Let’s get right to the point: You need to go to Joan’s In the Park. Soon. It’s fantastic.
A couple Saturdays ago, my wife and I joined two other couples in making far too much noise and drinking a little too much wine at this adorable St. Paul restaurant. The hospitality was top-notch, the wine list is crazy-affordable, and fairly interesting, and the food was delightful. What more can you ask for? The rare trifecta!
We started with Chorizo-stuffed plums, wrapped in speck ham, and surrounded by a Calabria pepper sauce ($12 for six plums). I mean, seriously, how could that go wrong? It didn’t.
I also really enjoyed the wild mushroom flatbread, with a nice hint of truffle on top of the marscarpone cheese and healthy dose of mushrooms ($14).
The quality of the flatbread may be partially because Joan’s in the Park chef Susan Dunlap uses a pizza oven. For almost everything. The oven obviously cranks out a wonderful crust on the flatbread. But it also creates a killer rib-eye. Dunlap and co-owner Joan Schmitt spent years in steakhouses (Morton’s, Capital Grille), and they are selling maybe the best tasting $31 steak I’ve ever had. It’s served with sweet peppers, mushrooms, and arugula with a porcini vinaigrette. Just glorious. And $31!?! Chef Lenny Russo from Heartland told me the other day that he loves what Susan and Joan are doing… although he wonders how they make a living with prices so low?
Joan’s menu is limited (which I like—less is more!), so you’ll find a chicken, some steaks, a pork, scallops, and a fish of the day. That’s what my wife ordered—a white salmon with purple potato gnocchi, and it was great. Susan Dunlap has perfected the use of the pizza oven, that’s for sure. It gives the fish a really nice, crispy crust and still manages to stay flaky and juicy inside.
The brown butter pudding ($8) was recommended by our server, and highly enjoyed by all of us. It had just enough hint of caramel and salt to hit the right sweet and salty and slightly burnt notes I was craving.
The restaurant has about 50 seats inside, so our group wants to apologize for our volume. We were just having so much fun. There’s a really nicely decorated patio outside (a recently converted parking lot). The vibe is perfect for a date night, or for a group of friends, and the staff knew when to be attentive, and when to give us room. It was a great night—one I hope you get to experience soon.
Joan’s in the Park Restaurant & Wine Bar
631 Snelling Ave S., St. Paul