The Hamm Building in downtown St. Paul was built in 1915 and is a blend of limestone, brick and terra cotta (whose ornamentation is considered to be among the best in the Midwest). While its architecture has landed it on the National Register of Historic Places, what it contains is far more appealing to me. Enter Meritage, a French restaurant which has received numerous local and national awards and whose owner was previously head chef at W. A. Frost.
This absolutely delicious restaurant inspired me on two separate occasions, dinner and Sunday brunch. It would be perfectly suitable though to just stop for a craft made Bloody Mary or specialty French Beer and one or more Amusements (tiny single serving appetizers). Several different dining options are available. You can sit in the dining room or street side in the terrace, weather permitting, and in the summer you can hit up the Meritage Crepe Stand. I however followed my usual protocol and took a spot in the small oyster bar.
I am very much a seafood enthusiast, from sushi to a good fish fry, so to my contentment the Meritage offerings are diverse. You’ll find in the Fruit de Mer section a variety of Oysters, Escargot and Wild Baja Shrimp Cocktail. If small portions aren’t enough for your craving order Le Meritage version of Le Grand Plateau. You’ll get 12 Oysters, 6 Shrimp, 12 Littleneck Clams and Market Fresh Assortments (which in my order included Lobster Tail and Stone Crab Claws). As I look back over the Main Characters section from the menu my mouth waters and my stomach growls (and it’s 6:00 am). A few of the current main courses are Alaskan Halibut Gently Poached in Olive Oil, Stuffed Saddle of Minnesota Rabbit and Iowa Lamb Shank Braised in Framboise. And last but not least, if there is one thing you must try out of all I have suggested, order the Pommes Frites (house cut fries served with béarnaise). Meritage also offers a 5, 7 and 9 course Tasting Menu which is a great way to experiment with the current seasonal offerings.
Bill’s Beverage of the Month
Another WOW from Lagunitas Brewing Co. is Undercover Shut-Down Ale. Be careful while consuming this one, it has a 9.75% ABV. If you visit their website you can even have a virtual taste!