Dining on St. Paul’s 7th Street

Watching the Minnesota Wild’s playoff run at the Xcel Energy Center just reminded me of how much I like eating on St. Paul’s 7th Street. So many of the St. Paul restaurants I gravitate towards are located within walking distance of the Xcel and, as an added bonus, they’re all great at getting concert goers and sports fans in and out.

Here’s a look at three of my favorite restaurants on St. Paul’s 7th Street. They’re located within blocks of the Xcel Energy Center, so even if you don’t have tickets, you can still soak up the festive atmosphere on the street. (The people watching is fantastic!)

I can never resist brats and beer, so New Bohemia Wurst + BierHaus is to my go-to spot. It’s located just a few blocks west of the Xcel at 222 7th St. W. and it’s a madhouse before concerts and sporting events in the best possible way. People pack the long, communal tables to enjoy the joint’s stellar craft beer selection (36 selections from local breweries) and elevated beer hall food.

The menu is down-to-earth, but familiar classics like brats, potato salad and pretzels are made with premium ingredients — think organic vegetables and a drool-inducing selection of house-made mustards. If you need some carbs to soak up your beer, I recommend the almost comically huge Bavarian pretzel. It weighs in at three pounds and I seriously couldn’t stop thinking about it the last time I was there. (I’m totally making my table split it with me next time. )

The brats themselves are made from prime cuts of meat (from Minnesota hogs, whenever possible) and contain no nitrates or artificial flavors. You’ll find classic flavors like cajun andouille and chicken and Fuji apple brats on the menu, but adventurous eaters can try lamb, bison, elk, and wild boar. There also a beer brat made with a keg of Surly Furious (swoon), and vegan brats from Minneapolis’ Herbivorous Butcher.

Italian food fans absolutely must make a pilgrimage to Cosetta’s. Michael Cossetta immigrated to St. Paul from Calabria, Italy and opened a market in St. Paul’s Italian neighborhood. This proud culinary tradition continues in this food emporium at 211 7th Street West, which celebrated its 100th anniversary as a fourth generation family-owned business.

Cossetta’s features housemade sausages and house-made sauces, which are available in multiple dining formats. You can grab a slice of pizza or pasta in the Eatery & Pizzeria (and get in and out fast) or settle in for a multiple course meal at Louis Ristorante & Bar upstairs. (Be sure to check out the balcony seating for some fantastic views.) There’s also a wonderful, recently expanded Italian market that offers a huge selection of meat, cheese, pasta and everything you need to whip up an authentic meal.

But my favorite Cosetta’s attraction, one that was recommended to me by my readers over and over again, is the Pasticceria. Step inside this cozy little dessert shop and you’ll find delicious gelato (my undoing), authentic cannoli that meet my Italian-American brother-in-law’s impossibly strict standards and beautiful desserts that are almost too pretty to eat. (Almost.) The challenge is picking which one to try first.

Since it’s located right across from the Xcel at 174 W 7th Street, Eagle Street Grille is usually busy. But with three bars and more seating capacity than you’d think, this place handles crowds well. I watch a lot of roller derby bouts across the street at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium next door to the Xcel and this place has always been able to get me in and out fast.

The restaurant offers half pound burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads, as well as a few dinner entrees. The menu calls out local sports teams (like the Minnesota Wild burger, which features a wild rice and beef burger with swiss cheese, mushrooms, and mayo on a pretzel bun), landmarks (there’s Fort Snelling beef au jus sandwich and a Union Depot depot pulled chicken sandwich), and even St. Paul neighborhoods (there’s a Lowertown roast beef wrap.)

The menu also highlights the gangsters, bootleggers and colorful characters that gave St. Paul a wild reputation in its early days. This approach yields some obvious references (Jesse James might be amused to discover he’s been immortalized in a bacon-wrapped meat loaf sandwich) as well as some vaguely alarming/amusing head scratchers. (“Downtown brothel” might not be the most appetizing name for a wings appetizer. But hey, I wrote about it, so I guess that menu writer knew what they were doing.)

What about you?
What’s your favorite place to eat on 7th Street in St. Paul?
What places in the neighborhood should I check out next?
What’s your go-to order?
What do you look for in a pre-game or pre-concert meal?

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