Eat, drink, explore: Your guide to the top 5 spots in downtown St. Paul

Spending time in downtown St. Paul? Get to know the heart of the city by browsing its most popular local businesses, from a chocolate shop to a pizza joint.

Hoodline crunched the numbers to find the top places to visit downtown, using both Yelp data and our own secret sauce to produce a ranked list of neighborhood businesses. Read on for the results.

1. The Buttered Tin

Photo: Dan H./Yelp

Topping the list is Lowertown bakery and cafe The Buttered Tin. Located at 237 Seventh St. East, it's the highest rated business in the neighborhood, boasting four stars out of 444 reviews on Yelp.

This offering has been making made-from-scratch fare daily since 2013. According to the business' website, bakers arrive at 3 a.m. to start baking and by 6:30 a.m. workers are grinding and brewing the house blend coffee.

Sweet and savory fare both make appearances on the menu. Look for loaded hash browns with pickled onions, thyme and cider vinaigrette; smashed avocado toast with red pepper and an over-easy egg on a toasted baguette; and bananas Foster French toast with maple pecans.

2. Afro Deli & Grill Saint Paul

Photo: liz l./Yelp

Next up is African and Mediterranean spot Afro Deli & Grill Saint Paul, situated at 5 W. Seventh Place. With 4.5 stars out of 106 reviews on Yelp, it's proven to be a local favorite and has a second outpost in Minneapolis. On its website, the casual eatery says it "provides a delicious fusion of African, Mediterranean and American themed food in a fast, fun and friendly environment."

Menu options include the Somali steak sandwich with African spices and Swiss cheese; the veggie platter with hummus, falafel, sambas and pita bread; and the Chicken Fantastic entree complete with grilled chicken, peppers, carrots and zucchini served over Somali rice. The full menu can be seen here. Afro Deli also caters.

3. Meritage

Photo: meritage/Yelp

French spot Meritage is another top choice. Yelpers give the business, located at 410 St. Peter St., four stars out of 330 reviews. This spot offers an oyster bar and outside seating in the summer, and touts itself as "a wonderful place to enjoy some Moules Frites and a glass of rose," per its website.

Expect menu options like a wild shrimp cocktail for brunch; a poached salmon salad with asparagus, fennel and apple for lunch; and a full duck breast for dinner. Thirsty? Try out a cocktail from the full bar, such as the gin-inspired Negroni D'Or with quinquina and suze, or the vodka-based Strawberry Shrub with vodka and lemon. Take a look at the full menu here.

4. Legacy Chocolates

Photo: legacy chocolates/Yelp

Legacy Chocolates, a chocolatier and sweets shop offering baked goods, ice cream and more, is another much-loved neighborhood go-to, with five stars out of 38 Yelp reviews. Head over to 141 E. Fourth St., Suite 223, in the Pioneer Building, to see for yourself.

Stop into Legacy to buy hunks of milk, dark or fruit-filled chocolates, or grab some chocolate wafers, truffles, bark or chocolate sauce to nibble on or bake with. Customers who visit its coffee bar will be treated to small roast coffees, espressos and mochas, as well as fruit smoothies. Check out the business' website for a complete list of offerings.

5. Big River Pizza

Photo: Salina S./Yelp

Then there's Big River Pizza, which has earned 4.5 stars out of 90 reviews on Yelp. You can find the pizzeria at 280 E. Fifth St. in the Lowertown district.  

This joint offers what it calls "Minne-politan" style pizza, beer, wine and small plates, according to its website. Examples of wood-fired signature pizzas include the meaty Leroy Brown, complete with pepperoni, sausage, mushroom, onion and green peppers; the classic Margherita with mozzarella, olive oil and basil; and the Red Rooster with bacon, egg and cracked pepper. Salads and pizza fries round out this spot's menu. Big River Pizza also caters.