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Bill of Fare: When dining is the occasion

Editor’s note: Bill of Fare is a feature on St. Paul dining that runs on the first and third Thursday of each month. Capitol Report is building an online dining guide, which is available here.

Bartender Christina Brakke pours drinks at W.A. Frost & Company. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

Bartender Christina Brakke pours drinks at W.A. Frost & Company. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

More than any other season, summer is a glorious blend of flip-flops, messy food, and patio seating. By the time the Minnesota State Fair rolls around, most of us have had a few months of grilled-and-fried everything, and more than one party where beer is served in flimsy plastic cups.

But even in the heart of casual summer, it’s a treat to make at least a few dinners into an occasion that defies the season. To luxuriate over an artfully prepared meal served in just-right lighting is a timeless (and seasonless) tradition that’s hard to pass up. Fortunately, St. Paul has a number of elegant restaurants that offer classic ambiance, plus some top-notch meals worth stretching the expense account a little.

First up is The Saint Paul Grill, with a deceptive name and a wide following. Yes, there are booths. But no, this is not a sweatshirt-and-jeans watering hole. Decidedly upscale but not stuffy, the restaurant offers meals and drinks that any “Mad Men” character would appreciate: thick-cut pork chops, New York strip steaks, and of course, countless single-malt scotches and martinis.

You can also put a little French style into your summer with a stop at Meritage, where you can dine on escargot and white wine as just a warm-up to innovative takes on French tradition and American favorites. For example, behold the glorious Meritage House Hamburger, with roasted garlic aioli and shallot confit. It’s a sure bet that won’t be on a stick at the state fair.

For a bit of history with your meal, there’s W.A. Frost & Company, that venerable and much-beloved warren of dining rooms and patio spaces tucked into a turn-of-the-last-century building. Serving St. Paul diners for over 40 years, the restaurant showcases ingredients from local farmers, cheesemakers, and small dairies. Even the wildflower honey comes from local beehives.

As much as summer induces a kind of sweet and sloppy languor, it’s always nice to break up those backyard barbecues with a special-event dinner. If the big occasion is that you put your flip-flops away for the night.

 

THE SAINT PAUL GRILL

350 Market St., St. Paul

651-224-7455

Cuisine: American

Two most popular dishes: Bourbon pork chop, crab cakes

Cost range: $10.95-$58.95

Hours: See website for lunch and dinner hours: www.stpaulgrill.com/contact

Delivery service? No

 

MERITAGE

410 Saint Peter St., St. Paul

651-222-5670

Cuisine: French

Two most popular dishes: Moules frites, skate wing grenobloise

Cost range: $9.50-$42

Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Delivery service? No

 

W.A. FROST & COMPANY

374 Selby Ave., St. Paul

651-224-5715

Cuisine: American

Two most popular dishes: Wild caught salmon, bistro steak

Cost range: $10-$55

Hours: See website for lunch and dinner hours: www.wafrost.com/contactus.asp

Delivery service? No

Bill of Fare: A guide to dining in St. Paul

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