We found lots to like in a brief incursion into St. Paul’s northeast quarter, out along Payne Avenue.
Unlike Minneapolitans, St. Paulites don’t call this quadrant of their city “Northeast.” Rather it’s “Payne-Phalen and The Greater East Side,” or “Ward Six” (in electoral terms).
We barely poked into the southwest corner of Ward Six. Lots more exploring to do in the coming months.
My brother-in-law had urged us to check out Morelli’s, an old-time Italian market whose floor space is now devoted primarily to the sale of wine and spirits. Morelli’s is not exactly a well-kept secret; I’m writing for the one or two readers who may not know about it already.
Leaving downtown St. Paul to the east on W 7th Ave., turn left at the traffic signal onto Payne Ave., less than a quarter mile past the row of wrapped Peanuts statues on the left. Morelli’s is at the corner of Tedesco St., on the left, 0.3 mi. along Payne.
Morelli’s runs a huge ad each week in the Pioneer Press (possibly also in the Strib, I’m not sure) with wine, liquor, and meat specials. The prices are exemplary. While you need a magnifying glass for the newspaper ads, Morelli’s kindly makes them available in readable form online. Here’s a static URL that links individually to all of the current ad’s sections: wine, liquors, meats, etc.
We spent a dazed half hour browsing through the aisles, boggling at the prices and filling a basket. When we got to the checkout we experienced reverse sticker shock: how could that much meat, pasta, wine, single-malt scotch, and bourbon add up to so little money?
Despite ample forewarning that Morelli’s takes only cash and checks — no credit cards — we still arrived there with just the customary few dollars in our pockets. There’s an ATM on premises that costs $2.50 to use, and we surely were far from the first to avail ourselves of it. I expect that it’s a major profit center for the grocery.
About halfway to Morelli’s on Payne, look on the left for Kenney Street. Turn left there and park. Here is the warehouse building of interest courtesy of Google Street View.
Marva’s Place is the first door you come to, on the left. Climb to the second floor for half a city block of antique furniture, dinnerware, paintings, decorative arts, office furniture, etc., nicely displayed and presided over by Marva and Dwayne Morton. They buy items, consign them, and handle estate cleanouts and business closings. The quality of the merchandise is high, the condition is excellent, and the prices are fair. Things occasionally go on sale. We weren’t particularly in the market for anything in Marva’s line, but managed over the next week or so to take home three various items for our new / old St. Paul home. This place is a gem.
A Greener Read
A little further along Kenney, on the first floor of the same building, you will find A Greener Read, a used bookstore just getting started. When we visited we found the owner, Jason Burbul, deep into building and installing bookshelves. There are plenty of used books, of course, and CDs and DVDs and a killer selection of vinyl records. A Greener Read places book recycling bins around the Metro and the state and in Fargo ND. You can see one of them lurking in the photo below, farther up Payne Avenue at Ward Six. A Greener Read’s Jason has plenty of space out there in Payne-Phalen, and plans to host events, readings, and perhaps live music once the bookstore becomes more established.
On our second visit out Payne Avenue we drove a little farther out to have lunch at Ward Six, a beautifully restored bar and tavern dating from 1885. In 1903 the building was bought by Hamm’s Brewery and operated as a “tied house” — selling only that brewery’s products — until the start of Prohibition in 1920. For the next 90 years the building saw various tenants and uses alternating with periods of abandonment. It is a stone wonder that the beautiful 1903 bar survived all that, but indeed it did.
During our visit the food was, quite simply, spectacular. We shared a large plate of frites with two dipping sauces, chosen from an offered six. The best fries we have so far enjoyed in the Twin Cities. We added a green salad, fresh as the day is long, and a small yellow Thai curry. Please just go. You will not be sorry.