Long a destination for antique hunters, paddle riverboats, and gondola rides, Stillwater, Minnesota is a booming small town just 40 minutes east of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Metro area that offers so many reasons to visit. Over the last several years, its charming downtown has been revitalized with several new hotels, restaurants, and boutiques going in. Its tourism industry got a huge boost when its historic lift bridge transformed into a beautiful pedestrian and bike trail.
In a lush valley filled with deciduous trees, Stillwater sits on the St. Croix River, marking the border between the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Considered Minnesota’s birthplace, it got its start in 1848 and was an important lumber town for decades. With 21 buildings on the National Historic Registry, today it’s recognized as a national historic city with numerous designations and has been voted America’s most picturesque small town. I fell in love.
Happily for us, it’s a little foodie mecca, with around thirty restaurants to choose from. USA Today named it #5 on its 2020 Top 10 Best Small Town Food Scene by readers’ choice. As usual, I couldn’t make it to every deserving place and can’t wait to go back. Until then, here are six of the best Stillwater MN restaurants.
Traveling through the region? Check these guides here:
- Best Restaurants in Nisswa
- Best Baxter restaurants: https://www.foodieflashpacker.com/baxter-mn-restaurants/
6 Best Stillwater MN Restaurants
227 S. Main Street // +1-651-342-2053
The new kid in town, Stillwater Proper Distillery & Tasting Room opened its doors in July 2021, offering beautifully served craft cocktails made with Midwest spirits, and featuring a bar food-inspired menu.
Its inviting storefront windows house a high-ceilinged, modern interior full of wood and exposed brick. This is the latest venture by the owners of the ever-popular Lolo American Kitchen and Lolito, Joe Ehlenz, Brad Nordeen, and Mark Miller.
Stillwater Proper’s meats and produce are locally sourced. As my server noted with appreciation, they match a commitment to sustainability with genuine care for employees through human-centric HR policies. In fact, Stillwater Proper is a non-tipping establishment. Instead, they add a 20% service fee to your bill, which goes toward higher employee wages, on the front edge of a current trend aimed at frontline industry workers to take some of the stress out of tough restaurant work.
Now for their food. Let’s just say that I’m going back for their Baby Wedge Salad and an ala carte serving of Fried Pork Belly. A small head of lettuce cut into four quarters, the Baby Wedge was crisp and well-chilled, just how you want it. It was chock full of medium-big chunks of bacon, diced pickled red onion, generous blue cheese crumbles, chunks of heirloom tomatoes, cold, creamy roasted cherry tomatoes, and bacon fat breadcrumbs. It was finished with smoked blue cheese dressing. So refreshing and also rich and chewy with ingredients.
And the Fried Pork Belly is utterly toothsome. Quickly deep-fried, these bits are super crispy on the outside and coated with Togarashi seasoning, with the inside being insanely fatty and chewy. I stopped myself from indulging on the entire plate (but I easily could have), the dish is served with killer Texas-Carolina BBQ and mustard habanero sauces. This dish complemented nicely with their Breakfast at Tiffany’s gin and Pamplemousse cocktail.
233 Main Street S. // +1-651-342-2461
Lolo American Kitchen is a classic American diner with a modern twist. The space is excellent—think metal-tiled ceilings with silver ventilation pipes hovering above a classic long, white diner counter with modern chandeliers and light fixtures interspersed. As mentioned above, Lolo is owned by the same folks as Stillwater Proper, and Lolito (which I didn’t get a chance to visit but friends raved about). The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
Lolo specializes in concept cocktails accented with homemade bitters, fine liqueurs, and fun monikers like Clear and Present Danger and I’ll Be Gone Till Amaro. There’s a nice selection of cocktails and craft beer too. Don’t overlook the Extra Reserve List wine if you’re in the mood for something special.
The Burrata was excellent, milky, creamy, and unadulterated. It was accompanied by a lovely plate of bright, fresh peaches, cherries, heirlooms, and walnuts dressed with a big-flavored pickled cherry vinaigrette and tiny green sprouts.
Lolo is on point with their Korean BBQ Hanger Steak Tacos. They were as good as I had heard. Soft tacos with Napa cabbage, pickled cucumbers, and lemongrass aioli. The meat was tender, tasty, and chewy while the bright cucumber jumped out. Delicious. They disappeared rapidly.
I had to try the Alderwood Smoked Sea Salt and Rosemary Fries with basil aioli. Sure enough, they came out aromatic, crispy, and thin. The rosemary hits you in the nose while the basil aioli is fragrant. The duo adds a note of freshness to the earthy fries.
Also yummy is their Seafood Coconut Red Curry Bowl. It’s full of shrimp and bits of cod with broccolini, hon shimeji mushrooms, spiced with ginger, lime, and lemongrass on a bowl of sticky rice. Perfect for a hungry tummy!
Lolo American Kitchen is a Stillwater classic and it’s easy to see why.
102 South 2nd Street // +1-651-439-1352
On the counsel of a friend, I sought out Domaćin Restaurant, Wine Bar & Wine Shop, set a few blocks up from Main Street. It’s a European-style establishment, with lots of wood, exposed brick, and big windows that provide a view. Open for dinner, with the wine shop open at noon, they feature an extensive wine menu—some 600 selections! And the group of young girls that work behind the bar was terrific.
Their Cabernet recommendation for the evening was a 2018 Tendril Octave Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Walla Walla Valley. Smooth and velvety, this is a pure Cabernet Sauvignon with flavors of black currants and savory black pepper.
I opted for the Wine Lover’s Plate charcuterie board. The ensemble contained creamy aged cheddar, a silky Cambozola/Brie blend from Germany, and smoked Gouda that was nutty and smooth, along with prosciutto, smoked chorizo, Marcona almonds, and Castelvetrano olives.
This beautiful combination of strong flavors complimented well with my full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. The smoked chorizo was to die for, as the dense note of smoke hits the roof of your mouth nicely with each bite.
Domaćin has a full dinner menu of classics, such as Beef Tenderloin, Duck Breast, and various kinds of pasta that all look appealing.
For a terrific place to switch up craft cocktails for a beautiful glass of wine, Domaćin is your go-to.
215 Main Street S. // +1-651-342-0777
For a foodie and drink experience that’s a ton of fun and over the top, don’t miss the fabulously creative Brick & Bourbon. Open for lunch and dinner, their menu is comfort food taken to some serious heights!
First, a dramatic Smoking Gun: a big glass cake container filled with pumped-in hickory smoke smothering a glass of B&B Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon. It’s a pretty cool concoction with smoke billowing out to reveal slices of bacon, lemon peel, and a thick half-waffle that is oh so tasty to dip in the bourbon.
Next The Bugle: An elk bratwurst with jalapeño and cheddar bits, wrapped in thick-cut pecan wood-cured bacon, quickly deep-fried, layered with cheddar cheese, pieces of succulent fried pork belly, and topped with a drizzle of house-made BBQ sauce on a pretzel bun. So decadent.
The PB & Jay is nothing less than a burger topped with habanero Jack and extra-thick bacon, served on a honey-glazed doughnut made especially for the house. Yowza! Add mayo, sriracha, pomegranate marmalade, and house-made creamy bourbon peanut butter and you have a mouthful of sweet and savory.
A Blackberry Wine Slushy paired nicely with the PB & Jay. Black cherry rum, Merlot, Creme de Mure, and crushed ice worked well together on a hot, steamy day.
For something lighter, try the Maple Pecan Endive/Radicchio Salad with Chicken. The presentation is lovely, a big ceramic bowl filled with lettuce bits dotted with goat cheese, toasted pecans, and currants, with super thin slivers of pear cut like matchsticks standing on the top. Large enough to share, this tasty salad was a crunchy, savory, and sweet treat that was tossed in a maple balsamic vinaigrette.
Also big enough to share, a savory dish of crispy Brussels Sprouts tossed in Buffalo sauce and topped with melted blue cheese was a flavorful adaptation. The sprouts were deep-fried quickly to add extra crispiness to the leaves.
Not to be outdone was the gorgeous dessert of Chocolate Cigars, phyllo dough cigars stuffed with mascarpone and Nutella. And a pomegranate drizzle to finish them off. So, so yummy as the mascarpone and Nutella balanced each other out.
324 S. Main Street // +1-651-342-2545
Stop in at The Tilted Tiki on Main Street for a total blast. A tropical bar, inspired by the beaches of Hawaii and Florida, it’s a throwback and a great change of pace.
Tiki boasts an extensive drinks menu with thirteen types of Mai Tai’s and their famous “shark shot.” From Thursdays-Saturdays starting at 4:30 pm, they have live music on their awesome front patio. Cocktails that hark to Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber and their vintage blue lounge furniture and bamboo bars simply make it a festive and welcoming vibe.
Their Tilted Hawaiian is spot on, replete with a mini umbrella and a dash of Blue Curaçao. They serve up classics like the Zombie and the Road to Hana, festive martinis, and killer Bloody Mary’s.
A tropical-themed menu ranges from Friki Tiki Cheese Curds and Coconut Shrimp to Huli Huli Meatballs and Jackfruit Tacos, all of which looked tasty. Vegans will be delighted to see their own section, with food prepared in separate pans. The Tilted Tiki gets crowded early when the weather is nice, so keep that in mind! Open for lunch and dinner.
402 S. Main Street // +1-651-571-3501
Feller Restaurant in the beautiful Lora Hotel has both a unique setting and menu. Situated on the grounds of the old Joseph Wolf Brewery, which was built in 1846, the meticulously renovated building is set into the stone river bluff. Peek into Feller’s cave rooms while you’re there. It’s open for lunch and dinner.
Executive Chef Sam Collins created the “hunter-gatherer-inspired” menu based on Minnesota traditions and his own love of hunting and the outdoors and it’s terrific. I suggest every dish on the menu, from beginning to end. The restaurant’s name is an ode to the lumberjack tradition and the lumber community that flourished here in the late 1800s.
Feller has a thoughtful wine list and features a deep menu of whiskey, bourbon, and scotch. The adjacent bar space, The Long Goodbye, serves lovely cocktails made with Minnesota spirits along with wine and beer.
We started with an artful Hamachi Crudo—a fresh take on the old Nobu style—cubes of fish sprinkled with sesame seeds, served on an attractive ceramic plate and surrounded by spoonfuls of sumac foam with golden berries, micro-greens, chili oil, single fried Brussels sprout leaves, and parsley root chip. It was out of this world! The sumac foam was earthy and sweet while the plump berries were bright and tart. This Crudo was a unique mix of flavors and textures.
Next came the outstanding Truffle Panna Cotta. This delight was served with speck ham, soft herbs, topped with aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, and lovely spears of charred bread. The panna cotta was a perfectly smooth and silky disc of heaven studded throughout with truffle shavings. A subtle note of horseradish tickled the nose and enhanced the truffle. Delicious. I finished the leftover bits at midnight.
There was a wonderfully cooked Potato Dauphinoise served in a small cast iron pan. The creamy potatoes were perfumed with nutmeg, and the top was browned to a crust. Also, Brussels Sprouts prepared with balsamic vinegar, Korean gochujang, and hazelnuts, a terrific twist on the ubiquitous side. A nice char on the leaves added smokiness to the homemade gochujang sauce.
The mains were simply fabulous. The Sirloin was a six-ounce steak of wagyu beef sourced from the local Snake River Farms. Served with a delectable Sauce Diane (butter, shallots, garlic, cognac flambé, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, double cream, and black peppercorns), a brilliant Cabernet reduction, bright fermented mushrooms, microgreen pea tendrils, and sweet potato frites, this dish was top-notch through and through.
A sumptuous Leg of Rabbit arrived demi-glace topped with a gorgeous lacquer of sea buckthorn and berries, celeriac, surrounded by a puree of root vegetables. It was beautifully frenched (a technique where you score the meat and then scrape it from the bone as you prepare it for cooking). This food art was garnished with a pansy and a bachelor button.
Finally, a dessert that we couldn’t finish but had to taste. It was a creative Strawberry Shortcake of dense rum-soaked butter cake topped by halves of wild berry and orange-vanilla semifreddo, surrounded by raspberry and orange coulis. Dusted with strawberry dust and butter cake crumble, this special creation was utterly original and delicious.
The entire meal was stellar as was the service and the ambiance. Each dish was consistent and excellent. Nothing was over-complicated, and everything had a clean, pure flavor.
For an outstanding casual fine dining experience in Stillwater, Feller tops the list.
Tonya Hennessey is a freelance writer and non-profit professional who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she took off for a few years of travel throughout Europe, Asia, and South America, a trip that awakened her awe of the world’s varied cultures, landscapes, and, of course, foods! Since then, she has traveled extensively in Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and the United States. Along with travel, she loves to cook, garden, and spend time with friends & family.