Holman’s Table (St Paul, MN)

Almost every time I’ve come through the Twin Cities, I try to get together with my PhD Advisor, Terry, for a meal. He and his wife Nancy are pretty good at finding interesting places to go, a mix of newer spots since I moved away from the area, and newer spots. In this case, they wanted to take me to one of their current favorite spots, Holman’s Table over in St Paul.

Those that live in the Twin Cities, the name “Holman” usually is associated with Holman Field, the St Paul Downtown Airport that you can’t easily miss: it’s a surprisingly large General Aviation and Air National Guard airport across the river from downtown St Paul. The main Administrative Building at the airport is right out of the Art Deco period, with fancy brickwork, a central air traffic tower, and elaborate metal railings (it even served as a filming location for a few scenes in Slaughterhouse Five). And it’s got a stellar view of Downtown St Paul up on the bluff. And in 2018, after several decades of having the first floor sitting mostly empty, Holman’s Table opened on the first floor with a large dining room and a lounge.

It’s really quite an attractive location: both the bar and dining room have nailed the early 20th vibe, the main lobby feels just like you’re sitting in a mid-century lounge waiting for your chartered aircraft, and the dining room is nicely appointed with plush leather booths and shiny tables, looking directly out at the runway. During the warmer months, they even set up several tables outside on the tarmac for outdoor dining.

They’ve also a vibrant cocktail program going on, with a good list of custom house cocktails focusing on regionally-make spirits. For my first drink, I went for an Earhart Spritz, Vikre Appertivo Classico (from Vikre Distilling in Duluth), brut, Bittercube Orange bitters (from Wisconsin), and orange peel. A nice variant on a Spritz, this was refreshing with some really solid orange notes.

For a second drink, I went a little more local, with a house Old Fashioned made with Studio Distilling Rye malt whiskey (from St Paul’s South Saint Anthony neighborhood), demerara syrup, Bittercube Cherry Bark and Blackstrap bitters. A nice localized riff on a classic cocktail.

When it comes to bread baskets, I’m normally pretty “meh” and don’t both either reviewing them or photographing them, but this was some really good focaccia. I always like my focaccia to have the same basic features of a good bagel: a nice, crisp, salty crust, with a slightly chewy texture, and, unlike a bagel, a nice olive oil flavor. And this delivered this perfectly. Add in a stack of house-made rosemary crackers, and, yes, this was a great bread basket. You know, I may have to declare 2023 the year of the bread basket, since several places this year seemed to really do a great job with an item that’s usually overlooked. It’s a trend I could get behind.

For my main course, I went for… the wild-rice crusted walleye. Served with wild-rice, shallot, roasted garlic, asparagus, baby kale, and bruschetta tomato. About the only way you could make a more “Minnesotan” dish would be to deep-fry it and served it on a stick at the State Fair, and you know what? This was also an excellent dish. The walleye perfectly cooked, tender and flaky. The wild-rice crust added a light bit of crispiness, and the nice woody-malty flavor I enjoy from a good wild rice. Adding to the wild rice was a well-executed pilaf, and the asparagus and kale added a nice pleasant green vegetable note. I was thoroughly pleased by this course.

Overall, I loved Holman’s Table. It’s a great destination spot for a nice dinner, has great views, a nicely-refurbished classic building, and a great set of entrees and cocktails. It’s certainly worth checking out if you are in St Paul.

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