Curious about Kalsada?
This new restaurant in St. Paul is all the buzz, so we booked reservations, brought our camera and notepad, and wrote up this detailed review for anyone who wants to know more about Modern Filipino in Minnesota!
Located in the beautiful space of the old St. Augustine’s in St. Paul’s Union Park / Snelling Hamline neighborhood, Kalsada is owned by the Leah Raymundo and her partner, John Occhiato.
If those two names aren’t ringing a bell, then perhaps these will; the two partners run some of the most popular coffee shops in the Twin Cities – Cafe Astoria and Stella Bella.
In fact, Kalsada doubles down with their ties to Cafe Astoria. Every day from 7 AM to 3 PM, you can find Cafe Astoria’s entire menu at the new Kalsada location.
(Locals have followed the hype around Cafe Astoria and its edible golden lattes for some time, so we won’t dive too much into that here. But for the purposes of this article, the real fun at Kalsada happens after 4 PM, when the new space blossoms into a unique restaurant of its own.)
This version of Kalsada, or what I consider The Main Event, stays true to chef Leah’s roots as a kid in the Philippines. Together with John Occhiato, the two have crafted one of the Twin Cities’ only Filipino restaurants.
They call their take modern Filipino, and the menu is peppered with tapas-style starters and small bites, plus some mains with elevated takes on beef, pork, and fish.
We visited shortly after opening at the beginning of May.
This meant we were greeted with one of those long-overdue, warm Spring evenings hinting that summer might finally be here.
All this to say that despite the inside of the restaurant still hanging on to tons of St. Augustine’s old charm, we didn’t spent a whole lot of time checking it out. Instead, we opted for the relaxing patio space, because, well… Minnesota nice-weather-guilt, and all that. , instead opting for the relaxing patio space.
The Patio area is basic, yet welcoming. In the evening, it sits in the shade of Kalsada’s rustic brick building. The decorations are sparse but tasteful – a few plants here, a raised patio platform there.
All in all, it may not blow you away like some of our other choices for the best patios in St. Paul, but it’s definitely a great spot to take in some fresh air!
This is Kalsada’s take on an egg roll, and they’ve got a serious winner on their hands.
These came out piping hot, perfectly crunchy, and filled with not only pork, but a unique, almost raisin-like ingredient that neither Lily or I could put our fingers on. And did I mention the dipping sauce is a banana ketchup? Bet you didn’t see that coming!
Neither did we, and we loved it. In fact, this might have been the standout dish of the night.
Pork BBQ Skewers
Once upon a time, a Filipino friend of mine hosted a birthday party where they wrangled an entire pig, then spent all day spit-roasting it over an open fire, apple-in-the-mouth and all!
All this to say, I’ve seen the amazing possibility of Filipino BBQ (especially when it comes to pork) so this dish was calling my name.
It didn’t disappoint. The skewers came with deeply charred flavors that reminded me of that open fire roasting technique. Add some of that delicious dipping sauce with pickled onions, whose acidity perfectly cut through the richness of the meat, and we’re two for two on winners so far.
We asked the waitress for recommendations, and she immediately shared the XO Noodles as of the new restaurant’s most popular dishes.
It came out like a Filipino take on traditional Chinese Lo Mein – simple, understated sauce with a hint of coconut, but a well-balanced mix of salty, saucy, and sweet.
As the resident Lo Mein aficionado, Lily loved Kalsada’s take.
This dish reminded me why I like Filipino food so much.
Compared to the in-your-face, bold flavors found in other cuisines, this dish showcased a more balanced and reserved approach.
The fish was cooked to flaky perfection, the corn salad added a zippy burst of flavor, and the white rice the white balanced everything out.
Definitely a dish that caters more to the fish fans rather than those who prefer to hide that taste behind other flavors, but yours truly is in the former club. So, not surprisingly, I really enjoyed this one!
Kalsada is such a welcome addition to the St. Paul food scene.
In a city that’s packed with other Asian influences, Filipino food is seriously underrepresented.
Add Kalsada’s cool coffee house vibe, and this is one of the more unique new restaurants in the Twin Cities!
Small dedicated lot or free street parking
One part coffee shop, one part sophisticated restaurant, one part casual patio
Full Wait Service
- Most Appetizers: $10-13
- Most Entrees: $14-25