The Mermaid Inn: A Seafood Lover’s Nightmare
The Mermaid Inn should’ve been a date-night home run. It’s got a nice outdoor patio, a cool & casual downtown vibe, and a generally good-looking crowd. It’s quiet but not too loud, buzzy without being rowdy. The food walks the line between healthy and over-the-top with a little bit of seafood something for everyone; there’s even a roast chicken option if your date doesn’t like shrimp, fish or crab. Yet, unfortunately, The Mermaid Inn has either entirely lost its spark, or it’s always been way over-hyped and just plain boring. While the restaurant itself is a study in charming simplicity, the food cannot possibly be considered good.
Situated on a hoppin’ block of Second Avenue in the East Village, The Mermaid Inn is in good company; Frank, Mayahuel, and Burp Castle are right nearby. Yet, all the talent in the neighborhood merely underlines how under-performing The Mermaid Inn really is. Not even the super chilled-out and charming nautical chic scene can save it. Rich dark wood, an in-your-face oyster bar, seaside kitsch, and a 100% awesome sidewalk patio draw in passersby, yet, if any of them have taste buds, they’re sure to leave significantly less pleased.
The shtick is seafood, and with the exception of just a few plates, everything is fish and shellfish. Now, anyone who appreciates seafood must know that it is difficult not only to cook properly but also, oftentimes, to flavor enticingly. You’d think though that a restaurant devoted to preparing seafood would be confident in its ability to deliver tasty and well-made food. Shockingly, the Mermaid Inn overcooked and underseasoned everything put on my table last week. The jumbo crab cocktail was slimy and bland; the sauteed skate wing tasted more like crunchy breading than anything else and the wilted greens were just too bitter to enjoy; the spicy shrimp pasta was a soupy mess with absolutely no spice whatsoever, overcooked shrimp, and again too-bitter-to-stomach greens. In fact, the only remotely delicious thing presented was a mere side dish of heirloom tomatoes, plump, juicy, and dressed in a tangy vinaigrette.
As a native of Massachusetts and of a family from Cape Cod, well-done and simple seafood is often considered sacred where I’m from; thus, The Mermaid Inn’s approach to cooking and serving seafood seems sacrilegious and is, without a doubt, disappointing. Seafood should be cooked and served with care and with skill; for, anyone who’s had the unfortunate experience of eating bad seafood knows that it is particularly offensive.
Craving fish & chips? Head across town to A Salt & Battery. Have a yen for lobster rolls? Luke’s Lobster is just a block or two away. Crab cakes your path to nirvana? Even Choptank, on Bleecker, offers up better quality crab. Manhattan is replete with seafood specialty shops and restaurants offering up just a few excellent seafood options (Aldea, Marea, Matsugen, and L’Artusi, to name a few)- why waste time and money on one that will make you wish you stuck with roast chicken?
Perfect For: happy hour $1 oysters, snacks al fresco, student budget-friendly dinner