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The Happy Gnome
Taps: 70 / Bottles: 300
Cask: Y / Beer-to-Go: N
$$$ - a bit pricey
[ Bar, Eatery ]
498 Selby Ave
phone: (651) 287-2018
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vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 1 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$$
I went here a week and a half ago after the St. Paul Summer Beer Fest. We ducked out about an hour early to avoid the rush and decided to grab dinner at the Happy Gnome.
After sitting outside on the very large, spacious patio I was delighted to see the beer list. The bottled selection was incredible and a decent tap list too, which included, to my understanding, one dedicated cask at all times.
I finally decided on a Two Brothers Domaine DuPage as well as the Minnesota Game Burger, a bison-elk burger with bacon among other things.
After about ten minutes, the waitress came back to double-check that I ordered it without horseradish or blue cheese. I assured her I did.
After another ten minutes, our beers finally showed up. Another twenty and then came the burger.
The burger was incredible except that... well, it had blue cheese and for whatever reason, the bacon described on the menu was nowhere to be seen. Generally speaking I'm not too picky so I ate it, but when I pay $14 for a burger and wait 40 minutes for it, I like to assume it will come out the way I ordered it.
In short, the food was great, the atmosphere was incredible, and the beer selection was definitely excellent. However, I've regularly had better service at McDonald's than here. There was definitely quite a rush of people having just left the beer festival, but for the most part it wasn't busy until after the food had already come; when we arrived there were about as many servers as there were occupied tables.
I've worked as a server before, so I know that I'm not being unfair to our waitress. Perhaps the food order wasn't her fault, but the horrible waiting time (even for a beer or a refill of water) was ridiculous. Of course, as a former server I'd be willing to accept that perhaps she was new, having a bad day, or whatever the case may have been and would be more than willing to give The Happy Gnome a second shot.
07-02-2010 20:17:44 |
More by Phocion
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4 | service: 2.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 2.5 | $$$
I've been to the Happy Gnome a couple times now, most recently yesterday. The atmosphere seems very polished, and sterile. There is a long winding bar and a lot o wood around, but nothing that really sets it apart from other establishments. On top of that the classic rock/bring back the 80's music playing loudly in the background was enough to make me want to bash my head into the bar. I don't plan on drinking the same beer everyday for the rest of my life, why would I want to listen to the same music everyday too. The service has been alright on my visits. The bartenders seem to know the beer well which is nice. However, I would rather have a friendly server who is good at what they do, then a guy who know a lot about beer but is unfriendly and kind of creepy. The beer selection is top notch both on tap and in bottle. The taps are full of oddities from local are regionaly miros and a few rare imports. The bottle list doesn't have as many rare beers as the tap list, but it is still very complete with very solid beer in all styles. The food is quite a bit better than you standard pub fare, but not so good that it is worth the price they are charging for it. Overall, I wont be coming back to the Happy Gnome. The food is subpar, and overpriced. The beer selection is good, but there isn't anything that can't be found at the Blue Nile, Acadia, or Bryant Lake Bowl, and at all those places the service is a lot better.
08-03-2007 15:06:31 |
More by KarlHungus
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | $$$
After coming from the Muddy Pig this place was somewhat of a dissapointment. The crowd was much trendier and seemingly less beer conscious, the music was pop/rap/mainstream, and playd very loudly. The waitstaff seemed a little slower, as well. Those were the bad parts, the good parts were the beer selection. All sorts of American Micros for you to sift through, lots on tap, even more in bottles. The bottle list also included Belgians and some other rare Euros, there is definitely something to suit every taste on this menu. Locals, seasonals, rarities abounded. I would prefer going here for lunch instead of during peak hours on a Friday or Saturday, as I think the clientele did not fit in with the aim of this bar.
08-21-2006 02:49:51 |
More by TastyTaste
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 2 | $$$
I am not impressed by the Happy Gnome.
The beer selection is great, albeit pricey. The ambiance reminds me more of an overcrowded college bar than it does the hipster bar that it claims to be. Service was average at best, mainly because of the tight quarters that the waitresses had to deal with. Perhaps it was just where I was seated, but tables were packed too closely together, with little to no room to maneuver inside. The food seemed overthought and overdone. Can I get a normal burger, not a bison burger with arugala and chipotle mayo?
The things the Gnome has going for it are the beer selection, and the patio. Amazing beer selection that changes often. The patio is beautiful and a welcome relief to the overcrowded inside. I highly reccomend the patio.
Overall, if I was invited to Happy Hour at the Gnome, I would go. If I was planning a Happy Hour, I would choose a different place to host it at.
11-06-2008 18:18:48 |
More by Nightfalke
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5 | $$$
We pulled into the Gnome at 2 on a Saturday. It looked like they only had 2 people on staff (1 at bar, 1 on floor). It took us a while to get a menu, and then even a bit longer to order. I hate to complain about the wait as I can empathized with the waitress from under staffing. The beer selection was good but definitely not great. Although there is a bunch of taps, there wasn't really anything overly impressive. I grabbed a Lienenkugel's big Eddy which was quite tasty and served in a new Belgium globe glass. Our food came up in a timely fashion, was tasty, and filling. After having our beers and finishing our food, we got our bill, which was definitely much pricier than other joints in town, but I had a gift card to burn. This place would be great if they got a little more adventurous on the taps, lowered the prices, and up'd the staff. As it is, I'll probably swing in sometime.
01-12-2009 05:36:52 |
More by Greggy
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$
On previous visits I've been to the Muddy Pig (down the street and around the corner), but thought I'd check out the Gnome this time. I wasn't disappointed.
This pub had 24 drafts. Only one was Miller Lite. The only other light golden colored beer on tap was Stella Artois...and, uh, I guess Delirium Tremens. Being from Chicago, it hurt to see that Bell's is very poplular up here these days. The Gnome had two Bell's beers on tap; Two Hearted and Winter White. In fact, it seems Michigan beer in general is doing well up here, as I found Arcadia to be rather prominent, too. The Gnome had two Arcadia beers (from Battle Creek) including a porter and a Scotch Ale. A couple Colorado breweries were represented, too, with two taps from Left Hand and Avery. (It seemed that pretty much the entire Avery selection was available in bottles.) Minnesota brews on tap included the requisite Surly taps Furious and Bender along with three Summit offerings. The only Wisconsin beer I noticed on draft was from Rush River. It was a Winter Scotch Ale. Low country brews included Koningshoeven Quadrupel and Delirium Tremens.
The Gnome was dark inside and fairly quiet (on a Wednesday night) except for a party upstairs. Quiet, but not in bad way, with the lighting actually the making place feel warm and cozy. The bar was playing music (satellite radio, I believe) at a fairly low volume that allowed for conversation. Although not a huge fan of the beer, I couldn't help noticing how good the drafts of Stella Artois looked, with the light shining through them just right, giving them a heavenly glow.
For dinner I had the Duck Confit Bruschetta (paired with a Scotch Ale from Rush River) which consisted of duck meat layered on top warm goat cheese and baguette slices with poached pears and wilted greens layered on top. This tasty mountain was covered in a port wine glaze/reduction, which of course, inspired me to have a glass of port after my meal...although as a Beer Advocate I suppose I should've gone for the Koningshoeven Quad....but I couldn't resist a glass of port.
If I'm back in St. Paul, I'll definitely go back to the Happy Gnome.
01-18-2007 15:27:20 |
More by marcobrau
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 5 | $$$
The Happy Gnome (whose website hasn't been updated in over a year), is kinda like a James Page beer, in that all the ingrediants are there for success and you feel like you should like it more. After all, it's local, it used to be great, and you keep trying it and expecting it to be better each time.
Their niche is beer, of course. Lots of high quality beer. The Gnome easily has the best selection of beer in town, hands down. The row of 24 taps and close to 100 bottles, with a focus on domestic microbrews, sends chills down my spine. And better yet, you can't get a Miller, a Bud or a Coors on tap. I'll gladly pay a little more to be able to try beer from a brewery that only makes a couple hundred gallons of beer a year.
But everytime I go there I keep thinking, "Gosh it was so much better when it was Chang's." The prices were a little better, they had a nice happy hour and you could buy pitchers (that's right, no pitchers and no happy hour at the Gnome). And right now, the patio--what Chang's was perhaps known best for--is closed until they get the proper license. I miss the down-to-earth feel, and the unique Asian-Irish motif. Because let's face it, gnomes are silly, and is that a gnome being hanged on the sign?
So I went to the Gnome the other night with two good friends whom I hadn't seen in a while. We were looking forward to catching up and more importantly, trying some unique beers. By far one of the best deals at the Gnome are the 22 oz. bottles of beer from Rogue Brewery from Oregon. They're only $8.50 and perfect for sharing. And they're amazing. We were torn between the Younger's Special Bitter and the Shark Tooth Ale.
Now, one would think that if you work in a bar that caters to beer snobs like me, the wait staff should be able to describe each beer or find someone who could.
Me: "What's the Shark Tooth Ale like?" Fair question. I'd had the Younger's and loved it.
Her: "Well...I didn't like it." But...what's it like?
Me: "Is it very bitter?" Another fair and easy-to-answer question.
Her: "Oh yeah. It is." Really?
Being torn and the fact that there were three of us, we got both bottles. Shark Tooth: not very bitter. A nice hoppy finish, but I wouldn't put it in the same realm, as say, a HopDevil Ale from Victory. Even on the bottle is says, "Enjoy this crisp, cool ale with a hoppy bite." It was a great beer nonetheless, but it wasn't bitter. This has happened on several visits to the Gnome, where I've been lead astray, told a bock was an ale or they don't have a beer when in fact they do.
But like every visit to the Gnome, the vast selection of great beer trumps any negative experiences. We also had a round of Furious from local brewers Surly. Now this is a hoppy bitter beer. But it's sooo smooth. And better yet, it was bought by Omar, the owner of Surly, who was sitting next to us. Thanks! (As an aside, St. Paulites can now drink Surly at Sweeney's and the Highland Grill.)
We finished off the night with a 22 ouncer of Hog Heaven from Avery Brewing. Whoa. The label says it's a "barleywine-style ale," so we were immediately skeptical, as they tend to be way too matly and strong, but this one was excellent. Clocking in at 9.2% alc, with 104 International Bittering Units (your standard American lager has like 10 IBUs), it was still smooth and a great beer before going to bed.
So I'll give the Happy Gnome 6 out of 10, it's saving grace being the beer selection. Once the patio opens and once they update their website, it might make it up to an 8. Until then, I'll keep going. After all, it's local, it used to be great, and I keep expecting it to be better each time.
04-27-2006 20:36:43 |
More by WindoraEric
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 5 | food: 5 | $$$$
Been there many times. Great tap list. Good location.
Website could be better. Could keeep a taplist more current online.
A bit too trendy. Prices pretty bad. Not going there as much because of that. Going to the Muddy pig more than the Gnome these days, mainly because of price and more of a "beer bar" atmosphere at the Pig.
Anyway... Happy Gnome does have great beer, really good food, and a great location. If you're taking a girl out for dinner, it's the place to go in St. Paul if you care about beer and she doesn't.
If you're going out with the guys (or a girl who knows her beer)...check the taplist, grab a favorite if it's pouring, then go somewhere else for the rest of the night.
05-25-2010 03:49:16 |
More by caskstrength
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 2 | $$$
The Muddy Pig in the way of a co-owner has come home to roost on the former Chang O'Hara's Bistro, where he used to bartend. A lot of the funky atmosphere has been replaced by removing the chinese lanterns, weird ornaments, and by painting over what remained in more monochromatic British racing green paint. And of course the HUGE beer selection both on tap and in the bottle is new. The new place seems just as popular, just as crowded on a Thursday night though I can't but help that think that people are just returning to a place they always loved. The bar and table layout remains the same, though the wood seems to be cleaned and re-finished in many cases. I didn't get a chance to check too many taps for freshness, but the two pints I did order were in good shape. Service seemed fine, one wait person was familiar to me in that she worked at Great Waters for a few years. The food seems overpriced, overambitious, and frankly, a little parsed in small portions. I had a bison burger that was completely dominated by a horseradish sauce, and it doesn't seem like college kid staples like a giant plate of fries are still available. Still, a real St. Paul "beer bar", and the outdoor seating is sure to be the hit it always was come the warm weather.
03-03-2006 22:03:43 |
More by ADR
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5 | $$
Love this place! I went there on a Sunday afternoon and sat on their deck behind the restaurant. The beer selection was exceptional. The quantity was good, but the choices were excellent.
I was told that originally the Gnome would specialize more in North American craft beers, but it seems to be tipping toward the Belgian heavy selection that the co-owned Muddy Pig has. There were 6 Belgians on tap, with another 18 from Germany and NA.
The waitress' beer knowledge was o.k., but she made up for it by being friendly and helpful on the food selection. I had the Bacon Bison burger with chipotle cheese, my buddy had a tuna tartare. Both were excellent. Just the fact that they had tuna tartare sets the Gnome apart from the pack.
I had a glass of Seriously Bad Elf and Surly Cynic Ale on tap. Both were served at the proper temperature, but the Surly seemed a bit undercarbonated.
Not as good as the Muddy Pig, but still one of the best places in the TCs. They need to build some signature dishes, work on their beer handling, and have some more events to draw people in. Some more training for the serving staff would be helpful as well.
I will definitely be back!
07-10-2006 22:41:11 |
More by CH3CH2OH
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The Happy Gnome in Saint Paul, MN