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Paris, France, has a lot going for it. It’s not just the way locals place a lei of foie-gras medallions around your doughy American neck when you get off the plane. It’s not just the way preschoolers lean against jungle gyms twisting sections of lemon peel into their espresso-filled sippy cups. It’s the ornament. That city has more egg-and-dart cornices and Gothic balustrades than the Boundary Waters has pinecones. And it has them because the French look at life differently than we do. We Puritan-descended Americans get dessert when we finish our chores, and not a moment before. And, naturally, those chores include fixing the world. The French get dessert because it’s the natural completion and fitting ornament to a meal; having a meal without dessert is the same as having a book without covers or a coat without buttons.
And this essential French-ness is Meritage’s genius: the sweet, fresh butter in the chilled table-pots; the pale consommé introduced to fresh herbs tableside, so you’re treated to a scent that’s salty and enticing; the lobster roll tucked into a perfectly seared white roll that you very well may not eat. (But does that mean it shouldn’t be toasted and attended to till it’s burnished like a cover model? No, it does not.) Best of all, you can lunch at Meritage for as little as $10.50 for a soup and sandwich combination, and you can get it regardless of whether or not you have perfected your—and everyone else’s—life first.
10 Best Capital City Lunches
Bangkok Thai Deli
1278 Grand Ave., St. Paul, 651-696-1666, everestongrand.com
Everest on Grand’s weekday lunch buffet is so popular they vary the star entrées. The Monday roast pork may change your assumptions about Nepali cuisine. It’s meaty and cakey—just the thing to fuel a trip up the Himalayas.
13 Best Soups
SATAY 2 Go
Laksa is the favorite meal-in-a-bowl of Malaysia, and Satay 2 Go’s is stellar: fragrant from the curry and rich with coconut milk. • 6670 150th St. W., Apple Valley, 952-891-8551, satay2gomn.com
MOSCOW ON THE HILL
Svekolnick, a vegetarian chilled-beet soup, is Russian summer in a bowl: light, bright, powerful, surprisingly delightful. • 371 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-291-1236, moscowonthehill.com
Borscht has helped hearty souls survive the winter for eons. Enjoy this beefy version for lunch and you can skip dinner. • 215 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-379-3018, kramarczuk.com
Chili-red broth makes this spicy calamari soup sing with fiery grace. • 1989 Silver Bell Road, Eagan, 651- 688-3447, hobanrestaurant.com
Pho: conquerer of colds, curer of bad days, triumph of still-wonderful Quang. • 2719 Nicollet Ave., Mpls., 612-870-4739, quangrestaurant.com
Pozole’s homey combo of chicken, corn, and spices has been popular since ancient Aztec times. • 809 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-825-4978
Wonton soup for foodie elites. The crisp, tender gai lan greens perfectly complement the house-made dumplings, which are as buoyant as clouds. • 326 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls., 612-340-0937 , keefercourt.com
CHIANG MAI TAI
Tangy Thai tom yum blends sour and spice to make you feel healthy, happy, and meaningfully sated. • 3001 Hennepin Ave., Mpls., 612-827-1606, chiangmaithai.com
How spicy do you want it? Think twice—and then order the boiled beef in Szechuan hot sauce. • 3016 Lyndale Ave. S., mpls., 612-353-4281, szechuanspice1.com
Udon noodles are tender and comforting in Fuji Ya’s light and briny broth. Top them with your choice of treats, like this shrimp and vegetables option, crisply tempura fried. • 600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-871-4055, fujiyasushi.com
Fried fish with pickled vegetables isn’t your everyday soup. It’s more sour and much better. • 1676 Suburban Ave., St. Paul, 651-771-1790, ourteahouse.com
Potatoes, bamboo shoots, and black-eyed peas form the core of this Nepalese soup called aaloo-tama. It’s big in Nepal, and one of the most delicious vegan soups in town. • 2401 E. Franklin Ave., Mpls., 612-332-0880, himalayanmomo.com
Famous for their matzoh ball soup, Crossroads makes a creamy tomato that’s equally divine. • 2795 Hedberg Dr., Hopkins, 952-546-6595, crossroadsdelicatessen.com