That’s hip

Head to Mermaid Tavern for the food and drink. Stay for the music.

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click to enlarge BURGER COUP: Mermaid Tavern’s burgers, like the Coup De Gras, will make your shirt messy and your heart happy. - Arielle Stevenson
Arielle Stevenson
BURGER COUP: Mermaid Tavern’s burgers, like the Coup De Gras, will make your shirt messy and your heart happy.

It’s Friday night at the Mermaid Tavern on Nebraska Avenue. The front entrance and patio are lined in tiki torches, beckoning me like a lighthouse in the night.

Inside there’s a low and colorful glow, like a tiki lounge but way cozier. Think Mad Men, when Peggy Olson goes to her first beatnik party in the city. There’s a vintage photo on the back wall of a bare-breasted vixen with a tiger coming out from between her legs. This is my kind of place.

The pillars in the middle are wrapped in nautical rope with an added shelf for setting down drinks when the mood strikes for a dance. And chances are it will. I don’t remember what was playing while I was there, but that’s a good thing, because I know it wasn’t bad.

On Wednesday nights after 10 p.m., Mermaid hosts a bring-your-own-vinyl night. Sometimes the tavern does swing dancing with live music from local jive bands like Six Volt Rodeo. This is a good place for boogieing.

Despite the bustling room, getting a drink doesn’t take too long. Mermaid Tavern serves beer, wine, sake, and mead. The cooler is stocked with an abundance of canned craft beers. There are two sets of draft taps with local and domestic drafts, a few ciders, too.

I order two glasses of red wine on special for $5 each; the bartender says the bottle only costs $15. A corner spot on the outdoor patio is snagged and two very large glasses of wine are poured.

The open-air patio is great for smokers, and for friends of smokers who love said smoker friends but don’t necessarily love the smell of said smoking.

Mermaid Tavern can slake your hunger as well as your thirst. The menu is small but creative, and consistently good. This isn’t just bar food; this is just really good food. Truffle fries, crispy fish tacos, and a praiseworthy burger menu all at very reasonable prices. The Coup De Gras comes with shredded sautéed Swiss chard and a fried egg. It’s a messy burger beast, but worth the fuss.

Their Kefta Burger is something of a legend. I first heard about it a couple months ago from a co-worker so overwhelmed by its deliciousness that he texted me after his first bite.

Kefta is a mix of ground beef (or lamb) with cumin, paprika, minced onion, garlic, coriander and parsley. Be prepared for some seriously spicy breath, but know it’s totally worth it. The burger comes as a small but very fat patty, stacked high on a delicious bun with warm goat cheese.

Choose between a side of perfectly fried French fries (skins still on, my weakness) or beautiful spinach salad with tomatoes and homemade IPA vinaigrette dressing, all for $10. Not only is the Kefta Burger as good as I’d hoped, it’s better.

How many places play good music, serve good food and drinks at a reasonable price, and sport an ambience that’s the best brand of funky? Mermaid Tavern is a place for all occasions.

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