Three St. Paul spots trade in their finery for more casual digs and menus

128 is now Stewart's, with a more casual neighborhood bar feel.

128 is now Stewart's, with a more casual neighborhood bar feel. Stewart's Facebook Page

So, what’s St. Paul's culinary world got on its collective mind this autumn? Booze! And lots of stuff that goes good with drinkin'.

Three St. Paul spots are turning over their white tablecloths for more bar space, and swapping their frou frou food for burgers, fried fish, and other comfort faves.

Salt Cellar will be Fitzgerald’s
It’s difficult to say what went wrong at the Cathedral Hill steakhouse Salt Cellar, a beautiful space that was designed to become a high-end meat temple for a new generation. Alan Bergo was chef, arriving from many years under Heartland's Lenny Russo. He kept an eye toward pairing behemoth cuts of Piedmontese beef with locally foraged items culled from our “own backyard.”

What followed was a boondoggle of epic proportions, with across-the-board execution problems from almost every vantage point. They were wise to shutter.

But it appears they're not defeated. Salt Cellar is rising again, this time as the more casual Fitzgerald’s.

It’s just too tempting not to evoke the boozy author's name in this neighborhood, and the place aims to live up to its namesake as a boozy neighborhood bar. They'll serve craft cocktails, local beer, and Hamm’s on tap, with food that is the antithesis of special occasion fare -- think nachos, wings, burgers and pizza.

Opens mid-October
173 N. Western Ave., St. Paul

128 is now Stewart’s
128 Cafe has always been one of the best kept secrets of St. Paul’s Cleveland Avenue neighborhood. An underground indie bistro with both white tablecloths and barbecue ribs, it fit the bill for lots of occasions.

The owners had planned a quick refresh, but when they started digging, they discovered artifacts from the previous iteration of the place, Stewart’s, a more casual neighborhood bar. They decided to go with a full on name change. It just felt right.

So 128 is now Stewart's, and you can expect a drinks-forward place (sensing a theme?) that maintains an eclectic menu, though the cooking got a refresh too. Highlights include Korean chile flake French fries, a fancy grilled cheese, and even a Minnesota-style shore lunch with shake-and-bake walleye.

Now open
128 Cleveland Ave., St. Paul

Scusi will be Bottle Rocket
Scusi, the Italian restaurant with wine on tap that operated for several years in the original Heartland space on St. Clair Avenue, is jumping in the old phone booth transformer and emerging with a -- you guessed it -- boozier outlook.

A full bar, a more relaxed vibe, and more "familiar dishes" will be the hallmarks of Bottle Rocket. No menu specifics yet, but they're shooting for a Thanksgiving-ish opening.

1806 St. Clair Ave., St. Paul