The lasting neighborhood seafood restaurant replaces the Red Cat this fall
The Mermaid Inn is branching out. The seafood restaurant and happy hour destination that has locations on the Upper West Side and in the East Village is plotting its next site in the Chelsea space that formerly housed Red Cat, a trailblazer in the neighborhood’s dining scene that closed at the end of 2018.
The new Mermaid Inn will open at 227 Tenth Ave., near 24th Street, this fall. A representative for the restaurant tells Eater that no additional details about the new location are available yet. But the space has some meaning in the Mermaid Inn’s past.
Danny Abrams, who owns the Mermaid Inn with Cindy Smith, was an original co-owner of Red Cat, so the expansion marks his return to the iconic Chelsea space. He opened Mermaid Inn in the East Village in 2003, at which time New York magazine critic Adam Platt praised the neighborhood spot, writing that “their approach is characteristically minimalist and unfussy.” Indeed, the restaurant remains simple but reliable in its execution of casual seafood and raw bar.
Platt notes the “crowded bar” of the restaurant in his writeup, and 16 years later, that original Mermaid Inn continues to fill up the bar regularly, thanks in large part to a daily happy hour offering deals on oysters, beer, wine, and cocktails. In addition to a very simple raw bar, the restaurant serves other casual fish fare like clam pasta, New England clam chowder, a lobster roll, and fish tacos. There are very few non-seafood items on the menu, but they include a steak, a wedge salad, and smoked gouda mac and cheese.
In 2007, a second Mermaid Inn opened on the Upper West Side, bringing a casual neighborhood seafood joint to the dining scene there. It moved one door away into a bigger space in 2015. In 2009, Mermaid Oyster Bar — a more raw bar-driven offshoot of the restaurant — opened in Greenwich Village, and actor Zach Braff is a partner.
The new location is opening in a part of Chelsea where neighborhood restaurants are rare. For almost two decades, Red Cat provided that kind of vibe and was beloved in the area, so Mermaid Inn will bring a similarly understated charm back to the space. This part of Chelsea has taken some significant hits to its dining scene; nearby, the literary institution the Half King also closed last year. The new Mermaid Inn is set to open in the fall.