The Mermaid Inn and Mermaid Oyster Bar

A revamped menu at a downtown seafood institution

By Jasmine Moy

Still the whitewashed walls call to mind late summers spent out on Cape Cod. Still the menu calls your attention to the famous lobster salad roll served along thin fries generously sprinkled with the Northeastern coast’s official spice: Old Bay. And if those weren’t reasons enough to swing by on a weekly basis to bask in the reverie of seaside summering, this stalwart—in its thirteenth year—and its younger sister restaurant, Oyster Bar, are still coming up with new tricks.

Delight in the great bottles under $35 (that holy grail of New York dining) and maybe settle in with a soft, subtly fruit-forward Cote du Rhone. A round of oysters is a must, while you’re snacking on gratis everything crackers and soft salted butter. Chef Mark Mata brings welcome refinements and updates to familiar favorites like the Portuguese octopus. Arriving blackened with bits of salty guanciale and a tangy preserved orange, it’s stunning in its contrasts—warm and soft, yet crispy, sweet, and savory with a kick from diced roasted padrón peppers.
While it may be tempting to keep going back to that lobster roll you know and love, you won’t regret spicing up your life (in all ways) with the spaghetti with a salad on top. Oddly named? Yes. The salad is really just peppery arugula, which quickly wilts in fiery tomato sauce that’s topped generously with clams, mussels, and calamari.

If you’ve been here before, you know the drill. Dessert is only one option, and it’s complimentary: a little espresso cup filled with dense house-made chocolate pudding, served aside a little red Chinese red fortune-telling fish. Your fish may call you fickle, but all you’ll feel is sated, warm, and tipsy.


Upper West Side:
dinner: Sun–Mon 5 PM–10 PM; Tue–Sat 5 PM–10:30 PM
brunch: Sat–Sun 11 AM–3 PM

East Village and Oyster Bar:
Sun–Mon 5 PM–10 PM; Tue–Sat 5 PM–10:30 PM

price range

$11 (clam chowder) to $29 (lobster roll)