The Lowertown boom has taken the St. Paul ‘hood from being home only to noodle loft Tanpopo to the hottest dining area in the city. Saint Dinette, a new venture from the team behind The Strip Club Meat and Fish, has been open the hopping area for less than a month, but its solid food, impeccable service, and simple décor make it an easy fit.
Chef Adam Eaton (formerly of La Belle Vie) is classically trained in the French style, and this shows in both the menu selection and the quality and presentation of the dishes. Though small, the brunch menu includes a handful of items that speak to his French background and penchant for experimentation: blending classic French technique with American staples. I tried the Bismarck, which was a dish akin to a Dutch baby pancake filled with peach slices. Topped with candied pecans and a touch of powdered sugar, the Bismarck was neither overly sweet nor too filling. My dining companions tried and loved the potato sope, a savory corn cake topped with chorizo sausage, crème fraiche, a fried egg, and a liberal amount of watercress; and the everything bagel, whose “Montreal smorgasbord” of toppings included an unexpected combination of smoked salmon and caviar. But the star of the show was the popover, which is bound to become one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. The flaky roll was served with a dainty stick of butter covered in bee pollen and fresh honey.
The dinner offerings are greater in number, but no less unique. Many of the entrées come in small and large sizes, making them suitable either for individual dining or for sharing. To start, we tried the heirloom tomato salad, an artfully arranged plate of tomato slices, smoked cheese, and mizuna greens and topped with a subtle caraway dressing. My entrée was a small plate of crispy ricotta dumplings, perfectly fried and served with thinly shaved zucchini, drops of ricotta, and a rosemary sauce. The “Minnesota spicy” crab capellini and the flavorful porkloaf with Yukon gold potatoes were also proclaimed winners, and crinkle-cut fries served in a small pail made for a perfect side dish. For dessert, we tried the churros: three deep-fried cinnamon sugar rings with a chocolate-espresso dipping sauce that countered the cinnamon’s spice. A word of warning: portions at Saint Dinette aren’t large, a departure from the restaurant norm that I find refreshing.
Lowertown is a neighborhood where quirky community rules, and Saint Dinette plays ball with the vibe. Normally in business 6 days per week, it opens on Monday whenever the Saints are playing at the nearby CHS stadium. Taking advantage of its proximity to the farmers’ market, the restaurant also provides a “Grocery Valet” service that protects shopper’s goods from the elements while they eat. It’s service touches like these, along with a menu that simultaneously stretches and pleases, that hint at the restaurant’s potential to endure.
261 E. Fifth St., St. Paul, 651-800-1415, saintdinette.com