Saint Dinette’s quail is St. Paul’s underrated fried bird

Photo by John Garland, The Growler

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You’ve no doubt already gorged on a certain fried bird up on Cathedral Hill, and as well you should have. But next time the urge strikes you, there’s one in Lowertown that should be drawing just as many raves.

The spring menu at Saint Dinette is an exercise in giving the people what they want, in a way they’ve never had it. There’s a barbecue-sauced octopus tentacle on a bed of dill macaroni salad—a preposterous combination that succeeds by scrambling up the tastes and textures you remember from family reunions in the park. The wonderful Old Bay–inflected capellini tastes like a distillation of the sea breeze wafting through a crab shack on the shore.

But the fried quail is where your dinner turns from nostalgic to interactive. Three half quails, fried to a crunchy golden brown, served with lemon and ranch. (This is the same restaurant that dusts chicharrones with their own cool ranch powder, which will end up dusting your entire body no matter how careful you are about eating it.) It’s the ranch you know you want, made by a chef who cares, presented in a way that doesn’t make you feel like a grade-schooler for ordering it.

But this dish isn’t “chefy,” it’s just fun. It’s three chances to savor the juicy dark meat, to gnaw like a mouse around the tiny bones, to dip a petite drumstick and strip it clean in a single bite. Go to Dinette and don’t order the cheeseburger this time—there are pleasures to be had far beyond the dripping double patty.

About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.