Review: At Mercer & Sons, the best ingredients push simple toward special

I’ll be honest here: I knew before I ever set foot inside Mercer & Sons Delicatessen, the new deli, takeout spot and high-end grocery store from the owners of La Buvette, in the Old Market, that I was going to like it. 

I did not realize just how much I was actually going to love the absolutely charming interior. Shelves packed with things like imported mustard, fancy crackers, and spices. A rotating case filled with slices of carrot cake and fresh berry tarts, and another case full of the kind of cheese, salads and dips that made me want to host a party, immediately. 

It also doesn’t hurt that the selection of sandwiches and soups I tried were so affordably priced and also so appetizing that I can’t wait to visit again. 

The owners have been working on opening the deli for some time now, and after a full renovation, the new space compliments La Buvette in its look and feel — brick walls, creaky floors, lots of art. It also marks a return to the grocery store-style roots of La Buvette. The back of the restaurant used to house many more shelves full of specialty groceries that, over the years, have been replaced with more tables for customer seating. Mercer & Sons brings those shelves back, and gives them new life. 

A shelf of gourmet crackers and condiments at Mercer & Sons.

Inside, the deli is similar in size to La Buvette, but it is solely takeaway. Note that if you plan on eating lunch from the counter, you’ll need to find a spot to sit. I might recommend walking over to the new Leahy mall, where there’s plenty of tables and chairs and lots of people watching. 

A handwritten menu at the front lets visitors know that day’s sandwich and soup selections. There’s fresh bread, cheese, salads, smoked salmon, meats and dips that could also make a lunch, or a lovely evening charcuterie board, were one so inclined. 

I ordered two sandwiches and two soups one recent day, and strolled around the space while the staff made my food to go. Things escalated quickly. 

I grabbed a jar of tarragon mustard, a bag of toasted rounds of baguette, a container of hummus and another of cornichon pickles, a container of seasoned marcona almonds, a deli container of cheddar cheese curds and two pastries from the overflowing pastry and cookie basket on the counter. 

I carted it all home before unloading the sandwiches and soups and sitting down to try everything. The day I ordered, the kitchen had two soups: Italian sausage and pepper and tomato. I did not expect the latter to be filled with softened green olives, chunks of tomato and onion and a surprisingly deep and briny flavor. 

The sausage and pepper soup was just as good, and though both were tomato-based, their flavor profiles were different. The sausage and pepper was hotter, with different notes of black pepper and fennel. 

The homemade soups are $4.95 each, which puts them two dollars below a cup of soup at Panera. It’s an impressively low price for such high-quality ingredients and tasty finishes. 

The sandwiches come served on the house-made breads that La Buvette has long served, but in different varieties: a thick slice of country pate slathered in Dijon mustard comes on crisp-tender homemade focaccia bread. The soft bread paired with the firmer pate is a delightful bite. It feels very French in its simplicity and depth. 

Country pate and dijon on focaccia.

The kitchen was debuting its house-made pastrami on rye the day I visited, and it’s a sandwich worth trying. The rye, soft and still slightly warm from the oven, had a crusty exterior and a soft, interior studded with caraway. A curling stack of pastrami, the brisket perfectly rosy pink with a tender finish, gets finished with a tangy whole grain mustard that cuts the richness. I audibly sighed at the first bite; like most of what I tried, it’s simple, but made with the best ingredients available, which pushes it toward exceptional. 

The cheese case at Mercer & Sons.

I can’t recommend enough selecting a pastry from the big basket by the register: I tried a soft, gooey chocolate chip cookie and a bar that I’ve been cutting slices off of for the past few days. Labeled “diamond crumble,” it’s a shortbread base covered with a layer of dark chocolate and topped with more chocolate, crumbles of shortbread and a few nuts. 

The food next door at La Buvette is, in my opinion, better than ever. With the addition of Mercer, a lunchtime neighbor and a return to its grocery store roots, the experience of the two restaurants together is as surprising and delicious as ever. 

Mercer & Sons Delicatessen

509 S. 11th St. 

Hours: Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Sunday

402-344-8012

7 responses to “Review: At Mercer & Sons, the best ingredients push simple toward special”

  1. Suzanne Grandinetti Avatar
    Suzanne Grandinetti

    I wish they had some way to know what was being offered each day.

    1. Sarah Baker Hansen Avatar

      That would be great! They don’t have a website or social media presence yet. If you are in the neighborhood they list the specials on a chalkboard outside.

  2. Sue keyser Avatar
    Sue keyser

    Is it at 59th and center? Or next to other on 11 th???? Why does it say 59 and center above?

    1. Sarah Baker Hansen Avatar

      Sue – sorry, some text from my last review got copied over. I’m fixing it now.

  3. Chet Mullin Avatar
    Chet Mullin

    Sarah: Wrong address for Mercer’s. They are not on Center Street

    1. Sarah Baker Hansen Avatar

      It has been corrected. Thank you!

  4. Dagnia Prieditis Avatar
    Dagnia Prieditis

    Okay, I’ll bite. Particularly like the crunchy mustard seeds on the pastrami and the bread looks like serious support.

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