Late last year, while dining with some “privileged” friends, our dinner conversation was the usual topic: the great food of New York City. Between each bite of deliciousness, we would share our experiences of trying various restaurants around Manhattan. Shortly after the appetizer, the chat turned towards seafood. Being a sushi fanatic, I admit I know little about seafood restaurants, in the traditional American sense. So when the friends talked about this “really great place every time I get a seafood craving”, I was drawn in.
“I think it’s called Le Bernadin”, she said.
Bummer. While most food lovers know about the greatness of Le Bernadin, I was hoping to be amazed by some new discovery. I was hoping that the spot to “get a seafood fix” would be fast, fun, casual, and without sommeliers who wear gold pendents around their necks. (I have much respect for Le Bernadin, but it truly is for special occasions)
I think I just found that spot. The Mermaid Oyster Bar.
I first found out about the Mermaid Oyster Bar last November, and immediately jotted down in my notes to visit. As someone who only started eating (and enjoying) oysters last year, I worried that I would be overwhelmed by the oyster selection at a specialized oyster bar, and whether I will know how to truly appreciate the flavors. Oysters I believe are not unlike beer and wine, flavors that are acquired and developed through time. Am I ready?
Then the past weekend a seafood craving hit me, and we headed straight for the Mermaid Oyster Bar, conveniently located on MacDougal Street, a few blocks south from Washington Square. The restaurant felt cheerful, the bar area lively, and the staff warm and friendly.
I was already quite familiar with the menu, having studied it since a few months back. I decided to split a seafood platter, and get the famous lobster sandwich.
The double layer raw platter was a feast by itself. Consisting of 6 east coast oysters, 6 west coast oysters, 6 clams, a bowl of mussels, shrimp and crab legs. I’m not going to pretend to know anything about oysters, but these tasted great. Within minutes my sister and I plowed through this edifice of seafood. In the past I’ve only shared such seafood platters with a party of 4 or more, now I finally know how satisfying to have it for two.
Then came the famous lobster sandwich, which happens to also the blue plate special (more on that later). Thick chunks of lobster meat, seasoned beautifully, sat on a buttered bun. It made me hungry just looking at it, and it tasted better than it looked. The bay fries complemented the sandwich, and was devoured in minutes.
Satisfied by the excellent seafood, we were about to ask for the check when the waiter explained how there is no dessert menu, so everyone gets a chocolate pudding, and a fortune telling fish. Weird combination, I know. I’m not going to explain how the fish works, go find out for yourself.
Then we found out that the blue plate special, the lobster sandwich plus a beer, is available daily before 7PM for only $20, and the whole day on Monday. Calendar marked, I’m coming back.
I always say a meal is good when you cannot stop talking about it afterward. The next day I found myself sharing my experience with everyone in the office. Next time anyone asks me about seafood in NYC, I’ll send them to the Mermaid.
What does this rating mean?
The Mermaid Oyster Bar (Make a Reservation)
79 MacDougal Street
New York, NY 10012-2514
Follow the twitter @MermaidInnNYC for exciting promotions.