Breaking Down Best Places to Eat and Drink in Inver Grove Heights and South Saint Paul
When the Simley and South Saint Paul football teams clash in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game Saturday at 2 p.m. at The Pit at SSP High School, it will be another chapter in the long history between the crosstown rivals. There’s no secret there is no love loss when SSP and Simley face each other in athletics. Saturday will be no different and a border battle of epic proportions is shaping up as two talented football teams lay it on the line to earn a state tournament berth.
But off the field, the crosstown rivals are generally a friendly bunch. After all, many longtime Inver Grove Heights residents live in South Saint Paul and many IGH residents have roots that go back to South Saint Paul and vice versa.
But nevertheless, the rivalry is strong – on and off the field. Neither team or community likes to lose to the other and bragging rights are on the line Saturday. While that will play itself out on the football field, we at Eat IGH decided to create our own border battle. And it revolves around the best places to eat and drink in the two cities.
With that we present you the first-ever EatIGH.com Border Battle. Inver Grove Heights vs. South Saint Paul. We picked ten of the most popular places to eat and drink in the two cities, compared them to their crosstown rival and then break them down below.
The winner of each battle earns one point for the city. The tally will be added up below, and the border battle winner will be named:
Jersey’s Bar and Grill (IGH) vs. Croatian Hall (SSP)
If you’ve gone out for a beer or drink in IGH, you’ve been to Jersey’s Bar and Grill. It’s a favorite hot spot for IGH residents and Simley alumni (and more than a few SSP alumni too). The same can be said for SSP residents and the Cro Hall. You can head to the Cro Hall on any night and find someone still wondering when the Packers will win that elusive state hockey title. At Jersey’s, you just find former Simley football players wondering why the heck the Spartans are so good now, and why they sucked back in the day. “Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.” Jersey’s has good food, live music and dancing. The Cro Hall is a great place for community events and sharing a Heggies with a friend while playing pull tabs. Both are staples of the community, but since there is little options for live music and Jersey’s has a complete, full menu, the winner is Jersey’s. Plus, no one from IGH plans a night out at The Cro Hall, they just end up there. Many SSP residents plan to go to Jersey’s – making Jersey’s the clear choice. +1 IGH
Old World Pizza (IGH) vs. Angelo’s Italian Restaurant (SSP)
Old World Pizza is the best pizza place in the two cities. Angelo’s Italian Restaurant is the best full-service Italian restaurant in the two cities. Old World has the buffet, Angelo’s has spaghetti, sandwiches and classic Italian dishes like lasagna and calzones. If Angelo’s was in IGH, it would easily be the second best pizza/Italian place in the city. If you’re not eating Old World in IGH, it’s worth it to head to SSP and get Angelo’s. But that Old World Pizza flavor is something you just can’t get anywhere else in the two cities. +1 IGH
Hometown Meats (IGH) vs. Illetschko Meats and Smokehouse (SSP)
Hometown Meats, the 2015 River Heights Chamber Small Business of the Year, has come along way since they first opened its doors. They have become a quality butcher shop right in the heart of IGH. Good beef selections, pork, chicken, sausage sticks, deer processing and a food truck (along with those great tasting jalapeno poppers) have helped Hometown Meats become a great addition to the IGH community. But there is something even homier about Illetschko Meats and Smokehouse. They were the first to have the pizza brats, wild rice brats and those unique tasting items that are made from scratch right at the shop. Both are small, both are friendly and both are what you want in your town. But walking into Illetschko Meats and Smokehouse feels like you are at home with your small town butcher. Maybe it’s that Freez-R-Pack feeling that gets us nostalgic. It’s close, but Illetschko Meats gets the nod here. +1 SSP
Cub Foods (IGH) vs. Knowlan’s (SSP)
When it comes to grocery stores, there’s not much to choose from in either city. Cub Foods is your everyday mundane neighborhood grocery store. Knowlan’s has long been a staple of SSP and the staff is friendly but it’s just a downer shopping at Knowlan’s and the prices are high. That’s why Aldi is taking so much business from both. But Aldi doesn’t have everything you need, so you have to go to one or the other. But neither deserve to win here, therefore -1 point each city.
Cameron’s Liquor Warehouse (IGH) vs. Hat Trick Liquor (SSP)
There really is no analysis needed here, Cameron’s is the coolest place in IGH and the clear cut winner. +1 IGH
Caribou Coffee (IGH) vs. Black Sheep Coffee (SSP)
The latest tweet from an unhappy visitor to the Caribou on Upper 55th says it all. She called it a “Sh*t show”. Black Sheep is everything you want from a hometown coffee shop. Caribou is not. +1 SSP
Super Wok (IGH) vs. Peking Cafe (SSP)
Much to the surprise of many IGH residents, Peking Cafe is located at 1521 5th Ave S South Saint Paul, MN. So it’s in SSP. People love Peking. I mean, they absolutely love it. In fact, someone who reads this is going to not even read this article and say “Peking cafe is the best restaurant in either city” on Facebook. But Super Wok is better in our opinion. It’s fresher, better ingredients, made to order and more variety. But we get it, people love that processed chicken and celery sauce Peking calls chicken chow mein (gross). They also love those cream cheese wontons. How hard is it to take cream cheese, put it in an egg roll wrapper and fry it? While we think Super Wok is the clear choice over Peking, we know readers love Peking. And that’s okay – you can go to Peking and we’ll go to Super Wok. But in a vote, we know Peking would win. +1 SSP
Celts (IGH) vs. Al’s Corral (SSP)
There’s not many good dive bars left in either town. Concord was once home to bar after bar full of hell raisers and meat packers. And it was fun. Celts is a local watering hole for those looking to sit down and have an ice cold beer in a low-key environment, sing some karaoke and feel like they are in small town Wisconsin. Celts has a great selection of craft beer – much to the surprise of people who haven’t been there since it was O’Neil’s. Al’s, well, it’s a tradition that speaks all things SSP. Small bar, friendly service and cheap, stiff drinks. Both are traditions that make each city unique. But Celts has something Al’s doesn’t: Hodges sitting at the bar, having a beer. That could almost be worth a bonus point. +1 IGH
Drkula’s (IGH) vs. Mattie’s Lanes (SSP)
Drkula’s has been an IGH staple forever. Bowling, volleyball, good food and a basement for class reunions surrounded by wood paneling. Mattie’s is underrated in terms of that while everyone knows it’s a bowling alley, the food is actually pretty good. They have a unique bar that allows you to sit lower than any other bar in the two cities. Drkula’s adding volleyball courts was a great addition. And they have the back bar where you can always hear a good story or two from Ray the bartender. +1 IGH
Cahill Diner (IGH) vs. T&T Galley (SSP)
T&T Galley is where you go to get a cheap breakfast that will fill you up. It’s small and busy so you may have to wait, but where else in either town is better to go after a long night at the Cro Hall than the T&T Galley? Cahill Diner is nice, friendly and welcoming, but it doesn’t compare to the tradition and taste of T&T. +1 SSP
Border Battle Extras
Both cities have unique establishments that don’t have a rival. Let’s look at some of those.
Inver Grove Heights
B52 Burgers and Brew
B52 could probably be the most popular place in the two cities right now. Good burgers, good drink specials, and a lively, fun bar make it a hot spot for people from both cities, and especially for guys 40+ who have wives that won’t let them go to any bars on Concord. There is really nothing else like B52 in SSP, therefore, a bonus point is awarded for IGH +2 IGH
Mississippi Pub: On the marina on the Mississippi, this small but quaint bar is one of a kind. Good food, nice patio, boot hockey in the winter and a place to get away from all the other riff-raff – or perhaps engage with some riff-raff if you like. It’s the hidden treasure of IGH, off the beaten path, just like we like it. +1 IGH
Turitto’s Pizza and Subs
A longtime IGH tradition. Turitto’s isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still decent and extremely affordable. No points awarded here, but it’s a good change of pace when looking to eat somewhere else.
King of Diamonds: The best place in IGH to find girls just trying to put themselves through college. No points here, but hey, try the apps if you get a chance!
The Bierstube: The Bierstube, despite its warm beer and mediocre service, is an IGH staple and favorite of many. It has so much potential. But why is the beer always luke warm? The nice people that go there save it from a minus one for IGH. Even
South Saint Paul
The VFW fish fry is legendary. It’s a great place to host community events and both city athletic teams use its large facilities for fundraisers. It does irk Eat IGH that IGH fundraisers are held outside the city, but that’s a whole other story. The VFW has cheap drinks and live music too, which make it a great place to let loose if needed. +1 SSP
Broasted chicken at its best. There is nothing in IGH that compares to The Coop. It may not be as good as it used to be, but it’s still the best fried chicken in the two cities. +1 SSP
The Polish National Alliance. A bar in a basement in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Awesome. +1 SSP
The results are in and the final score is:
Inver Grove Heights 7, SSP 6
It was a close battle but in the end, IGH pulled out the win in the first-ever Eat IGH Border Battle
As for what will happen on the football field Saturday? SSP has had the edge lately and beat the Spartans 35-20 earlier this season. The Packers are favored, but the Spartans peak at the right time. Both teams are well-coached and have good athletes at key positions. It could be a good old fashioned grudge match – especially if it rains Friday and leaves The Pit a wet mess.
Who will win? We’ll let that play itself out on the field. After all, we’re a food web site, not a football site.
Enjoy the game – and the good times with friends, family and alumni before, during and after – no matter what city you are from.