The Best Places to Go in Saint Paul, Minnesota

by Josh Kimball

I would like to preface this post by saying that I do not know the best places to go in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I will not, however, let that stop me from telling you what the best places to go in Saint Paul, Minnesota are.

(Please remember this: Vanity and humility are at constant war within any written piece.)

The Saint Paul Bagelry: The first, best place in Saint Paul is not IN Saint Paul, however, it is NAMED the Saint Paul Bagelry. It is also named Maui Wowi Smoothies. You’re not reading that wrong. It has two names. (You may, at this point, be questioning my competence. And for that I applaud you.)

Know this: The Saint Paul Bagelry not ONLY cooks their delicious bagels daily, they not ONLY whip their own cream cheese, they not ONLY blend a lip-smacking array of smoothie and coffee drinks (the likes of which Jamba Juice could not, in a thousand pear-lives of juicing, come close to touching), BUT they ALSO play real, vinyl records. They play shit I hate: Joni Mitchell (sorry), they play shit I love: James Brown (sorry). Most importantly, they play all this shit on actual records. Their bagel sandwiches, should you care about the menu, include The Al Green (egg and veggie – a personal favorite), The Luther Vandross (bacon, ham, sausage, egg and more) and the Isaac Hayes Hot-Buttered Soul (bacon, egg and cheese).

And so you may find yourself one Sunday, mid-morning, at the very time a more pious family would be attending church, sitting in a Roseville, Minnesota strip mall at a restaurant named after a municipality in which it does not even do business, listening to Bob Marley and The Wailers on vinyl over the loudspeakers, eating an Al Green sandwich on a toasted salt bagel, drinking a Kona Hawaiian coffee and sipping a brain-freezing Black Lava Beach smoothie.

It is due to this perfect combination of insanities that the Bagelry earns the listenerd’s highest recommendation.

Swede Hollow Cafe: Located in the Dayton’s Bluff area of Saint Paul, Swede Hollow Cafe is notable for the following things (in order of importance):

-Delicious mochas and cubanos, each complemented by a delightful little cigarette-sized lagniappe of chocolate
-An inviting ambience made extra cozy by the limited seating
-No fewer than TWO kinds of cobbler on weekends
-An outstanding French toast that requires no additional syrup
-Inadequate hours of operation
-An awesome painting of a lady with raven-black hair and a red skirt that I would like to someday purchase (the painting, not the skirt).

Swede Hollow Cafe is closed on Sundays. Go for brunch on a Saturday, sit outside if it’s warm enough. Order one dish and split it. Do not buy that painting (it is mine).

Choo-Choo Bob’s: I would expect that Choo-Choo Bob’s holds the greatest concentration of cooties in the Twin Cities metro area, if not the entire Midwest. The absolute PINNACLE of toddler train culture, CCB sells toy and model trains, from the highly commercialized Thomases and Berties holding down the back wall to the adult electrics enticing passersby out front. They also peddle tiny trees, faceless little men and cows, anomalous outbuildings and pretty much anything else it would take for a certifiably crazy person to recreate a realistic miniature landscape whose sole purpose is for a tiny train to repeatedly drive past it.

The play tables in the back of the store sometimes host birthday parties and they regularly draw armies of children, snot-nosed and entranced – each seemingly with a thousand germ-laden hands (think Sleipnir, but with mucus) – to come, play, move freight, and buy.

The Midway Ramsey County Yard Waste Removal Site: It is only if you have never BEEN to the Ramsey County Yard Waste Removal Site that you would question that such a place deserves its spot on this list. The RCYWRS has EARNED this praise. And I spit upon you for thinking otherwise.

Do you have yard waste? Great. Take it to the RCYWRS and dump it there in a stinking heap. Empty your bag and drive away with the satisfied air of a person who has simply left his problems for someone else to clean up. (You must be a resident of Ramsey county to take a dump here; if you are not a resident, though, I still encourage you to do a ridealong.)

Here, at the Ramsey County Yard Waste Removal Site, you will see the largest leaf pile you have ever laid eyes upon. Here, you will witness an ORDERLY procession of civic-minded Ramsey-county citizens pulling up their cars, trucks and trailers to an ENORMOUS pile of yard waste, wearily getting out of those vehicles, SLOWLY dumping out their sticks, leaves, branches, clods of dirt and the occasional, accidental hunk of dog feces and then nearly backing into someone as they hastily attempt to leave the facility.

To me, this yard waste facility is the essence of America. I just don’t know why. (It is a HUGE pile of AWESOME waste. That is why.)

[Please note: I will write one or two additional posts in the upcoming week to complete this list. Included: The Blue Door, The Black Dog, Micawbers and more.]

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