St. Paul skyway says, "Oooh-lala!" for Maison Darras

Categories: Restaurants

It's time for lunch. You mindlessly walk the skyway and inevitably land somewhere that fills you up, but doesn't exactly thrill. Perhaps it’s your third day in a row at the D. Brian’s salad bar and just as you spoon on some salad dressing, you experience some déjà vu? If so, Maison Darras may provide a welcome change. Located at 401 N. Robert Street, near the Hilton Garden Hotel, Maison Darras has quickly become a popular skyway stop.

Glass walls facing the skyway traffic give the small restaurant an open feel. People sit at dark circle or square tables sipping soup, biting into sandwiches or nibbling on hand-held paninis. The owners are French and have put little touches of Europe around the place, from the 'Merci'-labeled trash can, to the styles of sandwiches and desserts they serve.

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A lunch in the skyway need not be drab. Maison Darras offers soups, sandwiches, salads, and paninis, all with a European twist.

A display case of mouthwatering Parisian-style paninis (each $4.49) are hard to resist. Once you place your order, your panini is whisked from the display case and pressed behind the counter. When it returns a minute later, voila! Lunch is served. On my last visit, these paninis included curry chicken, the classic croque monsieur containing ham and cheese, and the one I decided on -- baked chicken, sundried tomatoes, basil, swiss, and prosciutto. I must admit, I’m not normally a fan of paninis, never have been. Though I like the warmth and toastiness, I just don’t like to see my sandwiches squished! That said, the flavors in the paninis at Maison Darras may compel me to alter my anti-panini stance. The strips of chicken went well with the bold, sweet, yet sharp sundried tomato and prosciutto. It's clear that the ingredients Maison Darras uses are top-notch.

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This spinach and goat cheese quick comes with a salad ($6.55). A quiche lorraine (bacon, ham, swiss cheese) is also available.

Nowhere was this more evident than in the spinach and goat cheese quiche. The balance of the dish was perfect between the pastry, the spinach, and cheese. The cheese was light and fluffy, and the pastry, soft, buttery, and flaky. It came with a simple salad of lettuce and tomato.

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The desserts at Maison Darras are a delight to look at as well as to eat. In addition to this yogurt berry mix, there are also croissants, cookies, scones, eclairs, and much more.

With an array of desserts and beverages, it would be easy to treat Maison Darras as a café as well as lunch spot. The dessert I tried was a mouthwatering mix of thick vanilla yogurt, sliced strawberries and whole raspberries and blueberries. I liked how well it held together, nothing liquidy or watery about it. Maison Darras also regularly offers mini creme brulees, eclairs, chocolate mousse, cupcakes, scones, and cookies. Croissant flavors ($2.35) include plain, chocolate, almond, and maple pecan. Maison Darras is a tiny space, but full of culinary treasure. It's just too bad the lunch hour isn't a bit longer. Alas, c'est la vie.


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