Best Bets: Comfort Food, St. Paul Winter Carnival Eats, and Date Night Steals

Meet our new food critics: Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers


Cuisine: Comfort foods that warm the heart 

Jason’s picks: In the winter, I need an extra layer of protection from the elements, and a return to the familiar comfort food.

  • St. Paul Grill: It’s the best chicken potpie outside my mom’s. Fine, it’s better than my mom’s. It’s giant. It’s homemade. It’s perfection. (Market St., St. Paul)
  • Smack Shack: That lobster mac and cheese. Oh my. American, Fontina, and Taleggio cheeses combine to create this incredibly creamy and tangy delight. (Washington Ave., Minneapolis)

Joy’s picks: My mother is a fantastic cook and my comfort foods are always those that remind me of time spent in her kitchen.

  • The Kenwood: My most comforting dish is actually a stack of pancakes and smoky bacon. Kenwood has the best pancakes with black, walnut-spiked butter and heavenly, real maple syrup. (Kenwood neighborhood, Minneapolis)
  • Revival: The conversation begins and ends with fried chicken. This really is the best in town. Go at odd hours to avoid the wait. (42nd and Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis)

smack shack, lobster, mac & cheese
Lobster Mac & Cheese from Smack Shack, photo by TJ turner 

Location: Dining in the magic of Winter Carnival

Jason’s picks: The romance of the skating rink, the precision of the ice carving, the kids are cold—let’s get a bite.

  • Rival House Sporting Parlour: Beer and cocktails for mom and dad, board games everywhere for the kids: Rival House is worth the short walk. (Minnesota St., St. Paul)
  • Pazzaluna: There’s a reason Pazzaluna’s been packing them in since 1998. Great atmosphere, homemade gnocchi, and the bar menu has nice pizzas. (St. Peter St., St. Paul)

Joy’s picks: St. Paul dressed up in twinkle lights and a fresh coat of snow is simply magical.

  • Meritage: Home of the amazing fries with Béarnaise sauce. I like giving the kids a chance to go somewhere a bit fancy every once and awhile. (St. Peter, St. Paul)
  • Cheeky Monkey: Just up the hill are some of the best sandwiches in town, but the chocolate pot de crème is worth lingering over while your toes defrost. (Selby Ave., St. Paul)

Date night on a shoestring

Jason’s picks: You can do better than take your date out with a Groupon. Show that special someone you’re in the know!

  • Broders’ Pasta Bar: It’s not on the menu, but Sun.–Thurs. between 8-9:30 p.m., you get a special menu that includes two pastas, salad, bread, and a half bottle of wine for just $30. (Penn Ave., Minneapolis)
  • Ngon Vietnamese Bistro: Wednesdays (insert Hump Day joke here) from 5-9 p.m.; two entrees, a dessert, and bottle of wine for $30. (University Ave., St. Paul)  

Joy’s picks: Date night deals are a savior for the budget-minded romantic and a great excuse to splurge on an extra dessert.

  • Wise Acre Eatery: How often can you get a great discount on the weekend? Wise Acres offers a burger and brew for $15 Friday and Saturday. The burger with the legendary bacon is swoon worthy. (Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis)
  • Barbette: For much of my twenties and thirties, my dates revolved around evenings spent in the complementary lighting inside Barbette. Monday offers a prix fixe menu for $32. (West Lake St., Minneapolis)

wise acre eatery
Wise Acre Eatery, photo by Alex Steinberg/Sidecar