Love Thy Neighborhood: Spotlight on Cathedral Hill


Historic Blair Arcade,

This week marks the debut of neighborhood guides. I aim to shed light on neighborhoods that most people don’t know about or wouldn’t visit. This week we feature the Cathedral Hill neighborhood of St. Paul.

Also this week, Love Thy Neighborhood is debuting our new online platform at where you can find all of our stories published in The Mac Weekly in addition to other content posted throughout the week and expanded photo galleries from articles featured in print. Check out this week’s Cathedral Hill photo gallery.

For most Mac students venturing off-campus means going to various attractions along the 84 bus line or to downtown Minneapolis or Uptown, if that. One of the best neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, though, is the Cathedral Hill neighborhood in St. Paul. Granted, I’ll be honest that I’m biased, but this neighborhood by far does not get enough credit or press for what it deserves.

Cathedral Hill is located along Selby Avenue between Dale and Western. It is easily accessible by bike: just pedal up Summit and left on either Dale or Western. By bus, catch the 21 eastbound at Snelling and Selby and it will take you right down Selby through Cathedral Hill. You can also take the 63 eastbound and get off at any of the side streets after Dale and head north.

Cathedral Hill, I like to say, is a fusion of historic revitalized structures that house excellent restaurants and hip stores, all in sight of the beautiful St. Paul Cathedral overlooking downtown St. Paul. It is located within the larger Summit-University neighborhood, but this column focuses on solely Cathedral Hill.

Originally built in the late 1800s, the neighborhood’s architecture reflects an era of opulence and grandeur. From the Blair Arcade to the Commodore Hotel, where F. Scott Fitzgerald once lived, the homes and businesses in Cathedral Hill are unique and simply exceptional. If you think the homes on Summit Avenue by Macalester are beautiful, check out this end of Summit. In fact, James J. Hill, the railroad pioneer that helped build St. Paul and pay for the Cathedral, built his house over in this neighborhood.

Life in Cathedral Hill wasn’t always great, though; post-World War II, the neighborhood hollowed out and fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until the 1970s that urban explorers and pioneers saved the neighborhood and restored it to the beautiful neighborhood it is today. Now new businesses and restaurants have opened up and new urban infill housing has been built.

Below are my opinions about several places I love to hang out at all the time:

Nina’s Coffee Cafe

It is pronounced Ni(gh)na’s, not Nee-nuh’s as it is usually pronounced; believe me, I have been corrected before. Coffee shops do not get much better than this. The menu has a ton of options, the coffee is excellent and the smoothies are simply delicious. The coffee shop is tucked in the corner of the beautiful Historic Blair Arcade, a restored and expanded historic shopping center, built in a time when malls were beautiful and shopping was classy—well, I like to still think it is… This is the perfect place to study, but get there early; the tables fill up quickly. And oh, don’t forget to play Scrabble, either. They have plenty of Scrabble boards to check out.

W.A. Frost & Company

Located right across the street from Nina’s, W.A. Frost is probably one of the classiest restaurants in St. Paul. Walking into the restaurant feels like you are entering another era. I haven’t been out on their patio, but I hear it is one of the best restaurant patios in St. Paul. This definitely isn’t a college bar, though; this is more of a spot to check out with parents or family friends.

Black Blue

Watch out, J.Crew! Black Blue might be one of the neatest stores out there. Catering to the urban hipsters with money, Black Blue brings in clothes from incredible designers. From beautiful flannel shirts to products from Duluth Pack, Faribault Woolen Mill Co., and other designers from across the world including Sweden and Copenhagen, this store has tons to offer. And if you are in the market for good denim, this is the place to go. Their denim is nothing to pass up. It’s the kind of denim you wear in the bathtub so that it conforms to the shape of your legs. As you can imagine, this place is pricey but has class like no other.

La Grolla

It has been awhile since I visited La Grolla, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the area. It is located just down Selby from the Blair Arcade. From what I remember, the food and service was excellent. The food wasn’t too heavy, which is how I like my Italian food, but I have been to plenty of other Italian places in the area, such as Cosetta’s near downtown St. Paul where you can get your fill for heavy Italian food.

Other popular attractions that I still have to explore and try include the Happy Gnome, a gastropub that features 76 taps and entrees such as Halibut, Game Hen, and Duck Burger. Another unique restaurant in the neighborhood includes Moscow on the Hill, a russian restaurant and vodka bar. So if you want to try Russian cuisine, Moscow on the Hill is the place to go! Oh, and the Cheeky Monkey Deli is supposed to be delicious with a really cool vibe on the inside.

Cathedral Hill also features Mississippi Market, a food co-op, that from what I hear is quite pricey, but the Veggie Co-op does some of their shopping there, so it must be quite yummy.

Also, why not—if you are looking to try the sport of curling, stop by the Curling Club of St. Paul.

Bottom line, Cathedral Hill is a true gem of a neighborhood, its one of my favorite places to hang out and isn’t too far at all. If you haven’t been to Cathedral Hill yet, venture over soon—you are definitely missing out.