The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul have a diverse collection of neighbourhoods between them, and in St Paul this is especially true. In fact, the city is often defined by the unique enclaves that lie within it, and as the hottest neighbourhood in St. Paul right now, Lowertown is one well worth knowing. What was historically the industrial warehouse district is now a vibrant arts hub with a thriving creative community, drawing people in for its arts and music offering and burgeoning dining scene, not to mention one of the best farmer’s markets countrywide. We take a look at the best ways to spend your time on a visit to Lowertown.
Widely regarded as St Paul’s arts district, Lowertown has been key to the city’s regeneration. As artists moved into the district’s historic warehouses, an arts scene evolved, in turn leading to the arrival of restaurants and bars, a farmer’s market – which is held within the neighbourhood’s historic Market House, and which no visit to Lowertown would be complete without exploring – and the historic railway station turned cultural venue, Union Depot. Here visitors can take a tour of the old station, stroll between works of public art or coincide a visit with one of Union Depot’s many events.
If the main reason for coming here is to interact with the artist community, it’s worth setting aside enough time to join a Lowertown Art Crawl. The Saint Paul Collective hosts these studio tours – the first of which was hosted in 1991 – to showcase the neighbourhood’s resident artists, and now there are around 300 taking part.
Another of Lowertown’s great appeals is the pocket of greenery, Mears Park. Made even more picturesque by the stream that runs through it, the park is a tranquil escape from its urban surroundings. What’s more, the green space truly comes alive each Thursday throughout summer as musicians take to the stage to be a part of the Music in Mears events. Sports fans, meanwhile, can catch a game by the city’s minor-league baseball team St Paul Saints at the team’s home turf, CHS Field, which is also in the ‘hood.
For a bite to eat, stop by the corner café and bakery The Buttered Tin. As well as having an inviting indoor space complete with open kitchen, this popular café offers al fresco seating for fair-weather days. Here diners can expect to dig into comfort food prepared using locally sourced seasonal ingredients, from the breakfast plates like Buttered Tin Hash with house-smoked whitefish or crab cake Benedict with asparagus, to the beef short rib Reuben, layered cake, cupcake or pies later in the day.
Across the street from St Paul Farmer’s Market, Big River Pizza serves up pizzas dubbed the Minnepolitan, known for their Neapolitan style and use of local ingredients. Try the 10,000 leeks pizza with Gruyere cheese and sour cream, or the bacon jam slam with house-made bacon jam. Golden’s also sits across from the market, combining a casual food and drink offering with music and the arts; catch reggae, blues, swing and jazz performances, and see the work that’s been exhibited by local artists, while filling up on deli sandwiches.
Tucked within Mears Park, FACES offers a menu of sophisticated American plates that take inspiration from Moroccan, French and Mediterranean cuisine, while utilizing local, sustainable and organic produce. Saint Dinette also champions the flavours of the surrounding region, but these home-style North American dishes take their influence from Montreal, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mexico, while ultimately displaying the restaurant’s French roots.
With James Beard nominee chef Lenny Russo at the helm, Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar has received resounding praise for its farm-to-table cuisine; think rabbit empanadas, asparagus soup and pork chop with a rhubarb-sultana chutney. Russo is also the consultant chef at PUBLIC Kitchen + Bar – situated just moments away from Mears Park – where diners gather in the airy, light-filled dining room to tuck into contemporary American small plates, which have been whipped up in the restaurant’s open kitchen.
A recent addition to Lowertown’s dining scene is Handsome Hog, a contemporary Southern restaurant with a strong inclination towards pork and bourbon. Start with crispy pig tail with a watermelon jus, or a whole roasted hog jowl, followed by a selection of cured and smoked cuts from the Meat Bar. As for the bourbon, they have 100 bottles behind the bar, and even barrel-age some of their own.
Another largely liquor-focused joint is the Mexican eatery Barrio Tequila Bar. Enjoy fresh guacamole with house-made tortilla chips and ancho salsa, snapper or Ahi tuna ceviche, or a spiced shrimp taco with pico de gallo and avocado, washed down with a flight of tequila or mezcal. The artists’ loft space Black Dog Coffee & Wine Bar has also garnered a loyal following for its focus on affordable yet interesting wines that have been sourced from around the world, craft beer, locally roasted coffee and casual organic sandwiches and salads. Add to this a daily – three-hour – ‘happy hour’ and regular live music and you can see why people keep coming back.
Dark Horse Bar & Eatery delights diners with an eclectic menu of global cuisine extending from brunch and lunch to dinner and the ‘dark hour’ (3-6pm and 11pm-2am), with classic cocktails like the mint julep among the extensive drinks offering. But on warm summer evenings who could resist a rooftop setting like Ox Cart Ale House – just a short distance from CHS Field. Here, the rooftop pulls in the crowds for pre- and post-game drinks and a bite to eat.
Partnering with Delta has allowed us to connect you to a selection of destinations across the United States and Canada, making it even easier to visit St Paul, with flights to Minneapolis.
Have you been to Lowertown in St Paul? What were the highlights for you? Let us know in the comments section below.