Go Local: St. Paul, MN Grand Avenue
Posted by deborahmclaren on May 13, 2010
Local travel takes you outside of the bubble that you can often find yourself in as a traveler. Instead of traveling from place to place and only really scratching the surface, local travel helps you to gain more of an understanding of a place, it’s culture, it’s environment, it’s economy and it’s people. When I travel I like seeking out locally-owned businesses – getting away from the ever-present corporate chains that you can barely avoid these days. I’m going to start blogging more about my home town cause it rocks!
I love my town! Saint Paul, Minneota is noted for its neighborhoods. The city has been called “seventeen small towns with one mayor, “ owing to the neighborhood-based life of much of the city. It’s fairly diverse, with lots of Southeast Asian (Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Filippino), Indian, Somalian, Eritrean and Ethopian new immigrants – mixed in with lots of Scandinavian, German, and Mexican immigrants that have been here for a hundred years or so. And of course – this is the original homeland of the Dakota Medwaketon (Sioux/Lakota).
This afternoon my son, Anil and I stopped on Grand Avenue just east of Snelling to visit Shish Meditteranean Restaurant for a treat. He was in a very fussy, grumpy mood and needed food immediately! It was our first time to visit Shish. We ordered a chicken gyro plate that included to-die-for-hummus (garlicky and smooth, with lots of paprika), fresh pita bread and a generous salad. Shish uses local foods whenever possible. They also make delightful treats – your basic baklava but lots of tempting chocolate desserts and M&M cookies.
I noticed at least a dozen salads on the menu – great to know about here in the Northland where salads have tended to be very limited (except summer time) until recently where winter greenhouses and tunnel gardening are making headway). Shish was voted Best Restaurant by readers of the City Pages (the Twin Cities free weekly entertainment news).
The staff person, Sam, tried to tempt Anil out of his mood with offers of cookies but he wouldn’t budge. He was enjoying his little gloomy spell to the fullest. However, he finally couldn’t resist and had to try the chicken. It’s not-hot, but “grill” spicy and so tender it falls off your fork! And half the plate was piled with it.
It was an emergency stop but made us feel so much better that we decided to walk around and peek into some of the nearby stores. This part of town, near Macalester College, is full of little locally-owned stores and cafes. There’s an army surplus type shop, Cat-Man-Do restaurant, Tea Garden, the very eclectic Coffee News Cafe, Khyber Pass (my husband’s favorite), the Italian Pie Shoppe & Winery, Pad Thai Grand Cafe, Dunn Brothers Coffee, a couple of spas (I like New Beginnings), gift shops, a cooperatively owned Ace hardware store and Wet Paint – an independently owned art supply store (since the early 1970s I’ve heard). About two blocks away is Coastal Seafood, the Twin Cities best fish market. We always enjoy popping into the hardware store to browse through the seasonal stuff. It’s May so we scoped out the latest model bar-b-q grills, wooden Adirondack chairs, gardening supplies and seeds. Our visit reminded me to take my torn window screens in for repair before the bugs arrive in full force.
Since this area is surrounded by small colleges most of the cafes provide wifi, won’t rush you, and have excellent food and fair prices. The area is a mix of college students, local residents, and adventurous diners.
I love my town! If you’re from the surrounding area, visiting, or just driving through, Grand Avenue is not far from I-94 (south at Snelling exit) and is a nice place to visit. It’s accessible by bus routes and is easy to bike to. It’s an excellent place to get over the grumpies.