August 18, 2012
128 Cleveland Ave. N St. Paul, MN | www.128cafe.net
Hidden among the myriad of apartment buildings and single-family homes along north Cleveland Avenue is a small restaurant serving a combination of classic and modern American cuisine. Even if you aren’t in the area often, you might have caught the name on the side of the 128 Café food truck. Within the walls of the restaurant you’ll find a cozy, inviting atmosphere with a small yet focused seasonal menu.
Prior to visiting 128 Café I had read a few complaints here and there regarding the interior; many people seemed to feel that the restaurant felt like a basement. Having dined here I would have to disagree. The interior is certainly small but the layout and style is rather cozy. There are ample windows throughout the restaurant so there is no sense of being confined in a basement.
The menu at 128 Café is small, with perhaps just over a dozen items. While a few signature dishes remain constant the menu does change seasonally to highlight local ingredients throughout the year. Since this was our first visit we opted for a couple of the signature items.
Two perfectly roasted heads of garlic are the cornerstone of this signature appetizer. Intensely flavorful and aromatic the roasted garlic hits your palate with bold flavor. The apple chutney and goat cheese lend their elements of sweetness and acidity to help balance the boldness of the garlic. Toasted baguettes are the perfect vehicle to enjoy this dish.
Here we have a half rack serving of another popular dish at 128 Café. The sauce is on the sweeter, tangier side of the spectrum for barbecue, but works well with the salty seasoning of the ribs. Although nicely tender and soft, the rib meat wasn’t quite as “fall off the bone” as I had expected from prior research. This one minor note aside, the plate as a whole was well executed and delicious.
Certainly the most complex and modern of the dishes we ordered was this beautiful plate of pan roasted chicken. The chicken breast was perfectly cooked, with just a slight sear on the outside but moist and juicy within. The brightness of the basil pesto and the tang of the lemon risotto cake worked very well to enhance the flavor of the chicken breast while also balancing the saltier notes from the prosciutto and Swiss chard.
Eating at 128 Café provides the experience of quality large establishment dining in a small, cozy package. Despite the restaurant’s size and seemingly private atmosphere, the food is inviting and well prepared. While the tables are a little close together I did not get a sense of being cramped. The friendly service and relaxed atmosphere helps to overcome the physical limitations of the space. This allows for diners to enjoy the company of those they are with along with a focused selection of classic and seasonal American cuisine.
128 Cleveland Avenue North
Saint Paul, MN 55104
Tagged with: 128 Cafe • American • Minnesota • Saint Paul • St. Paul