Tongue in Cheek: Legit chef-driven dining in East St. Paul? Everything you need to know.

tongue in cheek st paul minnesota

Tongue in Cheek: Quick Info

The 5 Course Tasting Menu. Or just anything with their famous Pork Belly.

$10 to $50


Foodie dining in a down-to-earth, approachable setting.

989 Payne Ave. St. Paul, MN 55130


  • Tues-Thurs: 11 am to 10 pm
  • Friday: 11 am to 11 pm
  • Saturday: 10 am to 11 pm
  • Sunday: 10 am to 9 pm
  • Closed Mondays
  • Brunch daily until 2 pm
  • Happy Hour: 4 pm to 7 pm
  • Closed Mondays

Private lot and street (free)


Tongue in Cheek Menu

tongue in cheek menu
(Click for full size)

Tongue in Cheek Full Review

East St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood has been touted as the newest “up and coming” hood for quite some time, with mixed results.
But when the community learned that Tongue in  Cheek was moving onto the main strip, people started taking that claim a little more seriously.
Tongue In Cheek’s promise? Chef-driven, locally sourced, sustainable food, complete with…
  • An intriguing and ever-changing tasting menu (either vegan or meat-lover)
  • A fully stocked bar with mixologist-inspired cocktails
  • A team spun off from legendary St. Paul establishments The Happy Gnome and W.A. Frost.

Like most Saint Paul residents, I’d heard the hype. So naturally, I wanted to see for myself!

Below you’ll find my report of three separate trips to a restaurant that fittingly describes itself as an “eating, drinking, and cavorting establishment.”

Review #1: Dipping my toes into East St. Paul with a cocktail flight

Sure, you’ve heard of beer flights. Everyone’s doing those these days. But who’s doing cocktail flights???

Tongue in Cheek, that’s who.

I learned this on my first trip. Already stuffed on dinner from a different restaurant, and fresh off a trip to The St. Paul Brewery, I decided to end my night of drinking… with some more drinking.

Enter, mixed drinks at Tongue in Cheek.

In my post-brewery induced state, I was struggling to make a drink decision. Little did I know, I didn’t have to.

For Tongue in Cheek has every indecisive drinker’s new favorite thing: the cocktail flight.

I took a great picture of my cocktail flight, and then immediately lost it. So we’ll rely on Tongue in Cheek’s instagram feed, instead. (Apparently, drinking and food blogging don’t mix as well as Tongue in Cheek’s cocktails…)


Trying multiple mixed drinks for the price of one? Love it.

While the exact details of those drinks have since become a hazy blur, I do remember them sufficiently blowing my socks off.

In fact, I was so impressed that I vowed to come back with an emptier stomach, so that I could give the full dining menu a try.

Review #2: Get Some Lovin’ $69 Special

A few months later, I was day-dreaming of Tongue in Cheek again, and I did what only the most shameless of foodies do: I started browsing the restaurant’s official website.

(Who actually does that!? At work, no less!)

That’s when I saw something intriguing. A mid-week special, and it looked like a screaming deal!

Sunday through Thursday, Tongue in Cheek was offering:

  • 2 adult beverages
  • 4 small plates
  • 2 “teasers” aka their appetizers
  • and 1 desert

All for $69! Not bad at all!

I coaxed the boyfriend into joining me on a Tuesday, and we began our tour through Tongue in Cheek’s small plate and appetizer menu. (A helpful discussion with the waitress taught us that one special was big enough to split between both of us.)

Here’s what we tried, in order of most favorite to least:

  • Steamed Pork Buns: just unreal. The soft as a pillow bun blankets the out of this world pork belly and other goodies. 10/10.
  • Roasted Cauliflower: no clue what’s even in here, but it’s bursting with flavor. Surprisingly spicy, which I enjoyed. 10/10.
  • Bubba’s Gump: imagine the best tempura shrimp you’ve ever had. 10/10.
  • Chicken and Waffles: some of the best I’ve had. 9/10.
  • Miso Panna Cotta: first bite was great, but a little heavy by the end. Couldn’t finish. 7/10.
  • Crab beignets: only dish I didn’t love. 6/10.
tongue in cheek pork buns
Steamed Pork Buns & Roasted Cauliflower. Fantastic.
tongue in cheek special 1
Bubba's Gump + Shishito Peppers

Drink wise, I ordered the Ron Swanson, which I didn’t realize was an old fashioned. I don’t usually like an old fashioned, but I even enjoyed theirs.

The service was perfect. Our great waitress (and even the food runners!) helped us make fantastic menu choices, and the timing of the massive collection of plates was spot on.

Overall, this was one of my best dining experiences in a while. Again, I found myself vowing to come back.

This time, for a shot at the legendary 5 course tasting menu.

Review #3: This is it. The Five Course Carnivore Tasting Menu…

Trip number three was less of a deal, but by this point I’d been sufficiently blown away by Tongue In Cheek enough times that I was willing to front the cash for a five course tasting menu. With drink pairings, of course. Because why not?

Here’s how it all played out:

First BONUS Course: A spoonful of some sort of basil/pesto/blueberry concoction. This one was a freebie on the house. (What a cool touch!)

tongue in cheek tasting prixe fixe course 1

I’m far too unsophisticated to actually explain what this was, other than delicious. (Rating: 9/10)

Course 1: Fried octopus with green sauce. I’m pretty sure “green sauce” makes me the worst food critic around, but here we are. This one blew me away. Two bites in, I realized this was a chef-driven take on a fried fish finger with dipping sauce. Except in this case, the “fried fish” was perfectly seasoned, meaty octopus.

tongue in cheek tasting prixe fixe course 2

Genius, and I knew I was in for a treat of a meal. (Rating: 9/10)

Drink pairing: Cross Eyed Mary (spicy bloody mary infused gin with dill pickle).

tongue in cheek drink pairing

Course 2: Shrimp and Grits. This was the same incredibly crunchy shrimp from my last visit, although spiced up with some grits so delicious that I couldn’t help but lick the plate clean. (Rating: 10/10)

tongue in cheek tasting prixe fixe course 3

Drink pairing: A white wine, that again I’m far too unsophisticated to remember.

Course 3: Fried chicken with curry udon. Super flavorful, although I found part of me just wanting to eat the delicious fried chicken on its own.

tongue in cheek tasting prixe fixe course 4

The flavorful broth seeped into the chicken and took away from the crunch a bit. (Rating: 8/10)

Drink pairing: Able IPA… I was shocked how well this paired with the noodles! (Note to self: IPAs with all my asian noodles from now on…)

Course 4: Tongue in Cheek’s famous Pork Belly, with parsnips three ways. Who knew, but apparently parsnips can be fried, mashed, or sauted. Not to mention the “chestnut foam” that tasted like heaven’s butter.

tongue in cheek tasting prixe fixe pork belly course 5

This was incredible, and I can see why Tongue in Cheek’s pork belly has built such a reputation. (Rating: 10/10)

Drink Pairing: Cabernet sauvignon.

Course 5: Pear and blueberry crisp (dessert). Okay, but not my favorite desert. (6/10)

Drink pairing: Bailey’s and cream.

Final Thoughts on Tongue in Cheek: One of the most unique restaurants in St. Paul

So far, I’m 3 for 3 on incredible trips to Tongue in Cheek.

Much like it’s location in the transitional East St. Paul neighborhood, the food here is delicious, yet unpretentious. Fancy, yet totally approachable.

The service is top of the line. Always friendly, clearly passionate, and running the whole show like a well timed symphony.

Best of all, Tongue in Cheek seems to transform itself into whatever the diner wants it to be.

  • If you’re looking for a laid-back cocktail bar, Tongue in Cheek can play that.
  • A casual tapas restaurant? No problem.
  • A fanciful prixe-fixe, chef guided tasting experience? Tongue in Cheek knocks it out of the park here.
  • Vegan? They’ve even got one of St. Paul’s best vegetarian and vegan menus!

Overall, this place is clearly one of St. Paul’s best restaurants. The quality of the food and service would stand out in New York City, let alone in East St. Paul. We’re all lucky to have it!

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