At Forepaugh's, Modern Cooking Meets Victorian Digs

Jason and Joy revisit the favorite date night (and haunted) restaurant

Each month, in our Restaurants Revisited conversation, MnMo food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers return to an “old favorite” restaurant and assess how it’s faring.

Jason: For 40 years, the Victorian mansion near the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul has been the special occasion spot: countless prom nights and wedding proposals have been celebrated in one of Forepaugh’s ornate rooms.

Joy: Plus it’s haunted, which adds an extra thrill to an elegant dining experience! Apparently old Mr. Forepaugh had an unfortunate dalliance with a maid, who offed herself upstairs. The story goes that her poor, tragic ghost haunts the third floor. Supposedly, lights flick on and off and wine glasses will fling themselves off tables! 

Jason: Never doubt a ghost story. Forepaugh’s is owned by Bruce Taher, whose company serves millions of meals in schools and corporate cafeterias, and it is really two restaurants: a casual bar with a “downstairs” menu and a fine-dining French-influenced restaurant upstairs. The cozy bar is a great spot before a concert or game at The X, with a snacky menu including cheese plates, fries, and samosas.

Joy: We sat in the dining room and could not get enough of the gorgeous décor. The fireplaces and chandeliers are just stunning. Yet the food is approachable. At the suggestion of the wonderful host, we ordered the chorizo stuffed dates: fun cocktail food!

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Photo by Todd Buchanan

Jason: Chef Aric Miech does a great job pushing the envelope on contemporary food—such as the perfectly acidic scallop salad—as well as executing the classics. When’s the last time you had beef Wellington? Revisit it! Puff pastry lattice surrounding tender filet mignon with thyme and mushrooms is delicious.

Joy: The roast chicken is a testament to how incredible a humble dish can be in the right hands. Served with fried rice balls called arancini, sweet potato gnocchi, and frisée, it was a bounty of comforting flavors. 

Jason: The only weak spot here is wine. 

Joy: When I’m in a setting this glorious, I expect to find more interesting wines. My Steele pinot noir was flat and warm.

Jason: I ordered the same wine! Probably because the glass list is pretty thin. They do have a huge bottle list, and a fabulous wine cellar. Though they could do much better in the $40–$80 bottle range.

Joy: Even if you’re just stopping in for a quick, low-key meal, Forepaugh’s feels like a throwback adventure to grander times.

Forepaugh’s Quick Tips:

Parking: Free lot across the street

Holidays: Open for Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve dinner 

Haunted? Entirely possible

276 S. Exchange St., St. Paul, 651-224-5606,