while, and it could open as soon as mid to late August. Expect its smoked meats, sides, and Asian dishes—FireBox is owned and operated by a Hmong family—to make the journey to Marshall Avenue. There will also be a new menu of bar snacks for pairing with beer; FireBox no. 2 hopes to have alcohol.

As of May 24, relative skyway newbies O’Cheeze bailed on their Minneapolis location in favor of greener pastures in St. Paul’s Keg and Case. To make the switch, owners Tony and Haley Fritz converted a flailing arm of their cheese empire (Gatza & Enhancements) into a space where the classic O’Cheeze can exist beyond its food truck (which can still be found out and about, roaming the streets, sans deference to city rivalries or county lines). From this spot inside the lauded food hall off West Seventh, the folks at O’Cheeze are now churning out the same sandwiches that have fueled their empire, as well as mac and cheese and nachos, while serving distinctly grown-up drinks from their full bar.

The Loon Cafe
Nearly 40 years in just Minneapolis wasn’t enough for the Loon Cafe. When the space vacated by Great Waters Brewing Company became available, owner Tim Mahoney seized his opportunity to create another loon in the 651. Though the forthcoming Loon is set to be more akin to a distant relative than twin of the existing location, folks who have visited the property on St. Peter Street say it’s strikingly similar to the stalwart on North First, per the PiPress. Atmosphere aside, other echoes of the Minneapolis locale will follow to the new Loon, including longtime chef Brian Turner, who returned to his Midwest roots only recently.

The Loon is renowned for taming Twins crowds using little more than beer, chili, and hospitality, and we at CP also theorize that Mahoney just can't resist staking a claim in Minnesota United territory. After all, a thematic mascot is a little too good to pass up. A staffer confirms the Eastern Loon's soft opening date is "tentatively" set for June 18, meaning everything will become clear shortly.

Inspiration for Due – straight from Puglia, Sicily

Inspiration for Due – straight from Puglia, Sicily Vanessa Carrara

i.e. Italian Eatery
In late April, news broke that the team responsible for Nokomis’ i.e. Italian Eatery would open a spot in the Highland neighborhood of St. Paul: Dué Focacceria. With the new venture set to open "very soon," i.e.'s Eric Carrara spoke to CP to shed some light on why his south Minneapolis pasta temple was fording the river.

“Have you ever been to Italy?” (No, sadly.) “Every town has a piazza. The whole town goes down there around 7 [in the evening] and starts bouncing around, talking to each other. We wanted to bring a piazza-style cafe-restaurant to the neighborhood. Walk down, get a drink, do a whole meal... or get a snack and leave. So that was the inspiration. We’ll see if it works!"

To pull off a scheme that relies on casual convenience—from glasses of bubbles to meat to-go, in a rustic (not Tuscan!) setting—an honest knowledge of the community is clutch. Luckily: “We legitimately live a block and a half away. We’ve lived there for nine years ... We have a pretty good idea of what we think the neighborhood wants.” 

And for the greater St. Paul expansion trend? As a transplant from the East Coast, Carrara is neither coy about speaking on the issue, nor worried. “Most people don’t want people to know St. Paul is good. We like it [that way]. We like what’s going on.”