Stationed on the banks of the scenic St. Croix River, Stillwater offers a charming summer escape just a half hour’s drive away from the Twin Cities: Stroll across the historic (and newly restored) lift bridge to Wisconsin, eat your way down Main Street, and wander the valley’s quaint neighborhoods. Don’t miss the legendary Phil’s Tara Hideaway, quite literally hidden in a modest log cabin off Highway 36; towering scoops of rum raisin at Nelson’s Ice Cream (a centenarian next year); and Prohibition-era cocktails at The Velveteen, a new basement speakeasy. Here’s a list of great restaurants and bars to explore in Stillwater.Read More
13 Fantastic Spots to Eat in Historic Stillwater
From old-fashioned malt shops to elegant wine bars, Stillwater makes for an ideal summer dining destination
The Velveteen Speakeasy
Stillwater’s only speakeasy is a swanky, Prohibition-style bar tucked into a 2nd Street basement. Wander over to the JX Event Center, enter into the lobby and listen for muted jazz music playing through a door — then, as the website instructs, “follow it down the rabbit hole.” Expect weekly live music, a robust cocktail menu (an entire section features Prohibition-style drinks like the Tom Collins and the “Alamagoozlum,” a gin, rum, and chartreuse mix) plus small plates, tacos, and desserts.
Osaka is Stillwater’s sushi go-to. Grab a seat at the mahogany bar and pair a sake pour with a red snapper, scallop, or salmon roe roll — Osaka also offers an array of vegetarian rolls, from peanut and avocado to sweet potato tempura with sweet soy sauce. Appetizers like the pork gyoza are also worth sampling.
Domacin Wine Bar
An oenophile’s dream, this wine bar is located just up the hill off Main Street. It’s stocked with hundreds of bottles of wine: Pair one (or two) with an elegant beef tenderloin or halibut entree, or a plate of papardelle with duck confit and English peas. Domacin is among Stillwater’s priciest restaurants; its interior is understated and warm.
The Main Cafe
The Main Cafe, a classic, no-frills spot on Main Street, has called Stillwater home since 1989. The cuisine here is simple, quality American fare: From the all-day breakfast menu, try the superbly fluffy blueberry, strawberry, and chocolate chip pancakes, or an omelette with hash browns. For lunch, grab a patty melt or reuben.
Leo's Grill & Malt Shop
This glass-paned corner storefront on Main Street has seen a number of grill and malt shops come and go over the past two decades, but the space’s old-fashioned heart (and decor) has remained unchanged. From the grill, grab a flat-top burger and add fries and onion rings. Save room for a thick, creamy malt: Leo’s flavors range from classics like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry to pineapple, orange Dreamsicle, and chocolate wild cherry.
Brick & Bourbon
This new spot is big on smoke: The food gets a hefty dose of it, and the restaurant’s signature whiskey cocktails are served with smoked ice balls. It’s a fun bit, but the big burgers (try the PB & Jay, served on a glazed donut) and pastas are also notable. Elsewhere on the food menu are highlights like the duck bacon wontons and smoked chicken mac and cheese.
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Mad Capper Saloon & Eatery
Mad Capper is one of Stillwater’s longest-standing bars: First opened in 1979, the space and menu were revamped in 2021. The historic feel remains, but from the new menu, expect small plates like truffle fries, smoked fish dip, and bruschetta, plus burgers, paninis, and house-made pasta. The cocktail, wine, and draft beer menus are also robust.
LOLO: American Kitchen & Craft Bar
When Brad Nordeen, former executive chef at Phil’s Tara Hideaway, and Joe Ehlenz, former general manager at Smalley’s, first opened Lolo, it was an immediate hit. Years later, the restaurant — known for hearty takes on American fare — is a Stillwater institution. Elegant small plates like burrata with asparagus, artichoke, and tomato are notable, as are the varied burger, taco, and sticky rice bowl dishes.
Located on the first floor of the boutique Lora Hotel, Feller is an excellent option for upscale dining in Stillwater. Order a bottle of red or white from the extensive wine list, and pair it with a bison ribeye with cherry bourbon bearnaise, or a weekly fish special like the wild Alaskan halibut. Feller’s atmosphere is industrial-chic; a small patio offers views of Main Street and the St. Croix River.
Nelson's Ice Cream
Nelson’s has built its reputation on almost comically large servings of ice cream. The shop first opened in Stillwater in 1923 as Seven Corners grocery store — in the ‘60s, it sold hefty two-scoop ice cream cones for just 10 cents. Decades later, Nelson’s is still known for its generous servings. A “child” size will buy you a towering cone of black licorice chip, moose tracks, or Superman ice cream.
River Oasis Cafe
The Oasis Cafe is a dreamy highway diner just north of Stillwater’s main drag. Stop by for excellent breakfast dishes like cinnamon nutmeg buckwheat pancakes, country fried steak and eggs, and the Granny Smith breakfast sandwich, made with caramelized apples and havarti cheese. The lunch and dinner menus, which offer poutine, mac and cheese bites, burgers, and more, is also worth sampling.
Coffee Paw Cafe
Formerly the Chilkoot Cafe, Coffee Paw Cafe is an excellent stop for breakfast, pastries, and coffee in the morning: Try the quiche of the day or the market vegetable hash. This cafe is up the hill from busy Main Street — grab a nitro cold brew or a kombucha to go, and wander around the neighborhood, which has many historic homes.
Phil's Tara Hideaway
Housed in a log cabin once frequented by the mafia during prohibition, a cool, old-school energy still lingers at Phil’s Tara Hideaway. Expect thoughtful riffs on supper club classics, but with a Greek twist. Rotisserie-cut gyros are a crowd favorite, as is the 10-ounce Tara steak.