SALEM – Just one bite of their burger, a mere spoonful of the onion soup, or a taste of the fried chicken will have your waistline begging for Mercy. Located on Derby Street in historic Salem, Massachusetts, Mercy Tavern is a fun, funky spot serving a full range of comfort food favorites in a cozy atmosphere.
“It’s got loads of character. It’s in a great neighborhood just on the outskirts of the tourist area,” said owner Patrick Schultz. “The first thing that you’re going to see is the small bar against the far wall. You’re going to see the wood floors, the tin ceilings, the brick walls. The lighting is beautiful. It’s just very comfortable, but also has this cool, artsy vibe to it.”
The food comes out of the kitchen of Robert Krajewski. This chef has worked at some of the top restaurants in Boston and he decided to bring all of that know-how to the North Shore, and apply it to an approachable menu.
“When I say we do a burger, we’re doing a really, really good burger. We’re doing a really good Cuban sandwich. While the food is casual, it’s approachable. It’s just done really well.”
There is everything from hearty classics like Spaghetti and Meatballs to a creative New England inspired pork chop.
“The pork gets brined with rum and molasses, and kind of gives you that sweet-salty. Then we serve it with traditional New England baked beans, and instead of doing a slice of brown bread, we do toasted brown bread croutons that go into a baby salad,” Chef Bob described.
Another comforting favorite he is known for is Bob’s Famous Fried Chicken. Over the years, friends, family and staff have requested this crispy, savory recipe.
“Anytime he went to somebody’s house, he went to a picnic with friends, they would always say, ‘You’ve got to bring your fried chicken,’” Patrick relayed.
“We pre-roast the chicken. We do a normal flour, buttermilk, flour breading, but the flour has Madras style curry powder in it,” Bob explained. “It’s golden brown when it goes on the plate. Serve it with a little bit of milk gravy and a side of sweet and sour slaw.”
When it came to his burger, Chef Bob had a checklist of key things he needed for patty perfection.
“Here’s how the burger reads on the menu: Double patty burger, house pickles (check), Bacon onion jam (of course), potato bun (what else), American cheese and garlic aioli.”
“I loved a seared burger. Grilled burgers are fine, but not for the best burger,” Bob declared. “This burger is not a delicate structure. This is juicy and gooey and a lot messy. It is a burger that you need both hands and several napkins to eat.”
While the burger may be delicious, the onion soup is to die for, no matter what the weather is like outside. This sumptuous soup comes in a crock with an addictive broth, sourdough croutons and lots and lots of cheese melted on top.
“In the warm summer months, I’m selling out ten gallons a week. It’s ridiculously popular,” Chef said. “This is best French onion soup in Salem. I’ll put it up against anybody’s.”
For sandwiches, Mercy Tavern has a Greek inspired grilled cheese featuring melted haloumi stuffed inside a pita with mint dressing, and one of the best Cuban sandwiches outside of Havana.
“There’s nothing else like it. You want the slow roasted pork. You want the really good sliced ham. You want a sweet, spicy chipotle aioli,” Bob said. “It’s a really exciting sandwich to eat because there’s just so much going on.”
If you are looking for some light bites, there is a selection of small plates like hand-cut prosciutto, roasted cauliflower with tahini, and roasted DRY peppers with lime dressing and grated cheese.
“They’re small. They’re inexpensive, and you can have a little bit of fresh cut prosciutto, or olives, or hummus,” Patrick explained. “It’s just great because you can create your own antipasto platter.”
While you will feel great biting into a piece of Mercy Tavern’s Chocolate Ganache Cake, you will feel even better when the check comes, because a portion of the bill gets donated to local charities; just another reason the customers can’t stop coming here.
You can find Mercy Tavern at 148 Derby Street in Salem, and online at mercysalem.com.
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