Each month, in our “Restaurant Rumble” conversation, MnMo food critics Jason DeRusha and Joy Summers review two restaurants and pick a winner.
Joy: These garden-level digs have long been a neighborhood gathering spot. Most recently as the 128 Cafe, which was purchased by chef Max Thompson a few years ago. During some road-construction-imposed downtime, Thompson remodeled the restaurant and re-christened it Stewart’s.
Jason: Stewart’s is a cozy, precious spot: just two small dining rooms and a short bar.
Joy: Start with cocktails courtesy of Marvel Bar’s Tyler Kleinow. They aren’t formal or fussy, just fun, delicious, and affordably priced.
Jason: We loved our starters: The simple green salad had a deliciously herby buttermilk dressing and the kimchi tostada with refried beans and a sunny-side-up egg was a tasty bargain at $5.
Joy: We loved that salad, as well as the addictive French fries dusted with Korean chili flake and served with a dipping duo: umami-packed miso mayo and a sweet/hot chili sauce.
Jason: This is a neighborhood restaurant at its core, and a lot of what we tried landed in the good-but-not-great category. For example, the shore lunch had a shake-and-bake walleye breading that leaned a little too heavily on the bake. The steak tips featured coffee-rubbed beef, but the Coca-Cola barbecue sauce was so heavy it masked the flavor.
Photos by TJ Turner
Joy: On the other hand, the Smashed Burger was perfect and the wild-rice-flecked meatloaf was as good as Mom’s.
Jason: I had some impressive sides, as well: The zip in the Dijon and wilted arugula made the warm potato salad better than expected. And I could eat the buffalo-sauced Brussels sprouts all day every day.
Joy: Thompson clearly enjoys reaching outside of our region for influences far and wide before bringing it all home.
Jason: Stewart’s is designed to please foodies as well as its neighbors from the University of St. Thomas. Between the grilled cheese with tomato aioli for $8 and the blue cheese and bacon grass-fed beef burger for $12, I can see college students and professors going here once or twice a week.
Stewart’s Quick Tips:
Reservations: A good idea for weekend dinner and brunch
Parking: Can be challenging near campus—the best street parking is on Laurel Avenue
Can’t Miss Cocktail: Go classic: martini, Manhattan, or Old Fashioned
This month’s “Restaurant Rumble” pitted Stewart’s neighborhood global cuisine against Herbie’s on the Park‘s posh sports bar fare. Find out which restaurant Jason and Joy chose as the winner in the January 2017 issue of MnMo.
128 Cleveland Ave. N., St. Paul, 651-645-4128, stewartsminnesota.com