Suburban Bites: The 7 best places to eat in the Stillwater area

Jana Friebrand
A big ol hunk o' meat at Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar in Stillwater

Stillwater, Minnesota, and Hudson, Wisconsin, both located within about a half-hour drive from most launchpads in the Twin Cities, are practically busting at the seams with antiquey, boutiquey, bed-and-breakfast charm. Their prime location in the St. Croix River Valley means there are lots of hiking trails with impressive vistas (and even better secret picnic spots), warm-weather festivals (just say yes when someone asks you to go to Lumberjack Days), and a ton of waterfront bars and restaurants. 

That last item is, of course, the one that interests us most, and while neither Stillwater nor Hudson is technically a suburb, they are indeed perfect places for a mini road trip and some destination dining. So with the weekend upon us and humidity levels expected to reach tropical highs, let us suggest a few places to go eat and drink in the Stillwater area.  

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Perhaps the only pirate-themed bar in America that we would consider classy, Smalley's has seriously hot jerked meats, corpse-reviving cocktails, authenticity points for both conch and goat on the menu, dressed-up mac-and-cheese that doesn't skimp on the bacon bits, and fried green tomatoes that haunt your dreams. The high kitsch factor and spacious, riverfront patio (there's one out front on the street side as well) will make anyone who likes drinking and dining at Psycho Suzi's feel right at home.  

Google Plus courtesy Domacin Wine Bar 
A long day of strolling and shopping calls for a great glass of wine and a fortifying plate of pasta. Domacin offers both in a cozy, upscale setting. There's also smaller meat, cheese, and olive, mezze-type plates and consistently delicious house-made soups to appeal to lighter appetites. And if you find a glass you really love at the restaurant, you can usually find it by the bottle at Domacin's attached wine shop.

Our perennial favorite pick for best restaurant worth the drive, Phil's specializes in Greek and Mediterranean food, but has all the log-cabin stateliness of a country steakhouse. They use as many local purveyors as possible, which means you'll often see and taste rabbit, duck, cheese, and chocolate from farms and makers that Twin Cities restaurants don't use as regularly. And though they read a little higher-end than most restaurants in the area, their $8 gyro is just as well-executed as their $20 duck confit. 

Tony Nelson
Bayport BBQ
Bayport serves not just the best barbecue in the Stillwater area, but easily some of the best in the state. We've been singing the praises of the Texas-style smoky, tender, by-the-pound meats for years -- particularly the oak-smoked spare ribs and pit beef brisket. But now that they've added Nashville hot chicken to their repertoire, we have a feeling our trips to Bayport will become much more frequent. The fresh-baked bread and live blues are also major draws. Bayport takes a break in between lunch and dinner service, so if you arrive around 3 or 4 p.m. hoping to beat the dinner rush, you might need to find some way to kill a little time and work up an appetite. Pro tip: They only take cash or check so leave your credit cards at home. 

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