Grand Avenue in St. Paul is home to an eclectic string of shops and restaurants, many of which are situated in former homes.  On a recent sunny Saturday morning, I found myself meandering along this historic avenue, popping in and out of some unique places.

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My first stop was at Bibelot, which offers a collection of fun gift ideas like a book called Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book and miniature keychain back scratchers.  It’s one of those stores I could lose track of time in, and would have, but my stomach was telling me it was time to move on to somewhere for lunch.  I did, however, leave with a shopping bag of goodies for myself and a birthday present for my sister’s upcoming 50th.

Café Latte was my destination to cure my growling stomach.  It’s a cafeteria-style restaurant, but erase all thoughts that the word “cafeteria” might bring to mind.  This restaurant uses only the freshest ingredients in their delicious menu selections.  My ordinary egg salad sandwich was doctored up with fixings of my choosing and served with a side salad.  The chocolate cake I had for dessert was topped with a half inch of thick, rich fudge frosting.  I’m quite sure there weren’t too many calories in that cake, but just in case, I figured it was a good thing I was walking from shop to shop.

I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic, but after all that cake even I hesitated to go into Bread & Chocolate Bakery across the street…but only for a second.  I looked at the many choices for sandwiches, salads, cakes, bars, and cookies, but I just couldn’t indulge in any more chocolate at the moment.

On to more shopping I went.  Three Sisters Eclectic Arts was next.  They offer paintings, pottery, jewelry, and many other pieces of art by about 70 local artists, among them a fun T-shirt company called Minnesota Awesome.  They make the popular “Minnesota Nice” T-shirt where the I is the outline of our state.

A little further along in my travels I popped into the cutest bookstore called Red Balloon Books.  The store features many fun children’s books and toys, but also offers adult fiction and nonfiction selections.

Other interesting shops I passed include Creative Kidstuff, Mischief Toy Store, Mama’s Happy, and Wet Paint.  For the gentlemen who are so inclined, the tobacconist and smoking lounge Stogies on Grand looks like a fun place to enjoy a cigar.

I couldn’t go home without making a purchase at Just Truffles.  This delightful chocolate shop started out in the St. Paul Hotel, and they proudly display photos of celebrities who have stopped in over the years including Marie Osmond and Oprah Winfrey.  The Tenors Temptation truffle was created for Luciano Pavarotti, and the Just Chocolate truffle is their most popular offering.  This is the one that I took with me.  I was actually able to get it all the way home without devouring it so I could savor it at a later time when I wasn’t so chocolated out.

If you want to end your day of shopping with a spa experience, Phresh Salon Spa offers hair, skin, and nail care as well as massages.  And if your pooch is in need of a spa day too, Bubbly Paws, a self-service facility, has your best friend covered.

My day on Grand Avenue venue was very fun and enjoyable, and I look forward to going back again for more shopping, and of course, more chocolate.  It was a grand day indeed.


By Dianne Swanson