BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT
Suggest a French restaurant for dinner and you run the risk of being labeled as le snob. Unless that restaurant is the accessible Meritage, the perfect French brasserie for St. Paul: The waitstaff doesn't mind if, instead of mangling words like cassoulet or bouillabaisse, you simply point to the amusements or entrées you desire—no judgment, no sneer. And don't even think about being intimidated by the hefty wine list. It may be 17 pages long and have its own table of contents, but the accessible cork-covered tome of rosés and Beaujolais has a colorful map to help you choose which area of France to indulge in. The final hurdle comes when the perfectly plated food arrives. Whether it's pan-seared sea scallops with pork belly balancing on top of one another or the medley of four squash delicacies, the food may appear too dainty and perfect to poke a fork into. Nonsense! Owner and head chef Russell Klein adds to the familiar air of the restaurant by regularly walking through the dining room, greeting patrons with a hello so casual you might be tempted to offer a fist bump in recognition of your juicy steak au poivre.