Located at the top of 104th Street, the Mercer Tavern, on the main floor of the Mercer block, mixes bright brassy fixtures with the warehouse’s original wood-and-beam elements to create something that, from the right angle, offers the feeling of being on a tall ship. But it’s not the decor that has made it hard to get into, whether it’s Friday or Monday, the lunch rush or the late-night spike.
There’s a mix of microbrews and requisite imports on tap, as well as cocktails of yesteryear, such as a proper mint julep and a classic bourbon-and-bitters Old Fashioned that follows a 19th-century recipe.
Meanwhile, the menu by Dan Gibbons, formerly of Joey on Jasper, is a hybrid of fine-dining entrees, such as the bison short ribs with blueberry jus, and comfort foods like mac ‘n’ cheese.
The highlight? That would be the corn dogs, which don’t in any way resemble corn dogs. An Asian take on a ballpark favourite, it’s more like pork dumplings at dim sum, with sausage meat tucked inside a crispy, fried coating. After trying it with the tangy mustard, you won’t be able to stop at just one. Luckily, there are five.
Mercer’s burgers, big and small, also shine. A trio of bison sliders come with a smokey barbecue sauce and tangy onions that combine for a really sweet finish, while fresh and slightly toasted brioche buns add a nice crunch.
The full-sized brioche bun cradles the Tavern burger, a hearty patty and one of the better ones you’ll find in the city. With bacon, cheese and greens, it’s not like the Mercer is trying to reinvent the burger but, unlike a lot of pubs, it doesn’t come as an overcooked hockey puck.