Now that Nicollet Mall is FUBAR for the foreseeable future, where are you supposed to get your all-important post-work buzz and bite?
If you’re shuttering yourself inside a dank bar during these dreamy days of early summer, you're doing it all wrong. But, you say, downtown is fairly devoid of good, quiet, outdoor space where they also happen to serve cheap drinks and truly great food!
Have you tried Mercy?
Mercy, formerly Marin, formerly D’Amico, formerly Jean George... Don’t let the revolving door of concepts scare you away. The capricious restaurant space in the Chambers hotel has had all sorts of trouble keeping an anchor. But now that Mercy is in place, you should know a few things:
1. It’s a great spot to put on your post- or pre-theater circuit. If you’re looking for a burger or a steak, they got that. If you’re looking for something more inventive, they got that, too. Try crab empanadas with sweet chili sauce or a truly divine hot pastrami sandwich in a town with very few good pastramis.
2. The gorgeous enclosed patio is a strangely underused part of downtown that feels like one part Vegas cabana, one part fancy courtyard, and all parts private hotel patio, except it’s not—it’s completely open to the public.
3. This is where you ought to be happy houring, now that the weather is cooperating and it’s time for cool drinks in cool spaces. The very agreeable 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. time frame (as well as 9 p.m. to close) is generous enough, but wait ’til you see the prices:
They've got four dollar beer and wine. And this is no swill but instead things like Fulton, Bent Paddle, and Insight on tap and truly drinkable Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and even sparkling. It’s not that sick bottle of oaky Chard that nobody wants anyway.
Then, check out $6 cocktails, designed for the sweet summertime drinker in mind, but not so sweet that your teeth crumble and fall out of your head. The Strawberry Cosmo on tap has lime and house-made orange liqueur to offset the candy sweet of macerated strawberries. Or try the dill Caipirinha, where very subtle dill edges the traditional lime and sugar back to savory territory. Six bucks!
But woman cannot live on Aquavit and Ketel Citron alone, so that’s why there are snacks. Inventive, good snacks.
The list is short but mighty, so start with the Pacu Fish Ribs, which sound strange, but are just like upgraded buffalo chicken wings. Tender slivers of whitefish get the Frank’s Red Hot treatment you love, but with a more elegant twist. Pick one up and slide the flesh off the bone with your teeth “like an artichoke,” as we were helpfully instructed to do.
Or get a generous bowl of shrimp and octopus ceviche, augmented with rich avocado. Housemade crackers provide your edible spoon. The Old School Cheeseburger is a nod to Burger King with “special sauce” and LTO. It’s like a generous gift to the post-work eater for $10.
For too long, downtown has been slipping in the realm of great eating and drinking; much of what’s truly good (Butcher and the Boar, 112, Bar La Grassa) is on the fringes. There are even slimmer pickings for really good drinking options at a really good price. There are even fewer with oasis-like surrounds.
Check out Mercy for all of these good, pleasant things, all in one pleasant place.
901 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis