First look: Cook St. Paul, a new brunch star in Payne-Phalen

Categories: Now Open

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Emily Eveland
Cook St. Paul is proof that good things come in small packages. The miniscule restaurant -- located in the space that formerly housed Serlin's Cafe in St. Paul's Payne-Phalen neighborhood -- had its soft opening last Thursday and by Saturday, the line was out the door. Impressively, owners Eddie Wu and Charles Cook refurbished the space, perfected the menu, and opened Cook St. Paul just four months after Serlin's closed.

The space is small but comfortable, and though it was a bit quiet on our visit, Wu seems keen to prance around the restaurant and interact with any and all customers. Because an overly decorated space of this size would verge on claustrophobic, the owners have kept the decor minimal, settling for the occasional framed map and document on the wall, tiny succulents on each table, and three eccentric light fixtures.

See also:
First Look: Hen House Eatery

Cook and Wu strive to make everything on the menu from scratch, from the hot sauce to the potato chips. The breakfast menu includes traditional items like short ribs eggs Benedict, omelets, and French toast, as well as Wu's signature Korean pancakes served with two poached eggs. For lunch, options range from Korean items like Bi Bim Bop and a spicy Korean burger to a walleye sandwich and mac-and-cheese.

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Emily Eveland

We started with the Bi Bim Bop, which Wu said was one of his three contributions to the menu (Wu is more front-of-house, while Cook handles most kitchen matters). The dish features a fried rice ball atop a variety of veggies and a perfectly poached egg. The rice was firm, slightly cold, and tasteless, but the egg, kimchi, and additional veggies brought the flavor punch we expect from this spicy, savory Korean classic.
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Emily Eveland

Next, we tried the Monte Cristo, which was nothing short of perfection, so we were not surprised when Wu told us the Monte Cristo is one of the first items he and Cook learned to cook together 21 years ago. Their long-term experience with the sandwich is clear -- it comes perfectly fried in homemade house bread with roasted turkey, smoked ham, fontina, cream cheese, and a side of strawberry jam. The meats were tender and the cream cheese lent an unbeatable melt-in-your-mouth quality.
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Emily Eveland

We were anxious to try the homemade apple pie with Sweet Science ice cream for dessert, but by 1:45, they had run out, to the disappointment of almost everyone in the restaurant. We settled for a slice of bourbon bundt cake prepared by Wu's wife. The sides were dry, but the inside was perfectly moist, with a strong alcoholic edge.

If we've learned anything from Portlandia, it's that tiny brunch spots attract the biggest crowds. Based on the decor, prices, and quality, we predict Cook St. Paul will soon become a Twin Cities staple.

Cook St. Paul
1124 Payne Ave., St. Paul
651-756-1787
Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.




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30 comments
jason.dorweiler
jason.dorweiler topcommenter

The rice was firm, slightly cold, and tasteless" lol, its rice! Cook, very ambitious. I'll have to try you guys out!

Dan Kytola
Dan Kytola

Been twice... Haven't even gotten to the lunch menu because of the perfectly cooked breakfast! Short rib eggs benedict, yes!

Megan Dahlberg
Megan Dahlberg

I am dieting. That looks so good I almost ate my computer!

Renee Duncan
Renee Duncan

I'd love to. I'm actually free either day, so your pick.

Lisa Dahlberg
Lisa Dahlberg

I wish. I have to work today. Schubert Club has a concert. :-( Next weekend, perhaps?

Samson Lee Heldt
Samson Lee Heldt

I used to live right over in that area. That does look like a good sandwich though

cook715
cook715

They have real maple syrup!  We had a great breakfast, great coffee, great service, not a bad price.  So good to have another East Side place to visit!

Mark Witte
Mark Witte

Nice to see the payne avenue area making a come back. How about su yeps?

Ant Williams
Ant Williams

I was just lookin' at them last week. I'm down to check it out soon...

Ran Dazzle
Ran Dazzle

I love a monte cristo..be in soon

colin723
colin723

Looks a lot like a ninja fight club i've been to............

NOLA Mn
NOLA Mn

Shop small and be amazed

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