Tag Archives: St. Paul

Summit Avenue Walking Tour, St. Paul, MN, June 2019

Last weekend my friend Ruth and I went on a Summit Avenue walking tour in St. Paul and I wanted to share photos and what I remember. It’s a 90 minute tour of some of the biggest and oldest homes on Summit Avenue that starts at the James J. Hill house.  We walked maybe a mile total and heard histories of several homes.

We learned the James J. Hill house was the most expensive house on the Avenue at the time.  The enormous mansion cost $1,000,000 to build in 1891, about $2.7 million today. Throughout the tour our guide would tell us how much each of the houses cost to build and the James J. Hill house far surpassed every other house we viewed.  One can’t help but notice the dark stones on this house. It was due to coal being used to heat the homes at the time. Our guide spoke of an attempt to clean the stones using a sandblaster and how that damaged the stone, so they stopped doing that. It sounded like cleaning these stones was low on the priority list of upkeep for this house.

James J. Hill was the guy who created the Great Northern Railway between St. Paul, Minnesota and Seattle, Washington.  He made a fortune in the railroad business and was able to build the home of his dreams.  The tour of his ornate mansion is also worth a visit. I took the tour shortly after I arrived in Minnesota 27 years ago.  I think it might be time to take that tour again. These two photos were taken at the same time but I lightened up the second one:

One of the themes of this tour was money because all of the houses on the tour were owned by the wealthiest people in St. Paul.  Our guide told us how much it cost to build each of the houses on our tour. It’s so interesting especially in today’s market.  Towards the end of the tour we saw Hill’s carriage house(260 Maiden Lane) for the mansion across the street. It’s been converted into condos and one of them sold for $800k recently. We all wondered what Hill might think of this, that one third of his carriage house is worth nearly as much as he paid to build that huge mansion across the street.

Next door to the Hill house was the home he built for his son Louis, apparently the favorite son.  Along the way our guide mentioned the many styles of the houses and you could see that each owner selected styles that appealed to them.  I don’t remember all of the styles mentioned but Richardsonian Romanesque was one that was repeated a few times. The Hill house is in this style. Others mentioned were Queen Anne and Italianate.  The following gallery contains the first several homes that we looked at, including the oldest standing structure on Summit Avenue built in 1858 at 312 Summit.

There’s a bit of a story about these next homes. They are called the Leitner and the Leitner-Young homes. These two owners were lawyers together and our guide joked that they must have liked each other so much they lived in a double house together(322 Summit). Some years later, Mr. Leitner had another home built right next door. Had enough of Mr. Young and family? Hmmm.  There is also a tunnel between the houses.

The following gallery contains photos of the next homes that we viewed.  Our guide pointed out that on the left side of the large red stone house the carriage area had been converted to a garage.  She pointed out the white house across the street(365 Summit) as this one’s her favorite on Summit Avenue. She likes that it’s the only white house on Summit and that it’s the first house on Summit Avenue that was owned by a female, Martha Bass.

We rested a little bit at “Lookout” Park, or Summit Overlook Park, which offers a nice view of the Mississippi river valley below as well as The University Club, a very exclusive club. It was even more exclusive during the time all the mansions on Summit Avenue were being built. In order to become a member you had to be a white male with an Ivy League education. So James J. Hill, who had only an 8th grade education but was one of the wealthiest men in St. Paul, could not become a member. But his son Louis, who went to Yale because his father wanted him to have the best education, could become a member.  Irony of ironies that.

After our short rest in Overlook Park we crossed Summit and our guide took us down Maiden Avenue(parallel to Summit), so named because the female servants for the wealthy people along Summit Avenue lived in row houses here.  We passed the building named The Commodore  where F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda resided when their daughter Scottie was born. This was also where many gangsters lived during Fitzgerald’s time. Check out this interesting article about those gangsters that I found on MinnPost. I had never heard of The Commodore before but Ruth had been there for a wedding reception and said it was very nice. I think I may have to check out the restaurant soon!

The tour ends at the St. Paul Cathedral which was designed by Cass Gilbert, a prolific architect who also designed the Minnesota State Capitol as well as the William Leitner house at 318 Summit noted above. Both Ruth and I really enjoyed this tour and would highly recommend it to anyone that enjoys architecture and/or the history of  some of the wealthiest people of St. Paul.  While doing research for this post I came across several interesting articles that I’m going to link here for anyone that would like to do further reading. Within the first link there is a photo of the oldest house on Summit (at 312 Summit) covered in ivy, quite the contrast to how it looks today.

Summit Avenue History: The Story of Saint Paul’s Famous Street

Another Summit Avenue walking tour

 

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Boca Chica restaurant, St. Paul, MN

Recently we dined at this great restaurant just over the river from downtown St. Paul.  One of our favorites as we always have a great meal and leave satisfied.  We started off with some margaritas.

Next was the soup and then our entrees. We both had their delicious tomato soup with what looks like small pieces of spaghetti and fresh cilantro on top, oh yum.  Hubby had the tamales, their grandmother’s family recipe described like this “Two fresh tamales filled with your choice of pork seasoned with chile ancho sauce or chicken seasoned with salsa verde, then wrapped in a plantain leaf and steamed to perfection. Served with chile gravy and sopa.”   I had Los Dos Amigos: “Two handmade thick corn tortillas topped with refried beans, green chile sauce, onions, queso fresco and cilantro. Served with sopa and any one enchilada.” Hubby ate both his tamales and I took home most of his beans and rice and had them with the other half of the two amigos the next day for lunch.  Yum!!

The walls of the restaurant are decorated with interesting murals and we sat by the fireplace this time which was nice on a cold, winter evening.

If you’re in the twin cities you really should have a meal here. I’m pretty sure you will leave happy.

Boca Chica
11 Cesar Chavez Street
St. Paul, MN 55107
651- 222-8499

Boca Chica Restaurante on Urbanspoon

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Homi – Restaurante Mexicano, St. Paul, MN

If you’re in St. Paul you must try Homi.  Real. Mexican. Food.  And, let me tell you, it’s fabulous!!  We’ve been going by this place for a while and finally decided to try it tonight.  We’re so glad we did, we are definitely going back.

It’s a tiny place and parking is problematic so Homi put a nice, big sign in his window: “parking in back”. And there was!  I forgot to take a photo of the front.  If you’re taking the green line you’ll go in the front door (not pictured).

Homi's back entrance

We sat down and started with their homemade guacamole.  Oh my goodness. Delish!!  He leaves the pit in the dish and I thought that was a nice touch.  It is made fresh, as is everything at Homi.  They have a sign explaining that there is a bit of a wait because everything is made from scratch.  It’s definitely worth the wait.

fresh guacamole

I had the chiles rellenos.  These might be the best chiles rellenos that I’ve ever had.  The sauce was to die for.  It came with rice and beans. We also got fresh and warm corn tortillas (rice, beans and tortillas not pictured).

Hubby had the tamales, equally delicious. I tasted it, yum!

tamales

They’re right on the green line and easy for downtown worker bees to have lunch.  They are also on this list of some other great places to eat in St. Paul, Lunch along the Green Line.

Their portions are large, so bring your appetite. Or bring home the rest and have it for lunch the next day.  Do try this great Mexican restaurant when you’re in St. Paul.  I’m sure you will leave happy.

Homi Restaurant
864 University Avenue
St. Paul, MN
651-222-0655
Homi Mexican on Urbanspoon

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Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant – St. Paul, MN

“There was, there wasn’t . . . In a land far away – a great and mighty Kurdish tribe called the Babanis. The Babani men were known throughout the land for their patriotic sentiments, their fierce fighting habits and their sexual prowess.  In contrast, the women were said to be kind, forgiving, hardworking and excellent cooks. In this respect the men and women were well suited for one another. And so as one may imagine the tribe flourished spreading children throughtout Kurdistan. In more recent years, the great leaders of this mighty empire could not contain the curiosity of young men whose desires to explore the treasures of exotic lands were insatiable. In keeping with their Babani male tradition, this especially applied to the wonders of women. So many as we say here in Minnesota, “took to the trials”. One exceptionally brave and handsome young man;

Jamal, son of Abdul Karim, Mohammed, Qadir, Gafur Fuad, was the first to leave his tribe. He made his way to the Americas where one day he heard some interesting news on the radio. The reporter was saying, “In Minnesota the women are strong, blond and beautiful . . . their children are far above average.” He needed no more cajoling (for he felt the news was directed at him) before he found himself among this mysteriously mild yet unsparing culture. And as he had hoped he soon met Gail, a most beautiful young blond maiden. Much to his delight he realized that she had many of the qualities of the women of his great Babani tribe. Still, he was unsuccessful in convincing his parents of this face. And Gail’s parents, Barb and Ed, were unimpressed by Jamal’s tribal ancestry. In spite of the many protests Gail and Jamal were soon to marry . . . And this is how the first Kurdish restaurant came to be in Minnesota . . . The End”

The story above is what you find on the front of Babani’s menu as well as their About page on their website.  I thought it was such a nice story that I had to share it with my review of this outstanding restaurant in St. Paul.  My friend at work (now my former job) asked me if I’d be interested in eating there and I’m always up for new food adventures so I said “Sure!” And we headed out into the cold with our boots and parkas on and made our way north and west to this small, charming place that is not attached to a skyway. A pleasant young man waits on the tables and he too is very charming.  That time we both had Chicken TawaChicken sauteed in lemon and other spices then baked in layers of potato, green pepper, onion, and dried limes.  Served with basmati rice.  The chicken was so moist and tender, it melted in your mouth and was heavenly.  We also split an order of baklava.  Oh my, yum!!

We went back to celebrate my new job. We chose other items from the menu and this time I took pictures.  We started with an appetizer called Bajan ReshkDeep fried eggplant covered with Jajic, cucumber, olives, tomatoes, lemon.  Served with bread.  Again, very delicious.

For lunch, my friend chose Kubay Brinj: this rice “dumpling” is filled with lean ground beef, special spices, olive oil and parsley, then quick fried to a crisp brown shell.  She enjoyed it immensely. I’m getting the impression that anything you choose on the menu is very good as she’s had 4 or 5 of the dishes from the lunch menu so far and sne’s enjoyed them all.  I had Bakla: Kurdish saute of mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini and onion in olive oil with pepper and other seasoning. Served with basmati rice.  It was really good albeit a little spicy, but not enough to make me stop eating it :) You have a choice of side dish and we both had the tabouli.  I used my friend’s photos, I liked them better:

I thought I could not eat another bite…..until my friend suggested the baklava again.  Such a sweet and nutty treat and something one should really have here.  It’s served warm and I had never eaten it this way.  But I gotta tell you: it’s the bomb!!   We were so anxious to eat it that I forgot to take a photo!  Until the last bite:

the last of the baklava

the last of the baklava

Other photos:

I highly recommend this charming downtown restaurant.  It’s cozy with friendly and quick service.  Do make a point of eating here, I’m pretty sure you’ll go away happy.

Babani’s Kurdish Restaurant
544 St. Peter St.
St. Paul, MN. 55402
651-602-9964
contact@babanis.com

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W.A. Frost & Company, St. Paul, MN – an anniversary restaurant review

It’s been a few years since we celebrated our anniversary at W.A. Frost.  It’s always a great experience so we decided to go back again this year.  It was a fabulous experience!  Come with me while I walk through our evening last night.

We always like to start the evening in the bar adjacent to the restaurant.  It’s full of character and the bartenders are great. We started with gin gimlets.  We ordered the Steamed Blue Mussels which are described thusly: coconut-green curry broth, cilantro, celery, Fresno chilies, grilled sourdough. They were excellent!  And hubby had their trio of Pacific Coast Oysters and enjoyed them.

We then took our seats by the fireplace.  I always love to sit by the fireplace.  While it was a relatively warm winter day here in the twin cities, it’s always nice to sit by a warm fire.  Here are two views from our table, one with the fire, one without:

Hubby decided that he really wanted the Chef’s Featured Charcuterie as he liked the way the bartender described it.  It was head cheese accompanied by veggies and some secret sauce that he really enjoyed.  He loved it!! Me, not so much.

As most fine restaurants do, W.A. Frost has their menu on the web and I had already decided that I was going to have their duck.  But just days before the menu had changed and the duck was no longer an option.  But I know their quality is always great so I kept an open mind and decided on the Truffle and Goat Cheese Risotto which is described: “beet marmalade, sunflower sprouts, pistachios, saba” and it was wonderful!  I also had their Roasted Mushrooms on the side which were also delicious.  Hubby had the Braised Pork Cheeks:  “celery root purée, sauteed rapini, curry-apple relish”.  He looked like he was in heaven it was so delicious.

Truffle and Goat Cheese Risotto

Truffle and Goat Cheese Risotto

Braised Pork Cheeks

Braised Pork Cheeks

It was another fabulous anniversary spent at one of the finest restaurants in St. Paul.  I highly recommend W.A. Frost to anyone that enjoys a fine dining experience.  The food is always excellent and the wait staff is superb.  You won’t be disappointed!

W.A. Frost & Company
374 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
651-224-5715

W.A. Frost & Company on Urbanspoon

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My second blogoversary

How time flies when you’re having fun!  Last year I had fun creating a summary of some of my favorite posts during my first year of blogging.  Check them out at the link if you are so inclined.  I thought I’d do the same thing this year as well.  So, sit back and enjoy a snapshot of my second year of blogging.

I love the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  Last February we paid a visit and I documented it.  There are so many great works of art there it’s hard to choose just one photo so I’m choosing two :)

I write restaurant reviews from time to time and here’s one I especially like, both the restaurant and the post.  It was our first visit to Hell’s Kitchen and we really need to go back again!

I take part in several challenges, so here’s one of my favorites that was fairly popular.  It was a dual challenge post for both the weekly photo challenge and the CBBH challenge.  And the Chihuly ceiling and red velvet cake garnered the most comments so here they are again:

I did some posts from downtown St. Paul.  The skyways of St. Paul.  I like this photo from that post:

When the weather was nicer I took some outdoor photos downtown.  Here is Downtown St. Paul on the outside.  The Peanuts sculptures were quite a hit with readers so here is one of those:

in downtown St. Paul

in downtown St. Paul

This was a fun post to snap photos for, Downtown St. Paul – the old and the new.

And who can forget the mighty storm that was the start of our summer last year? The same storm that knocked out power to 250,000 of us in the twin cities.  I created a post about it to document our fun weekend without power :) The appropriately titled “another interesting weekend in the great white north”.  We got creative and had bacon and eggs, cooked on our Coleman stove on the back step:

When life hands you lemons, you make vodka and tonics to get you through a weekend without power :)

Moving on through the summer I created a short post with the lovely iris from my garden:

Another photo challenge that was fairly popular was the one entitled Pink and this gorgeous pink bloom was part of that post:

I had a lot of fun creating this post on how to make paella and here is the end result, yum!

And then a few more photo challenges that were popular.  Good morning, Unexpected and Family and a couple photos from these.  My daughter’s clever apology:

And one from my family post.  My mother’s family from 1939:

Leidermans 1939I also created a post about my favorite holiday Thanksgiving and one at Christmas time about my silly cat Fritz. Here’s Fritz enjoying Christmas presents:

Fritz loves Christmas

Fritz loves Christmas

One other post I created contained many photos of my cats and it was fun to put together.  And to round out the year I will end with our recent visit to a small art gallery on the University of Minnesota campus that we really enjoyed.  Here’s a sample of the art there:

Once again, thank you to all of my followers.  And to the bloggers that I follow as well where I get a lot of inspiration.  You’re all fabulous! Here’s to another great year of blogging!

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Marjorie McNeely Conservatory – Como Park, St. Paul, MN

One of our favorite activities during the winter months is to visit the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory in Como Park. It’s a ten minute drive from our house and provides a nice refuge from the frigid weather.  And boy howdy, have we ever had frigid weather this year! Not to mention the piles of snow we’ve accumulated.  Here’s a good view of that snow with the conservatory in the background:

This year I focused more on the blooms.  Last year I documented many of the plants that are contained within the conservatory.  If you’re interested, check out that post by clicking here.  We managed to strike it rich in terms of seeing beautiful orchids. The winter carnival is happening right now and there was an orchid contest and the winners were displayed in one of the rooms.  I also noticed that there were many more orchids blooming this year than last year.  Last year we visited the equivalent of about 3 weeks ago.  What a difference 3 weeks makes!

I did snap some photos of lovely greenery too:

A collection of some other things blooming:

The sunken gardens where many couples get married:

And here’s a photo from hubby’s camera, the photographer at work ;)

This was quite the scene with the sloth named Chloe and the lone sun bittern.  There was a volunteer who just told us how the bittern loves to torment the sloth to gain control of this tree.  Another volunteer watched with us while the sloth moved away from the bittern.  He said he’d never seen that sloth move so fast! It seem the bittern won this round:

I’m thinking the bonsai room was either closed last year or we missed it.  There’s a nice display of a few bonsai plants but it wasn’t a good day to take photos in there.  It was too bright.  But I did get one of an olive tree and then a view of the room:

Finally, a study of amaryllis. I liked hubby’s photo a little better than mine so he let me display it here.

I’m participating in my friend Marianne’s new photo challenge “one trip every month”.  Do check out other trips at the link to her blog and enjoy!!

one trip every month

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