Famed Mermaid Inn Team Dives Into New Territory With a Mexican Restaurant

A trip to Mexico City inspired much of the menu at Mermaid Mexicana; highlights include birria, pastor, and baja tacos | Credit: ETSchindler Photo

Coastal seafood destination The Mermaid Oyster Bar, a longtime fixture on New York City’s stellar happy hour scene, has transformed its MacDougal Street digs into a casual Mexican restaurant. But fear not, oyster aficionados: The Mermaid Oyster Bar relocated just a few blocks north.

Mermaid Mexicana, which opened in May, is the culmination of a journey that began in 2018. It’s when the restaurant’s co-owner, Danny Abrams, his corporate chef Michael Cressotti, and a couple of other gourmand friends took a food-filled trip through Mexico City. “We cataloged each dish,” Abrams recalls. “When we were writing the [Mermaid Mexicana] menu, we referred back to some of those dishes that we loved.”  

Made in Mexico

At Mermaid Mexicana, the tuna tostada is inspired by chef Gabriela Cámara’s dish at Contramar, a trendy seafood spot in the Mexican capital. Mermaid Mexicana’s version, created by chef Victor Marin (previously of The Mermaid Oyster Bar and Sushisamba), tops the tostada with a swipe of mild chipotle mayo and layers it with thinly sliced tuna, avocado, crisp chile adobo, and fried leek. It’s one of the few seafood-centric dishes on the menu—a marked departure from Mermaid’s legacy. 

Roasted free range chicken, mole, and sweet plantains at Mermaid Mexicana | Credit: ETSchindler Photo

But in place of sea creatures, corn abounds. Fond memories of Mexican street corn brought fritos esquites, or fried corn to the menu. “We fry it, and the crunchiness of the batter and sweetness of the corn are a great combination,” says Abrams. Corn also surfaces in a popped pozole and popcorn snack and in tortilla-centric dishes, such as flautas, quesadillas, enchiladas suizas, and street tacos. 

Succulent Spirits

Mermaid Mexicana’s agave-leaning spirits program is a refreshing departure from The Mermaid Oyster Bar’s drink offerings. The cocktail menu here includes drinks such as a margarita, made with mezcal, sotol, a Mexican spirit distilled from a desert shrub, orange-scented simple syrup, and hibiscus; and the For the Burn, a blend of mezcal, aloe vera liqueur, watermelon, and lime. 

Mermaid Mexicana’s daily happy hour features agave-forward cocktails | Credit: ETSchindler Photo

Happy hour—or La Hora Feliz, as it’s known at Mermaid Mexicana—remains a distinguishing feature of the Mermaid group brand. From 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm daily, La Hora Feliz includes $10 botanas, or appetizers, such as shrimp cocktail with saltines and carnitas tacos, served in generous, meal-sized portions. Happy hour also features $9 select cocktails, wine, and beer. For non-drinkers, Mexican sodas, seltzers, and aguas frescas are also offered. Diners can enjoy sidewalk seating, barstools, high tops, and cozy booths. But best of all, reservations are accepted for happy hour, so you don’t have to worry about scoring a table. “We want our guests to experience chef Marin’s authentic Mexican cuisine, the vibrant atmosphere in the Village, and our genuine Mermaid hospitality that, all together, hopefully makes them want to add us to their list of favorite Mermaid spots in the city,” Abrams says. 

Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner is a writer based in Brooklyn, where she lives with her wife and rescue dog. You can follow her on Instagram @melissabethk and Twitter @melissabethk

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