What if I told you one of the Twin Cities absolute best restaurants has been sitting quietly in the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul for the past two years, without nearly the buzz it deserves?
Let me take you on a photo tour of our recent visit to Estelle, and why it’s got the entire DiscoverTheCities.com team completely reshuffling their list of favorite restaurants.
Estelle opened in 2020 as chef Jason Hansen’s first official restaurant. While he might not be the most recognizable name in the Twin Cities food scene (yet!), he still brings an impressive resume that includes time spent at the kitchens of 112 Eatery, Tilia, and St. Genevieve.
His menu at Estelle focuses on Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, mostly inspired by a 3-month backpacking trip through those two countries. True to form, that means a short but sweet list of tapas, small plates, and even small bar snacks (for guests in the patio or bar spaces).
That said, even less adventurous eaters will feel right at home with a few Minnesota staples on the menu, including a legendary Cheeseburger (inspired by Hansen’s brief stint at a fine dining restaurant in Chicago) and even a Fried Chicken Sandwich.
DiscoverTheCities.com’s “Must Eats” at Estelle
Honestly, every single dish we tried was fantastic. We joked that on the ten point scale, everything we tried ranged from 9/10 to 10/10.
For me, those perfect dishes were the Rigatoni, Shrimp Al Ajillo, and Blood Orange Salad, although the others were right there with them.
Our Full Review
Location, Vibe & Atmosphere
We walked into Estelle’s Mac-Groveland space, and immediately felt the atmosphere was perfect for its neighborhood location.
There’s three different areas to this restaurant – a modern yet rustic dining area, an understated patio, and a full chef’s counter. Each space looked and felt far more approachable than the sophisticated menu would lead on.
We sat at the chef’s counter, and we had a blast watching those chefs churn out beautiful dish after beautiful dish, all while joking with each other (and the guests!) in the process.
Estelle’s owners said they’re going for a neighborhood happy hour spot or a repeatable date night location, and the vibe here totally nailed both of those goals.
Estelle started wow’ing us before the food even came out.
We ordered three cocktails over the night, and each one blew us away more then the last. Sean actually made the point that this spot might have some of the best restaurant cocktails in the entire Twin Cities. Coming from a guy that orders a cocktail at every one of our restaurant reviews, that’s saying something!
Tapas options are surprisingly limited in the Twin Cities, so naturally we got way too carried away and ordered quite a bit more food than we needed.
Good thing it was all so delicious!
Shrimp Al Ajillo
For me, this was the perfect representation of Estelle on a plate. I have no idea what kind of magic they put into that buttery shrimp sauce, but I could drink it by the gallon. Add some perfectly charred bread for making tiny little shrimp sandwiches? Amazing.
This might have been my favorite plate of the night, but I’m hesitant to say that when everything that followed was equally mind blowing.
Blood Orange Salad
Okay, now this was my favorite plate of the night. It was bright, it was acidic, and it was rich. In other words, basically the perfect salad.
Our waitress said this was basically fish fry in tapas form. Anyone who knows me knows those words are a perfect way to my heart, and the crunchy bites did not disappoint!
Wow! In a city filled with pasta, this is again some of the best pasta anywhere. Maybe this was my favorite dish?
Estelle’s Rigatoni is legendary, and one bite of that saucy chili / fennel sausage mix, and I immediately understood why.
Estelle might stray from their Spanish and Portuguese theme a bit with this one, but when you’ve got burger this amazing, can you blame them?
This burger is the smashed, double-pattie variety, and is slathered with plenty of secret sauce, American cheese, lettuce, and onions.
It’s basically the greatest Big Mac you’ve ever had. And although I’m far from a McDonald’s fan, I mean that as a serious complement.
Just an incredible burger.
Estelle is easily one of our favorite new restaurants in town.
Every single dish we tried was fantastic, and the cocktails were truly some of the best around.
Add an approachable neighborhood vibe, fun staff, and even affordable prices (considering the extreme quality of these chef-crafted plates) and you have the recipe of an incredible restaurant.
This was one of our favorite restaurant visits in a while, so do yourself a favor and get to Estelle!
We’ll see ya there!
Bar snacks start at $6, tapas are in the $14-15 range, and plates are in the $18-25 range. And that already includes a service charge for fair wages!
Free street parking.
Do you need a reservation?
Always recommended, although we saw a few open tables and walk ins on our Friday night visit.
Approachable/Casual. Moderate noise level.
1806 St Clair Ave, St Paul, MN 55105