Stillwater, MN is a small city 20 miles northeast of downtown Saint Paul that is located on the west bank of the St. Croix River. It was incorporated in 1816. You can visit the historic main street with its stores and boutiques, bars and restaurants, boutique hotels and entertainment options. After reading several articles about the city, I stopped by on the way to the airport to explore and have lunch. I enjoyed my visit. I hope to stay longer on my next trip.
My recommendations include:
Where to Eat
USA Today in June 2022 rated Stillwater as one of 10 Best Small Town Food Scenes in the US. “This river city wears its past in its fun and funky restaurants, including romantic rooftop eateries overlooking the St. Croix River and casual sidewalk cafes.” My recent finds include:
Leo’s Grill & Malt Shop: This is a classic diner experience downtown with an outdoor patio and upstairs terrace. It is a great family-friendly spot with both a regular menu and a kids menu. I loved the retro style interior. My pulled pork sandwich with chips and slaw was a perfect choice for lunch. Their Gloria’s to Go Ice Cream window is near the outside patio on the side. 131 Main St. South.
Lolo American Kitchen and Craft Bar: This is a highly recommended downtown restaurant that has a focus on street food made with fresh, local and organic products. They also focus on cocktails using local craft spirits, wine and a list of local beers. 233 Main St. South.
Brick & Bourbon: Brick & Bourbon is a casual bar and restaurant serving elevated pub food along with cocktails and draft beers. 215 Main St. South.
MADE Coffee is located at 410 Main St. South in the Lora Hotel. This is a full-service coffee and espresso bar with locally made pastries and breakfast sandwiches. I started my downtown exploration after a much needed latte!
Mon Petit Cheri Bakery & Kitchen: This is a rustic downtown café at 310 Main St. South where you can have coffee, pastries, breakfast and lunch.
Green Bridge Coffee Shop at 209 Main St. South is a local coffee shop next to Galeria Saro. Here you can buy coffee, tea and pastries. Part of each purchase goes to support local causes.
Stillwater Proper Restaurant is a modern American restaurant and bar opened by the team behind Lolo American Kitchen. In addition to lunch and dinner, they are also open for Sunday Brunch. 227 Main St. South.
In the back of the restaurant is the 45th Parallel Distillery. Their tasting bar is open Wednesday through Sunday. They produce 11 craft spirits at their base of operation in New Richmond, WI. I was very impressed with their small batch Border Bourbon made with a four grain blend of corn, wheat, rye and malted barley. They also produce rye and wheat whiskeys, gin, vodka, Limoncello, Orangecello and Aquavit. 228 Water St. South.
Barbara Ann’s Fudge Shoppe is a local fudge shop and ice cream parlor from 1985, that is popular for its fine handmade candies and particularly its turtles. I enjoyed my ice cream while walking downtown. 317 Main St. South.
The Freight House: This restaurant is located in an historic freight house from 1883 that was the first building in Stillwater to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It serves tacos, soups, salads, burgers, and sandwiches along with craft beers and cocktails. It has the largest outdoor patio in Stillwater of over 8,000 sq. ft. with views of the St. Croix River and the historic Stillwater Lift Bridge.
Located on the river, The Dock is a casual waterfront restaurant with a large outdoor patio. The menu features steaks, burgers, salads, pastas and fish entrees like beer battered walleye. 425 Nelson St. East
The USA Today article on Stillwater as having one of the best small town food scenes recommended the Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter for its German menu. Opened in 1966, it is a rustic restaurant located west of downtown in a beautiful pine forest. 8390 Lofton Ave. North.
Where to Stay
I was very impressed with the boutique Lora Hotel at 402 Main St. South. It is a well-located hotel in the heart of downtown and close to all of the shops, bars and restaurants as well as the riverfront. The building was formerly an historic brewery that was built in the late 1800s. It has a number of attractive rooms to choose from. At my recommendation, Chicago friends stayed there recently and enjoyed the experience.
For food and drink, the hotel also has MADE Coffee, the Long Goodbye bar and the Feller restaurant. According to the hotel, Feller has a menu of “Midwest-sourced ingredients that evoke Minnesota’s traditional foraging and hunting culture, from Prairie Harvest quail to grass fed bison and homemade venison sausages. Sample the smoked trout BLT or find yourself tempted by an intriguing cocktail crafted with Minnesota spirits.”
What to Do
Stillwater Lift Bridge: Make sure to walk or bike across this historic bridge built in 1931. It is now closed to vehicles and has been open only to bicycles and pedestrians since 2020.
Stillwater River Boats is a company that offers lunch and dinner cruises on authentic Paddlewheel boats on the St. Croix River. 525 S. Main St.
In addition to the river boats, activities along the St. Croix River include walking and biking, canoeing, paddle boarding, kayaking and fishing.
While walking on Main Street, make sure to visit and support the local sweet shops, antique stores and gift shops.
I recommend Smith + Trade Mercantile. This local gift shop represents a community of local craftsmen and artisans who create handmade items. I bought some fun birthday cards for my friends. 229 Main St. South.
I also liked Galeria Saro which is a local gallery that showcases paintings, pottery, stained glass, fused glass and wooden bowls and carvings. My favorite painting was a take off of Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night set on the river in Stillwater. 213 Main St. South.
I didn’t have time to drive by, but I read that famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Donald and Virginia Lovness Estate in Stillwater. It sits on 20 acres of lakefront outside of town at 10121 83rd St. North. It was completed in 1957 and includes furniture and light fixtures designed by Wright.