Bars (a lust for)

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-Guest Blogger – Colin McDonald

Yes, Bars Bakery, located in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood, sells cookies, scones, croissants, and, of course, bars. And yes, I’m sure, they’re great. But I’m going to concentrate on owners Sandi Younkin and Kara Younkin Viswanathan’s caramel rolls alone, in part, because I haven’t tried their Savory Tarts or Doughnut Muffins and, in part, because I can’t say that I ever will. By which I mean that I’m beginning to suspect it will take time before I’m able to drive down Selby and Dale, without all but tasting the real butter and brown sugar that somewhere in between each first and second bite, I swear, sends signals to your mouth that never make it to your brain. Like the memory of a failed relationship or missed connection, it’s everything I still don’t know, months now since my first encounter, including what about these rolls I fell for in the first place, that makes my drop-bys at Bars Bakery attendantly more aggravating and worth the trip.

“When can I see you again?” I think, pretending to need more time to decide over the assortment of homemade this and that’s prepared from scratch on any given day. While the rolls themselves seem to say, “Meet me in the front seat of your car in five, and bring a napkin…”

Probably, we can all agree it’s rare to find food items great enough to make you think irrationally and often of what “almost was.” But timing can, in fact, aid in planning or, by happenstance, stumbling upon your trip to Bars, en route to The Happy Gnome.

St. Paul, as I’ve said for years, is a wonderful city to eat like crap in. And with that reputation comes not a responsibility so much as a rotary of bakeries, sweet shops, and ice cream cafes to choose from and then lie about not having planned to stop in. The difference between Bars and them has everything to do with the quality of Bars’ ingredients (which is obvious, without fanning itself off in the altruistic manner of “farm to table” manifestos and frequently asked questions hanging from the toilets) and the ephemeral nature, assumedly of all their goods, but (not to get off-track) their caramel rolls.

And so, to get the most bang for your buck (and here I’m not about to tell you how to shove one into which side of your face or where the wax paper should lie in relation to your partner), eat your roll ASAP, even if you’re still in line. The staff at Bars is pretty friendly, and anyway it would be fun to see what happens if you “accidentally” drop it, while fumbling for your wallet. Also, try to get there in the morning or early afternoon, not because the rolls are bad by 5 o’clock, but they are usually gone. Of course, worst-case scenario, you can always sample something else, which should leave you just enough room and excuse for a return visit to find yourself living in St. Paul and eating in the past.

Bars Bakery

612 Selby Avenue
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55102

Open Tuesday through Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Closed Mondays

For a full menu, visit


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and one for a St. Paul writer

Found this article in my favorite bathtub reading periodical (print edition!) while preparing for an Oscars party,  where I’ll go armed with another St. Paul writer’s predictions.  (Big prizes!)

A bus riding, St. Paul dad, encounters some Nice Girls. and becomes hopeful about his daughter’s future.