While up on Grand Avenue yesterday afternoon doing some shopping, I found a gift card in the back of my wallet that I had received for my birthday. It, of course, was to the St. Paul Cheese Shop/France 44 Wine & Spirits. The business card that I had wisely chosen to keep clipped to the gift card was the only way to tell it valid in the St. Paul Cheese Shop, due to all of the materials solely referencing the France 44 W/S.
The Wife and I decided to “walk by” when we got our first glimpse in through the large front windows, due to the 5 people already being in the store. From a quick guess, I would say the dimensions are pretty close to 25 feet long by 14 feet wide, which as you guess would lead to the feeling like the cashier was breathing down your neck due to them being less than 6 feet away. It did help that he seemed nervous like a stand-up comedian, keeping the words flowing to ease the awkwardness. But concerning the physical shop, it seemed very new and clean on the inside (granted, they couldn’t hide a dirty kitchen even if they wanted to) which is reassuring for someplace where I am going to purchase food.
Unlike France 44, the St. Paul Cheese Shop seems to be more a deli, a hipster deli, with interesting meats, cheeses, and various unique-seeming products like anchovies and chorizo. When we walked in, we didn’t really know what to expect -whether we were going be leaving with a pound or so of cheese, a few bottles of wine, or something totally different. What we did end up getting was the sandwich of the week and some sort of magical dip that was priced accordingly.
The sandwich, from the inside out consisted of: white medium-soft cheese, spring greens, some sort of jam with fruit pieces in it, ending up ultimately with hoagie style bun from the Breadsmith next door. It was a well made sandwich; its freshness accented the balmy 55 degree spring day. It seemed quite expensive; many, if not all of their sandwiches falling in the $8-10 range.
We also purchased some little pieces of toasted french bread (crostini?!?!?) with some sort of magical spread that consisted mostly of goats cheese with various dried fruits (a signature chevre). The most disappointing part of the chevre was the fact that is was priced at $10/half pound which seems like a barely legal measuring amount, especially when they weigh the pre-portioned amounts when you are checking out.
Meaning: With the cost of eating here for a simple sandwich or chevre, I can hardly say that I would frequent it, due to the cost. The awkwardness of the small shop and prices are definitely outweighed by the unique tastes that they offer, so don’t get me wrong, I will probably end up returning to purchase some of their hard-to-find deli items.