These restaurants are bringing new life to St. Paul's Payne Avenue

Ward 6, Image by TJ Turner

By Charles Brandt

Despite being smaller than Minneapolis, St. Paul is really able to pull it’s weight with regard to restaurant offerings for casual eaters and foodies alike. Lowertown St. Paul has seen quite the resurgence in the last few years, as have other parts of the city. One section of our city in particular that deserves a special mention is Payne Avenue. On a small stretch in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood, there are a number of restaurants and local eateries to discover, including our top 4 favorite spots below.

Tongue in Cheek, Image by TJ Turner

Tongue in Cheek
Known for using only animal products that are raised or caught in a humane and sustainable manner, Tongue in Cheek offers a large selection of small and large plates, before dinner teasers, and even a seven-course tasting menu (both carnivore and herbivore options are available). Some local favorites include the East Fried Pride off the teaser menu (pork belly, sesame and peanut), the Fried Chicken and Waffle small plate with peanut and spicy honey, and the Sauteed Scallops small plate, served with chorizo and sweet potato. Don’t fill up too much, as the Chocolate Ode to the Dome on the dessert menu has quite the reputation.

Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and is worth a visit in its own right. Here you’ll also find Chicken and Waffles, but also Braised Pork Hash, Octopus Prime (caramelized octopus, grits, aioli, frisee and sorrel), along with housemade Bloodies and Irish coffee.

Keep in mind that Tongue in Cheek also offers beer and wine, but  is known for its jalapeno-infused cocktails. Specialties include the Mother of Dragons (jalapeno-infused Jim Beam, Mathilde Péche and passion fruit) and Jack’s Pool (Myers dark rum, ferrand dry curacao, almond syrup and lime).

Happy Hour
Everyday in the bar from 4 – 7 p.m. (Closed Mondays)
Includes beer, wine, cocktails and sangria specials.

Ward 6
Stop what you’re doing and go get The Ward 6 Burger right now. The burger is Chef Kendall’s special blend of sirloin, chuck and short rib from Peterson, taleggio cheese, bacon jam, bread and butter pickles with yellow mustard. Not sold yet? Ward 6 also has excellent Fresh Faribault Dairy Cheese Curds and Poutine. The bar menu includes a variety of wine and beer, but I’d suggest the Hot Buttered Rum (with gold rum, butter, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice) or The Ward 6 (cilantro, ginger, vodka, St. Germain, lime juice, chile and lychee juice). Of course you could always hold out for “Adult Milkshakes” instead, like the Salted Nut Roll (Frangelico, white cacao with peanuts and caramel) or the Irish Sweepshake (Powers Irish whiskey and Baileys).

They also offer a breakfast menu from 8 – 11 a.m. Monday through Friday, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Both menus include breakfast poutine (fries, curds and sausage gravy served with a fried egg on top), Beignets (a traditional New Orleans pastry), and dutch babies. Coffee and espresso are also on both menus, but brunch also sports a collection of cocktails, including Mimosas and the Ramos Gin Fizz (a New Orleans favorite—gin, lemon juice, cream, orange flower essence, vanilla and soda).

Happy Hour
Monday – Thursday from 4 – 6 p.m.
Friday – Saturday from 10 p.m. – midnight
Tap Beers $4, Rail Drinks $3, Select Wines $3

Brunson's Pub
Named after Benjamin Brunson, one of the original land surveyors of St. Paul, Brunson’s Pub recently opened to great reception. The restaurant has an eclectic mix on their menu, including artisanal sandwiches, burgers, homemade salad dressings and shareable plates. Bacon mac and cheese is already a favorite for patrons, and you can’t go wrong with the Schwietz Burger (beef patty, sausage patty, swiss, onion, kraut, ale mustard on pretzel bun) or the BBQ Brisket (two smoked brisket and angus patties, gouda, crispy shallot, barbecue on Texas toast).

The bar has 19 rotating taps that feature local breweries, a variety of wine, as well as a list of creative house cocktails, including the Spike & Tyke’s Revenge (Tattersall vodka, coco royale, crème de cocoa and cold press) and a Lively Up Yourself (Tattersall rum, raspberry serrano and lime banana bitters).

Happy Hour
Monday – Friday from 2 – 6 p.m.
Last 2 hours daily
All apps $2 off, $3 off wings, Shells and PBR pints $2.50, all craft taps $2 off, $4.50 mixed drink specials, $4 glasses of house red and white wines

For you purists out there, everything on the menu is made from scratch or locally sourced, and the chef tries to use organic or all natural ingredients when possible. The menu is broken into breakfast, lunch and Korean dinner (see hours below). Breakfast here is a great way to start off the day, be it the Bread Pudding French Toast, Gingerbread Pancakes or the Short Ribs Eggs Benedict (homemade rolls topped with braised short ribs, lightly poached eggs and smothered in Hollandaise sauce with hash browns).

If you still haven't had the Korean specialty Bi Bim Bop, stop by Cook during their lunch menu. I recommend it with the pork belly, but it also comes with delicious braised short ribs or tofu. The lunch menu has more perfectly infused Korean influence, including the Seoul Cubano (braised short ribs with Korean pepper flakes, spam, pickled Korean peppers, dill pickles, gruyere, spicy mustard, pressed and grilled on house bread) and the Spicy Korean Burger (ground chuck mixed with minced jalapenos, garlic, spices and topped with housemade Korean hot sauce, sharp cheddar and sweet radish relish). If you manage not to fill up, try the Cracker Jack Affogato for your dessert.

Hours (no reservations available)
Breakfast and Lunch
Monday – Friday from 6:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Korean Dinner
Fridays from 5 – 9 p.m.

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