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Highland Park: One of the St. Paul’s Best Casual, Cool Neighborhoods

Barefoot Contessa, Highland Park, Mexican American War, Patina

Highland Park is one of St. Paul, Minnesota’s more distinct districts. It has a personality all its own – fun, flavorful and casually cool. The area consists of mostly upscale residential homes, along with a variety of restaurants, shops, and special services. Highland Park was settled in 1848 by William Finn, a veteran of the Mexican-American War. In 1925, the Ford Motor Company opened the Twin Cities Assembly plant. The Ford plant anchored the area until the company announced in 2007 that it would be shut down in 2008. Since 1925, Highland Park has enjoyed a boom of interest in developing the area as a place for families and singles alike to live and enjoy a small-town feeling with urban amenities.

To really get a lay of the land, and of the people who live in Highland Park, head to the Highland Grill. Located at 771 Cleveland Ave, the grill bills itself as an urban diner. The restaurant prides itself on serving fresh, organic food paired with a small but respectable wine and beer list. The grill is owned by a local husband and wife who employ a friendly staff that adds to the casual, slightly rock-a-billy atmosphere. From the white wash cloths that serve as napkins to the mis-matched coffee mugs, it’s cozy and eclectic – much like the clientele. Expect to bump into families with strollers, college students sharing plates of sweet potato fries and older couples enjoying the paper and some conversation. Try the crab cake benedict, available all day, served with the crunchiest hash browns you’ll ever enjoy.

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Across the street from the Highland Grill, on Ford Parkway, pull out your wallet and head into Patina. This is the Twin Cities hotspot (one of three locations) to find wacky gifts and eclecto-cool house décor. Patina carries jewelry, purses and other goods from local artists which means you will be able to find one of a kind items at good prices. This is one of the best stores to pick up a lunchbox depicting the Last Supper and a cookbook by the Barefoot Contessa.

Cross one more street and peek into R.F. Moeller Jeweler, one of the premiere jewelry stores in the cities. Or head into Barnes and Noble/Starbucks to pick up a book and coffee. If you want to stay local (and I suggest you do), forgo Barnes and Noble for Half Price Books. You will find an amazing stock of books, both current and classics, for at least half the publisher’s price. The store carries a terrific selection of collector’s editions by authors like Harper Lee, Steven King, and Rudyard Kipling. For coffee, check out White Rock Coffee Roasters which offers delicious concoctions made from natural, organic ingredients and fair trade coffee. To satisfy a sweet tooth, try their raspberry mocha- so yummy!

Other notable stops in Highland Park include the Highland Theater (which shows such art house flicks as Pan’s Labrynth), Chatterbox Pub (where you can play a vintage Atari game or a board game while you wait for your food), Tiffany’s Sports Bar and Grill (a hangout for local college students, features live rock music on the weekends) and Nedved’s Flowers and Gifts (pick up a loose bouquet of flowers for yourself or have them create a gift basket of chocolates and blooms for someone else).

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Whether you are a visitor to the Twin Cities who wants to see something other than the usual sites, or if you live in the area and want to find a new place to hang out on a Sunday afternoon, head to Highland Park to experience some of the best that St. Paul has to offer.