6 favorite local haunts you shouldn’t miss

By Charles Brandt

Finding a good drink in St. Paul isn’t terribly hard—we have many great restaurants and bars in and surrounding downtown. But when you’re in the mood for a great cocktail, there are a few places that really stand out, each in their own unique way. Below are six of our favorites around the city that have caught our eye, err, taste buds.

People sitting on a restaurant patio surrounded by trees and plantings in summertime.

Image by TJ Turner/Greenspring Media

WA Frost
It’s always surprising to hear the number of people who’ve been to WA Frost but never realized that below the jam packed bar is a basement lounge with plenty of room. In the lounge, they still serve the happy hour menu, along with their full menu and drink list. In the summer, their patio is one of the top rated in the Twin Cities, but during the winter months, the aged stone brickwork of the building’s foundation provides a unique ambiance. The space is filled with dark tin ceilings and lounge furniture, which adds to the overall aesthetic.

For cocktail hour, our No. 1 pick is the Kentucky Maple Sour. It’s a perfect blend of Woodford Reserve, house maple simple syrup, Tattersall Amaro, lemon juice and egg white. Also notable on their menu is the Mezcal Smash, house favorite Vieux Carré, and Wassail Bowl—a traditional warm holiday beverage that dates back to 1500s England.

Dining Room Hours
Lunch: Mon – Fri 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Brunch: Sat/Sun 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dinner: Mon – Sun 5 to 10 p.m.

Bar Hours
Sun – Thurs: 11 a.m. to Midnight
Fri/Sat: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

The Green Lantern (below Public Kitchen)
The food alone is worth a visit to Public Kitchen, it’s a fun contemporary mix that guarantees you’ll be back again. They have items like short rib fettuccine and jalapeno cheddar biscuits that come with honey butter and jalapeno jam. Not to mention a fine Chef’s selection of artisanal cheese boards and cured meats.

But for your next cocktail hour, we’d like to instead recommend the cocktail lounge below Public Kitchen, called the Green Lantern. It’s a darker space, with an old-time speakeasy feel. According to the owners, “In the late 1920’s the Green Lantern Saloon in St. Paul was where the best stickup men in America came to commiserate over drinks and share stories of life on the run.”

Green Lantern sports an original cocktail list that reflects the heyday of old school gangsters like Dillinger and the Barker Boys. On it you’ll find the Public Enemy, Wooden Pistol, and the 1-2 Punch. The establishment also offers a selection of beer and full wine list, along with a small plate food menu.

Green Lantern Hours:
Sun/Mon: Closed
Tues – Thurs: 6 p.m. to Midnight
Fri/Sat: 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Handsome Hog
Overlooking Mears Park, Handsome Hog fits right in with Lowertown’s ever-growing restaurant lineup. Contemporary southern menu with you guessed it…plenty of pork. Whole roasted hog jowl has already become a very popular item on their menu, along with shrimp and grits, crawfish hushpuppies, and bacon fat popcorn.

This place loves their bourbon! So much so, that they offer specialty bourbon flights on their drinks menu. The cocktail menu includes a fantastic mix of traditional mixed drinks and Handsome Hog original creations. Our top pick is the Sophia’s Sadness (Rittenhouse Rye, Sfumato Amaro, Benedictine, & Smoked Cherry). Other suggestions are the Hoodie Weather (with Zaya Rum, St. Elizabeth Allspice, cinnamon, vanilla and bitters) or the Radiant Pig (with applejack brandy, cognac, yellow Chartreuse, nutmeg and allspice).

Handsome Hog Hours:
Sun: Closed
Mon – Thurs: 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Fri: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sat: 2 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Orange cocktail in a small martini glass with three small cherries on a toothpick as a garnish.

TJ Turner/Greenspring Media

Saint Dinette
This Lowertown gem has already received some great dining reviews. Saint Dinette’s food menu includes octopus, pork en croute, shrimp and grits, and dumplings filled with goat cheese, kale and wild mushroom. If you’re up early enough on Saturday and Sunday, also make sure to check out their delicious brunch menu.

The cocktail list has some great choices, including our top pick, The North Remembers (Prairie gin, Prairie vodka, Cocchi Americano, tempus fugit quinquina, brine, citrus and black pepper bitters). The menu also includes our close second, the Less Than Perfect (Dewars, Pierre Ferrand dry orange curacao, Carpano Antica, Dolin dry, fernet, angostura).

Saint Dinette Hours:
Sun: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Mon: Closed
Tues – Thurs: 5 to 10 p.m.
Fri: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Vieux Carré
This Creole-inspired restaurant, cocktail lounge and modern-era eatery has taken over the space vacated by Artists’ Quarter. The basement level of the historic Hamm Building really adds to the speakeasy vibe of Vieux Carré, as does the local and traveling jazz musicians that make their way through the venue. It’s operated by the owners of the Dakota Jazz Club (of Minneapolis), and is a welcome St. Paul counterpart to the Twin Cities jazz scene.

Our top pick for cocktails while you enjoy happy hour apps or fine dining alike, is the Blood and Sand. Drink menu also includes a Barrel Aged Vieux Carré, Singapore Sling and an Aviation (gin, crème de violette, maraschino liqueur and lemon).

Vieux Carré Hours:
Tues – Sat: 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Sun/Mon: Closed
Happy Hour:

Tues – Sat: 4 to 6 p.m.

Happy Gnome
The Happy Gnome is a well known icon on Selby Avenue, with its famous poutine, excellent Sunday brunch, make-your-own Bloody Mary bar, and impressive beer selection. The outdoor patio is inviting and even has a large outdoor fireplace.

What you may not know about Happy Gnome is that it offers a small selection of fine Japanese whiskies. This sophisticated Japanese export is very smooth, mild, and internationally award-winning. Perhaps this is why it has been gaining such popularity in America over the past few years. If you’re a whiskey drinker and haven’t yet treated yourself, stop by the Happy Gnome and try their Nikka “Coffey,” or Nikka “Pure Malt” for $15 or under. They also offer the highly rated Yamazaki 12-year for $18.

If your friends or date aren’t into whiskey for cocktail hour, Happy Gnome offers an extensive beer list, a collection of wines as well as their cocktail list. For mixed drinks, The Bees Blood Orange Knees or Caliente Sidra Hipster are highly recommended.

Happy Gnome Hours:
Mon – Sat: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Sun: 10 a.m. to 1 a.m.

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