W.A. Frost & Co (St. Paul, MN)

Back in December, I was invited to the University of Minnesota’s Department of Mechanical Engineering to give a talk on some of my autonomous drone development work. I always love these sorts of visits, since they are a chance to keep caught up with what the University is up to… as well as having an excuse to visit some old friends and favorite food haunts. Indeed, it’s become a bit of a running joke that on most of these visits I end up going to Al’s Breakfast, often multiple times. But they also take me out to dinner. Last time, it was to a new-to-me place, Cafe Biaggo, but this time, it was a return to a long-ago favorite of mine, W.A. Frost & Co in St Paul.

Back when I lived in Minnesota, W.A. Frost was one of those stalwart choices if you were needing to go out for a “fancy dinner”. In the summer, it sports a fantastic patio (and interestingly, one of St Paul’s first in the modern era; the health inspectors at the time were quite dubious of the concept), and in the remainder of the year they have one of the more pleasant “old-school” dining rooms: marble tables, wooden chairs, brickwork, oil paintings, and meticulously-set tables. And the building itself is quite a treat: the Dacotah building was built around 1900, and for much of the 20th century it held the W.A. Frost & Co drugstore. While that drugstore closed after WWII (when that part of St Paul was getting to be rather run down), the first of many waves of renewal starting in the 70s had the building refurbished, and the old W.A. Frost name applied to first a bar, and then a restaurant as the business grew through several storefronts.

Menu-wise, W.A. Frost continues to focus on what I’d call “well-executed classic American Fine Dining”, with a selection of steaks, chops, a classic “Airline Chicken Breast”, seared fish, and pasta dishes, and a handful of slightly more adventuresome dishes like grilled octopus. As our group considered the menu, we started with some fries for the table. The fries themselves were straightforward but extremely well-executed, with a soft interior and crisp exterior, but the standout here that elevated the dish wash the condiments: a good srirachi mayo, and a surprisingly refreshing pineapple ketchup (yes, you read that right).

For my main course, I chose their Argentinian-style Skirt Steak. Most places that aren’t Mexican, I’m a little hesitant to order skirt steak, since it’s a finicky cut of meat to get both tender and have a good sear on it, but W.A. Frost nailed it: perfectly crisped but tender skirt, served up with some nice pickled onions, some peppers, and a nice chimichurri, this was a very enjoyable steak.

For my side, I did an order of the Brussels sprouts, and this was a surprisingly involved dish: seared sprouts, with butternut squash, bacon, Asiago cheese, and a maple glaze. The sprouts had the perfect sear and textures, the squash added just a bit of sweetness, and the bacon, cheese, and glaze tied it all together. This was good enough you could have had it as a main course.

Overall, W.A. Frost & Co was a pleasant evening, and a great chance to revisit an old favorite from (checks calendar…) almost 25 years ago. How time flies. But W.A. Frost remains a top choice for a good dinner around St Paul’s Summit Avenue/Cathedral Hill area.

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