In keeping with St. Paul's reputation as the sleepier of the two cities, visiting its downtown can feel like stepping back in time. Even on a Saturday night the traffic remains civil and the fashion decidedly chaste. Meritage upholds this illusion of timelessness in the best possible way. Styled after a classic French brasserie, complete with oyster bar, the restaurant is romantic and sophisticated, but never stuffy. The menu is rooted in comforting classics like cassoulet and steak frites, but contains offshoots that reflect the season and the chef's whims, like pheasant rillettes served with a savory soufflé and roasted root vegetables. Unlike the brusque treatment you'll get at a typical Parisian bistro, the service at Meritage is unobtrusive but exceedingly helpful (especially when navigating the extensive wine list). Once you've ordered and you're gazing at the lovely view of Rice Park, it may feel like you've stepped out of time entirely.