Mermaid Oyster Bar

Though food critics always seem to be on the hunt for latest new undiscovered place, most of the real buzz this year has been about new restaurants by old masters. Just try landing a table at Danny Meyer’s Maialino on opening night or getting through the door at Keith McNally’s Minetta Tavern without a reservation. With established brands like these, a market of loyal followers is already in place before a new restaurant even opens.

Bar Area, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Which is why Danny Abrams’ Mermaid Oyster Bar will probably thrive in the space that once housed the charming but ill-fated Smith’s on MacDougal Street (never helped by the fact that it opened at the same time as “The Smith” on Third Avenue). The redesign shows signs of an expert touch.

The bar, which at Smith’s was a clandestine, elaborately wallpapered nook in the back, has been moved right up to the front windows, so that anyone passing by can see that yes! this is a popular place with some pretty girls in the window, so please do come in. Meanwhile, that back room is now an extra, tucked-away dining room, perfect for dodging the paparazzi—or disguising empty tables, if there ever are any.

Dozen Oysters, Mermaid Oyster Bar

If you like oysters, this place is a mollusk paradise. Mermaid Oyster Bar has 16 varieties on tap, half from the West Coast, half from the East, and each was a standout in its category. The menu has extensive tasting notes, describing Kumamotos as “melony-sweet,” and Wellfleets as “crispy brine.” We went for the Fanny Bay ($2.25 each), the Hama Hama ($2.50), the Blue Point ($1.75), and the Pemaquid ($2.45). Our waiter suggested two more varieties, one of which, the Island Creek oysters from Massachusetts ($2.45), was our favorite. They had a brisk, saline flavor tempered with a little sweetness, adding up to a multi-dimensional little oyster.

Fried Clam Strips, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Unfortunately, the dishes that involved more cooking than shucking didn’t fare as well. Fried clam strips ($8) tasted more of fry oil than clams or crispy seasoning, and neither the lemon nor the tartar sauce could perk them up.

Lobster Sandwich, Mermaid Oyster Bar

The lobster sandwich ($26), mysteriously served on a hamburger roll, had more mayonnaise than ocean flavor, though the buttery griddle marks on the bun helped. As for the Old Bay fries, take it from a Baltimore native: No one in New York is adding enough Old Bay to them. They should look orange and taste spicy. Even with the Old Bay, Mermaid Oyster Bar’s fries were rather dry and tasteless.

Grilled Flounder, Mermaid Oyster Bar

A nice filet of flounder ($17) was grilled just until it was done, dressed with a buttery lemon-chive sauce, and served with a deviled egg alongside. But the salmon carpaccio ($10) basically tasted like sliced salmon on a plate. That’s all.

Hush Puppies and Smoked Salmon, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Sweet, crispy hush puppies came mixed with smoked salmon and onions. There’s something extremely unkosher about this dish, which would have alarmed any unsuspecting non-fish fans, yet the smoked salmon was meltingly tender and fishy in the best possible way.

Mermaid Mary, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Another strength here is the cocktails: The Mermaid Mary ($10) is spicy, zesty Old Bay Bloody Mary generously garnished with a whole shrimp and a cornichon. It’s hard to resist the charm of other whimsical touches too: The Pepperidge Farm goldfish as bar snacks, the “Fortune Teller Fish” toy you get with your check.

Beer and Goldfish, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Mermaid Oyster Bar, Interior

Mermaid Oyster Bar has the right decor, crowd, cocktails and ambiance. Let’s hope Abrams won’t forget the secret ingredient to a New York restaurant’s success: craveable, delicious food.

Mermaid Oyster Bar
79 MacDougal Street between Houston and Bleecker Streets
New York, NY
212-260-0100
themermaidnyc.com

mermaid-menu-1

mermaid-menu-2

mermaid-menu-3

mermaid-menu-4

mermaid-menu-5

mermaid-menu-6

The bar, which at Smith’s was a clandestine, elaborately wallpapered nook in the back, has been moved right up to the front windows, so that anyone passing by can see that yes! this is a popular place with some pretty girls in the window, so please do come in. Meanwhile, that back room is now an extra, tucked-away dining room, perfect for dodging the paparazzi—or disguising empty tables, if there ever are any.

Dozen Oysters, Mermaid Oyster Bar

If you like oysters, this place is a mollusk paradise. Mermaid Oyster Bar has 16 varieties on tap, half from the West Coast, half from the East, and each was a standout in its category. The menu has extensive tasting notes, describing Kumamotos as “melony-sweet,” and Wellfleets as “crispy brine.” We went for the Fanny Bay ($2.25 each), the Hama Hama ($2.50), the Blue Point ($1.75), and the Pemaquid ($2.45). Our waiter suggested two more varieties, one of which, the Island Creek oysters from Massachusetts ($2.45), was our favorite. They had a brisk, saline flavor tempered with a little sweetness, adding up to a multi-dimensional little oyster.

Fried Clam Strips, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Unfortunately, the dishes that involved more cooking than shucking didn’t fare as well. Fried clam strips ($8) tasted more of fry oil than clams or crispy seasoning, and neither the lemon nor the tartar sauce could perk them up.

Lobster Sandwich, Mermaid Oyster Bar

The lobster sandwich ($26), mysteriously served on a hamburger roll, had more mayonnaise than ocean flavor, though the buttery griddle marks on the bun helped. As for the Old Bay fries, take it from a Baltimore native: No one in New York is adding enough Old Bay to them. They should look orange and taste spicy. Even with the Old Bay, Mermaid Oyster Bar’s fries were rather dry and tasteless.

Grilled Flounder, Mermaid Oyster Bar

A nice filet of flounder ($17) was grilled just until it was done, dressed with a buttery lemon-chive sauce, and served with a deviled egg alongside. But the salmon carpaccio ($10) basically tasted like sliced salmon on a plate. That’s all.

Hush Puppies and Smoked Salmon, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Sweet, crispy hush puppies came mixed with smoked salmon and onions. There’s something extremely unkosher about this dish, which would have alarmed any unsuspecting non-fish fans, yet the smoked salmon was meltingly tender and fishy in the best possible way.

Mermaid Mary, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Another strength here is the cocktails: The Mermaid Mary ($10) is spicy, zesty Old Bay Bloody Mary generously garnished with a whole shrimp and a cornichon. It’s hard to resist the charm of other whimsical touches too: The Pepperidge Farm goldfish as bar snacks, the “Fortune Teller Fish” toy you get with your check.

Beer and Goldfish, Mermaid Oyster Bar

Mermaid Oyster Bar, Interior

Mermaid Oyster Bar is a new iteration of that special breed of upscale-casual restaurant that Jimmy Bradley helped popularize, starting with the Red Cat in the ‘90s. But the Red Cat may not have prospered for so long without those duck fat potatoes, so let’s hope Bradley won’t forget the secret ingredient to a New York restaurant’s success: craveable, delicious food.

Corrections amended.

Mermaid Oyster Bar
79 MacDougal Street between Houston and Bleecker Streets
New York, NY
212-260-0100
themermaidnyc.com

mermaid-menu-1

mermaid-menu-2

mermaid-menu-3

mermaid-menu-4

mermaid-menu-5

mermaid-menu-6

Posted in American, food, Greenwich Village, New York restaurants, restaurants | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments
  • nycfoodie

    Just an FYI – The Mermaid Inn/Mermaid Oyster Bar is not Jimmy Bradley’s…it’s Danny Abrams’. You should probably get your facts straight before you start discussing the food.

    I ate there last saturday and had an amazing meal. The fried clams & hush puppies are some of my new favorites in NYC.

  • Bellastraniera

    You are right. I’m sorry for the error – Jimmy Bradley was only involved in the first Mermaid Inn. I will print a correction shortly.

    Also to be clear, we actually liked the hush puppies – they were just a little unusual!