HOME > Chowhound > Minneapolis-St. Paul >

Discussion

Finally, Meritage!

I am still working in the TC's. In a previous lengthy thread [http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/675630] Meritage gets mentioned several times.

Last night (late) I finally made it there.

I sat at the very nice zinc bar (although somehow not authentic in feel like one would find in France) and ordered 6 oysters, 6 clams and a cocktail. The oysters were advertized at $4 the piece (!!!!) so I could only go for 6. The clams were a bit cheaper $1.75 per.

On the general welcome: thankfully the snooty maitre'd (male or female) had either been let go or it was too late for them to be looking one up and down as to whether you might pass muster. The bartender was OK. The oyster shucker got to work (clams giving him more trouble than the oysters).

There were about 12 varieties of East Coast advertized and about 8 West Coast although I don't think all were "on". I had St Simon (New Brunswick) and then upon discovering oysters were on happy hour (2 for $3) I ordered another dozen mixed St. Simon, Hurricane (Mass.) and some from NY.

The oysters were good. Cold, briny and fresh. However when the check came the price seemed to have been fudged somewhere between $4 per and 2@$3. It was so murky (lightwise) I decided to let it go.

The clams were cold and briny also. Quite nice. I ordered a steak (hanger) frites to follow.

The crowd was well-heeled (literally for the women) and subdued (drunk) and many were on romantic rendezvouz of various persuations. A few solo diners like myself too. I guess they were serving absinthe although I did not see anyone partake.

The hanger steak ("very rare") was a big disappointment. Somewhere in these annals (perhaps that other thread) I denounced and decried a place which similarly desecrated my piece of meat by cutting it up for me (baby style!!) thereby robbing me of one of the significant pleasures of steak eating viz: hacking away at it myself. Also this stops the meat's juices flowing, cools everything down to nothing, so the steak was neither running bloody nor even remotely warm. I really did not like how they did the steak and it was a fairly malnourished (small) portion of (cheap) hanger steak for 25 bucks. They tried to make up for it with a large mound of string fries to fill up the plate real estate (so-so: not terrible, but too stringy for the potato taste to come through). A Bernaise sauce . . . blah ... humbug.

I had a couple glasses (again meagre in ration) of red Rhone wine.

Mentally I guess I had a figure in mind for happy-hour oysters and a steak frites . . . but that number was not $101!!! A $20 tip and a few bucks for the oysterman and there you go.

M'lud, may it please the court, but I plead the case that the very idea of a French bistro is that a growing lad like myself can go out for a few bivalves, and a chunk of steak and not drop 130 smackeroonies.

The price tag hurt. Although I know, and have noticed, the punitive way restaurant checks have ballooned since my Golden Age of dining. Bottom line: they could still be making money had I staggered out of there lighter only about $80. And then my repeat business would be more likely.

Not horrible. At least I did not abandon the enterprise at the maitre'd's desk like the last time.

But I would only go so far as "not horrible." (Not a terrible review in my lexicon.) Had the steak been more plentiful and running juice and uncircumcised . . . I may have been tempted to up that a notch.

Thanks for reading.

bb

-----
Meritage
410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Isn't slicing the standard preparation of hanger steak? My assumption is that this is so because it is the most problematic to cut into.

    Meritage does not advertise itself as a bistro, but a fine dining establishment inspired by French Brasserie food.

    Can anyone confirm whether the happy hour oysters are really 2 for $3? That sounds like a heck of a deal, if so.

    -----
    Meritage
    410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

    5 Replies
    1. re: kevin47

      "Chef's choice" but yes that was the scrawl on the happy hour menu.

      And I personally have no problem cutting into any hunk of meat whatsoever. It's certainly not standard in Europe, because, as I say, except possibly when you are two years old one of the pleasures is in the hacking up of the meat, and any fine dining establishment should understand that (or at least offer the choice).

      1. re: bishopsbitter

        Given that this seems to be a common practice in restaurants, and that it is something that particularly annoys you, you might want to inquire about it in future, so that you can request your meat uncut.

      2. re: kevin47

        I just surfed around with the same question. Not on their web site and can't find confirmation. Because that is a good deal!

        1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

          They hand out a Happy Hour menu (a single card-like thing. It's on there. As i say, you have to take chef's pot luck but that's the deal. As I recollect perhaps why my accounting went wrong was that I ordered another dozen without being apprised of this fact (they should ahve told me) and therefore only had a subset of "Chef's Selection". that probably explains partly the higher-than mentally tabulated tab.

          Again, the fact they did not let me know (it was only the 2 for $3 deal that made me order the other dozen) was a bit shoddy and sharp operating procedure.

        2. re: kevin47

          If someone served me an unsliced hanger steak, I would be quite discouraged. Few restaurants supply the type of hardware required to properly slice this thing myself, as your standard serrated steak knife would tear it to shreds.

          They do a lot of dumb things in Europe...I'll add not slicing a notoriously finicky cut of beef to the list.

        3. Agree with you bishopsbitter. Meritage would do better to charge less for the shellfish because many of us would be repeat customers...unless the light pours on wine continue. [$4 an oyster is too much.]

          Also, I don't know a single soul who has been satisfied with any red meat orders there.

          Sure hope they can straighten it out. We so need and want a place like this to work.

          -----
          Meritage
          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

          19 Replies
          1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

            Can't sleep tonight and just hit bishopsbitter's original link. Fun! I agree with most of your observations about most of the places you've been to. Look forward to reading more of your well-written posts.

            Back to Meritage for a minute. The sleepers in the raw bar are the shrimp. My lord. Shrimp like they used to taste 20-some years ago. Meaty, fleshy, tasty goodness. At least go back there and try those.

            But my guess is you are right about the place fudging on what they charged you for oysters, mixing the happy hour with regular prices. Low rent stuff, all designed for a few bucks more on the tip. Designed to make you embarrassed to even raise the issue.

            You have tried Piccolo? That is worth the drive and a meal to be savored.

            -----
            Meritage
            410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

            1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

              You know, you are right. The couple next to me (a peculiar canoodling pair clearly not on any $$$ limit :-) and he in urgent need of oysters by the look of hwo the evening might unfold . . . ) ordered the shrimp cocktail and the shrimp looked very nice. REALLY nice!

              1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                Funnily enough a guy I know at MSP airport (a guru of TC dining who works - completely improbably - but he still knowsall vis-a-vis what's good in the TC's - . . . at Chili's) recommended RAVED about it.

                Without starting any furor ( hope!), one thing I will observe.

                In my original posts about Meritage and to some extent this one as well, there is a huge feeling in the responses as though somehow the fact that I was not that impressed or had issues is some sort of either personal "dementia" or a discourteous diss towards St. Paul "scene" somehow.

                I don't quite understand. As you can see from my chequered list of "favorite" places I am quite eclectic, and I LOVE (with a passion) the places I love. And yet I would never get hurt or "edgy" if someone had a detracting observation about them, or even said they sucked! In fact, if it was a truthful detracting observation I would be happy to take it on board.

                I have no idea why Meritage (which, no matter what they say they are, is not a fine dining restaurant, at least in terms of service, general ambience, and no matter if they charge you as if they are . . . it's de facto a "bistro" or brasserie) brings this out.

                It's by no means the greatest, bu tby no means the worst I have ever been to. But trust me, my observations are not meant to rile anyone up. I just pass them along, hopefully with an attempt at humor. And I feel I have seen enough wretched restaurants to have a valid (and even, dare I think, helpful) set of criteria as to what works and what doesn't.

                This may be the best St Paul has at present (maybe?), but it's definitely Not ~"as "best"~ as St Paul deserves and by saying so either they might be tempted to get their finger out and improve, or someone else will garner the courage to do it all better (and bloody, hell . . . hopefully cheaper :-).!!!!) some place else.

                Whoever said $130 (for one remember!!) was 'about right' for a few oysters and a bit of steak) clearly never dabbles with the "menu a 29E" etc. on their travels in Europe :-) Naturally said menu almost anywhere would supersede my late supper the other night, and probably with vin de la maison included and no tip expected.

                Again, please TC-ians . . . I am from out of town, but the TC's are where I cut my eating-out teeth when I came to the US. Chez Colette at the Sofitel in its day blew Meritage off the planet. Their pate some of the best I ever had outside europe. But that's going back 30 years :-) And they did have a fine-dining incarnation ensuite. But C.C. did not stick you with the big check. The Louis XIV or some Louis at least DID!

                Anyway, just an observation. unless you are related to Meritage owners simply ignore my observations if you disagree, but without rancor, and with sensitivity to a good deal of tongue-in-cheekness . . . I beseech thee.
                Thanks again for reading any of my foodie drivel here and elsewhere.
                bb

                Sorry sorry.

                -----
                Meritage
                410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                1. re: bishopsbitter

                  Oysters in Minneapolis are going to be more expensive than in Europe for the simple reason of geography. They have to be shipped over a thousand miles by plane, versus a couple hundred K (as in Paris for example). It is not really quite fair to expect them to cost the same.

                  1. re: LiaM

                    No, on the contrary, oysters are generally quite expensive in Europe. I was comparing American prices actually. I think even with shipping they could manage them at less than $50 a dozen!! (Down here in TX & LA they can turn a profit charging $4.50 the dozen.) While the east and west coast may be a tad more expensive I suspect "wholesale" that's the sort of ballpark we are talking for the product per doz. (or pro-rated to the sack or whatever). So a pretty hefty markup I would guess. I'll have to ask my pro friend at the airport typically what the cost price is for sacks of oysters.

                    1. re: bishopsbitter

                      Your comparison to 29E menus was a bit confusing, then.

                      1. re: LiaM

                        Well not meaning to be. Typically there would be a "surcharge" for things like oysters and foie gras and so on but they can be combined with the ". ..a (xx)E" thereby still keeping things "in check." I wasn't meaning to intimate that exact meal could have been had for 29E but a starter a main a dessert/cheese and coffee and wine could be. Which I don't think would be practically possible chez Meritage. You might have noticed a lot of the places Gordon Ramsay "fixes" on TV he brings in a prix fixe menu so I think the trend is trending here. As someone said, there just aren't enough people who can endure Meritage's stick-it-to-the-punters-in-the-wallet-now-for-you-may-not-get-another-visit prices and be regulars,. and regulars are where the bread and butter meet the road. As I said I might well be headed back for their cassoulet but those oh-so-puny portions of wine stick in my mind as I ponder the repeat outing.

                        -----
                        Meritage
                        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                        1. re: bishopsbitter

                          Toto we're not in Texas any more.Things that are good are expensive in MN. If Sherlocks was still open a beer would cost at least $7.00 .

                  2. re: bishopsbitter

                    Out of curiosity, it seems that most of your best dining experiences are from a long time ago. Have there been places in the TCs that have really impressed you in the past year?

                    1. re: mtullius

                      I liked Vincent a lot. But (as per previous I am a fan of the Toulouse and Cahors areas of France (Vincent's home turf).

                      The Strip Club was good (for dinner: but AWFUL for breakfast/brunch whichever forgettable experience it was).

                      I like the drinks at that Crafthouse place at the Graves although enjoyed them a lot more with one (I took to be senior) bartender than the ones I had subsequent time. The eats there (the Mezz bar place upstairs) did not wow me although good people-watching.

                      Mancini's I like for their strong drinks and vinyl booths and the feeling like Dean Martin might appear at any moment.

                      Otherwise, not a lot. I have cut back on explorations though. Partly monetary, and partly the same reason I do not put nail guns to my head and pull the trigger. I mean, you know it's going to be painful, so why bother!

                      I liked Mezzaluna (sp?) more than Meritage, but not a whole lot.

                      This Piccolo off of 35E (if I am thinking of the right place: by the bridge right?) sounds worth a try though.

                      And if I get any more "hot tips" from the TC guru at the airport I will not keep them to myself. (The Chowhound Code.)

                      -----
                      Meritage
                      410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                      The Strip Club
                      378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

                      1. re: bishopsbitter

                        Hi! Actually, Piccolo is in South Mpls. at 43rd and Bryant. We had a lovely time there because all three members of our family are interested in details and new tastes. Not everyone would appreciate it, especially for the price. You sound like you pay attention, so you might enjoy it also; just budget ahead!

                        1. re: sandylc

                          Thanks Sandy. Well there's another Italian place worthy of consideration somewhere along 35E by the river bridge it seems. I will check with my friend (again, the world's most unlikely, but able, Deep Throat, at Chili's @ KMSP) and report back. And certainly yours sounds interesting and I may have a run over also.
                          bb
                          p.s. "details" !!!!! absolutely.

                          1. re: bishopsbitter

                            You are probably thinking of I Nonni in Lilydale. I hear it's very good, but I haven't been there.

                            -----
                            I Nonni
                            981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

                            1. re: bishopsbitter

                              "another Italian place worthy of consideration"

                              speaking of going in with expectations-- just telling you in advance, piccolo is not italian, it's innovative small plates. the name is more a joke about the size of the restaurant. though they do have some nice pasta offerings there, but yeah, not really italian. . .

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                Good point. I had wondered if I should make it.

                          2. re: bishopsbitter

                            Pazzaluna, not Mezzaluna.

                            I Nonni is the place right off the bridge. Great food, and I think it would be your thing.

                            I strongly suspect Piccolo would not be your thing.

                            -----
                            Pazzaluna
                            360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

                            I Nonni
                            981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

                            1. re: kevin47

                              I Nonni Know :-) (couldn't resist)
                              I think you are right on all counts Kevin. I did try the "small plates" tapas place in Minneapolis (mentioned in the other thread name escapes me) and was pretty unimpressed by food, service and drinks. (Apart from that pretty good.).

                              -----
                              I Nonni
                              981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

                    2. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                      My wife and I have both had steak at Meritage and been quite satisfied. And I've long maintained that the Meritage house burger is the best in town. It sounded to me like even the notoriously difficult to please bishopsbitter liked the taste of his steak-- he just didn't like the fact that it was sliced up (more or less standard, as others have pointed out) and the price (also standard for grass fed beef).

                      -----
                      Meritage
                      410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                      1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                        I love the steak frites at Meritage, so now you know someone!! (Actually more, as I know any number of people who love it there and order steak.)

                        -----
                        Meritage
                        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                      2. 18 oysters, 6 clams, grass fed steak, two glasses of wine, $101 seems about right to me......maybe a little low. Meritage is my go to place for Cassoulet. I wouldn't go there for a steak.

                        -----
                        Meritage
                        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: ibew292

                          If you're ever in Toulouse there's a place opposite the bus station where cassoulet is touched by Gods too. I always think it needs to be a group thing (or made as such and doled out as a portion). It is not good when individualized in little biddy ramekins I dont' think, generally. But if I ever venture back to Meritage I will try the cassoulet and report back. In fact if that is their "benchmark" I may do so simply to see how they do.

                          -----
                          Meritage
                          410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

                          1. re: bishopsbitter

                            . . . .although as I reread my original post from the other thread (a near brush with their cassoulet had I not left the premises in disgust) I seem to have said I would rather hack my gangrenous leg off with an airline plastic knife than go back there. Oh dear.

                            Well . . . I have mellowed, a bit. :-)

                        2. This thread has encouraged me to try some more places (I have been a bit Howard Hughes recluse in the 13th floor of the Holiday Inn (Collapsed) Metrodome [whose restaurant I have never been to, although I do feel guilty seeing the needy-looking Maitre d' eyeing me longingly as potential punter material night after night] of late :-) ) I Nonni sounds definitely up for a check out when I am back in town the week of the 23rd. Maybe a couple others. Thanks for the inspiration to "get out more!" ;-)

                          Thanks! for the inspiration!

                          bb

                          Looking at their web site . . .
                          "17 oz carafes of house wine $10.00" (Happy Hour 4-6pm)

                          And . . .
                          DEGUSTAZIONE MENU
                          choose one item from antipasti, primi and secondi for a traditional three course degustazione
                          $39.00 per person.
                          custom wine flites are available, please inquire.

                          Definitely sounds like a happening kinda place!

                          -----
                          Metrodome
                          900 S 5th St, Minneapolis, MN 55415

                          I Nonni
                          981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: bishopsbitter

                            Sadly an awful (in extremis) Italian meal at the hotel restaurant at the Ramada Plaza last night put me off Italian food, if not for life, at least for a week and definitely for tonight when I Nonni was slated for a visit. I will be back in the TC's mid June and make the trip (and report) then. Scalzo's (WHO COMES UP WITH THESE NAMES?? Scalzo's sounds like a skin disease) not worth the review.

                            -----
                            I Nonni
                            981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

                          2. you have to get the rabbit at Meritage also, the salted ice cream for dessert is heaven. I believe it is made at Izzy's in St. Paul.

                            -----
                            Meritage
                            410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102