Ward 6 on Payne Avenue Stays True to Building’s History

Payne Avenue bar and restaurant stays true to building’s history.
Bob Parker, co-owner of Ward 6.

Ward 6, an East Side gem on Payne Avenue, offers excellent food and an extensive beverage selection in a building brimming with character.

Owners Bob Parker and Eric Foster opened their restaurant in December 2012 aiming to serve quality food and drinks in a fun environment. Parker, who has worked in hospitality his entire career, remembers as a young adult seeing people at a bar, having a great time “and just thinking how beautiful that was.” Parker and Foster both take pride in providing an enjoyable atmosphere for patrons. Foster says, “It’s generally a fun business to be in…what we do is provide people with a fun experience out.” Parker echoes this: “We look at it and can see that it’s working and can see that people are really enjoying themselves.”

These Dayton’s Bluff neighbors were each interested in opening a bar when a mutual friend introduced them in 2010. Foster, a former high school teacher, came into the partnership with experience in homebrewing, and Parker brought more than 30 years of experience in restaurants and bars—as a bartender, bar trainer, and consultant to others opening restaurants or bars (he helped open Christos and the Red Stag Supper Club, among other Twin Cities eateries). The business partners knew they wanted to open their business on the East Side. Foster says they both wanted “to invest in our neighborhood and help be part of good things happening over here.”

Of their partnership, Parker says, “as owners, we present a nice, unified, although diverse, package.” Each brings his own interests and strengths. Foster selects the beers for Ward 6’s taps and Parker curates the wine and cocktail menus. They work with their chef to formulate the food menu, which includes classics like the reuben ($11) and fish & chips ($11), which are prepared in the classic English style using beef fat. Ward 6 also serves weekday breakfast and weekend brunch, with options ranging from eggs Benedict ($10) and savory bread pudding ($7) to Parker’s perfected Bloody Mary ($7) – he claims it is his goal to serve “the best Bloody Mary in Saint Paul.”

The owners’ deep interest in the drink menu is evident from their extensive selection of beer, wine, cocktails, and even adult milkshakes. Ward 6’s 20 taps highlight 18 Minnesota brews, including Hamm’s, in a nod to the brewery’s former East Side home. Foster changes the beer selection often. He says when Ward 6 opened, “I probably couldn’t have had my 18 taps of Minnesota beer coming from 18 different breweries, and now I can easily do that.”

The rotating cocktail menu is anchored by the restaurant’s signature cocktail, the Ward 6 ($8). Created by Parker, the ingredients (cilantro, ginger, vodka, St. Germain, lime juice, chili and lychee juice) highlight some of the East Side’s diversity, with Hispanic and Asian influences. Of the wine list, Parker says, “The wines are interesting, but they’re really approachable. I’m very proud of it.” Parker says his philosophy is to set prices so that customers are comfortable getting more than one drink: “You can reorder, you can get something else.” A glass of wine is $6 to $9, beers run to $5, and cocktails are $6 to $8.

Ward 6 customers will feel comfortable not only with the drink prices, but with the restaurant’s space itself, which features a patio, large light-filled windows, and historic ambiance thanks to the many identities the building has had in its 100-plus years. Built by a Swedish immigrant in the late 1800s as a saloon, Hamm’s Brewery purchased the building in the early 1900s and operated a Hamm’s bar there until Prohibition, when breweries were no longer allowed to operate bars. After the repeal of Prohibition, a new owner purchased the building and again ran a bar in the space until 1969. During the ensuing years, the building served as everything from a rental apartment to a biker clubhouse in the 1980s. Through all of these transitions, the large wooden bar at the center of Ward 6 has stayed in place since its installation in 1903.

Both owners are quick to point to their employees as a source of Ward 6’s success. “A good part of our success is [that] the people who work here have great personalities and really care about what they’re doing,” Foster says. Parker shares the sentiment, saying, “It’s an incredible joy to know how many wonderful people we have working here at Ward 6.”

As for Ward 6’s future, there are no major changes planned at the moment. But fans will want to keep an eye on the restaurant, as Parker says that additional locations may be in their future. “We’re poised to continue to do good things,” he says.

(A lamb and beef pork loin reduction with braised chard and a fried duck egg is a specialty at Ward 6.)