Ok, so Kenzie and I are seriously obsessed with the food Justin Sutherland cranks out of his kitchens. From Oxcart Arcade's upscale bar food to Handsome Hog's lucious soul food we love it all (RIP - Pearl and the Thief). When we heard that "The Happy Gnome" over in St. Paul was under new ownership we immediately took interest. Right as dine-in opened back up again we snagged a reservation on Friday and took the trek out there. The Gnome and its previous ownership had built up quite the reputation of best neighborhood joint and we were curious about how Justin would keep things fresh and new, yet still put a personal spin on the menu and decor.
We were pleasantly surprised to see that thoughtful renovations were made to the interior, but sadly the collection of Japanese Whiskey at the upstairs bar might have gone with the previous owner. The Drink menu is small, but the beer selection is great. We both ended up getting the "Gnomey Thai" which is a take on a Mai Thai. Off to a great start. Our only comment here is the ice kept clogging up the straw, and there was a ton of ice. Their menu stays true to the theme put forth similar to the late Oxcart Arcade being upscale bar food. You will find easy eatin appetizers and elevated pub food in the entree section. We went with the Raclette and the soy duck wings. I had personally never had a Raclette before and let me tell you, pan fried ham, fingerling potatoes smothered in a molten cheese sauce really hits the spot on a cold winter night. The duck wings were good, not anything to write home about. Crispy and fresh out of the kitchen, they were on the smaller side of legs, but nonetheless still satisfactory.
Our main course was the Grandma's Japanese fried chicken sandwich: japanese spiced fried chicken, pickled cabbage, candied jalapeño mayo served on brioche bun. This sandwich put me in heaven. Spiced to a mild level, and like a american umami bomb cuddled by delicate and fresh slaw. I will be ordering this again. Kenzie got the Pork belly and skirt steak burger: made to order blended burger with skirt steak and pork belly, house-made pickles, bacon jam, caramelized onions, steak sauce, shaved lettuce topped with raclette served on a brioche bun.
When you want a good burger, look no further. The patty melted in your mouth and was married with perfect toppings. After finishing my dinner I started stealing Kenz's it was so good. It was cooked to a perfect medium, the chefs really know their timing because
when I say perfect, I mean spot on. Our sides were fries and cheesy polenta. I can't say I order polenta often, but I always get my fix at Justin's restaurants as his is the best recipe in the game. Craving good fries? Order those too, because the house made ketchup with it is to die for.
All in all we had a stellar time at the recently re-opened "The Gnome" FKA "The Happy Gnome"
Check this place out, even Grandpa would love this classic menu with a modern spin.
Restaurant Score: 81/100
We rate based on experience, food taste, execution, and service.
0-50 = Probably stay away or pass on this
50-75 = Good eatin, worth checking out
75-90 = Some of the best food around
90+ = Some of the best food in the USA. Travel to eat here, no matter what!