Saratoga Springs has a little bit of everything, but if you’re looking for breakfast past 1pm or 2pm in the afternoon, there are choice few options. That is until this morning, Friday November 9, when The Mercantile Kitchen & Bar, a self-described Long Island-style diner, opened its doors where Cantina used to be at 430 Broadway. “The Merc,” as it’s also being called, is the only spot in Downtown Saratoga that currently offers all-day breakfast. (For those of you wondering out loud about Saratoga staples such as Compton’s and Country Corner Cafe, sure, you can get breakfast there during normal business hours, but those only run until early afternoon.) OK, so it’s not open 24 hours a day—9am-9pm (10pm on Fridays and Saturdays)—but The Merc still offers up that relaxed and friendly vibe of a normal greasy spoon, with a touch more class.
The restaurant had an exclusive soft opening last night at 7pm, and I was there, squeezing between dozens of others, to sample the menu firsthand (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it). For breakfast, The Merc offers some authentic diner classics, such as biscuits and gravy, with thick sausage patties and delicious sage gravy (and two fried eggs on top); corned beef hash with roasted seasoned potatoes (also served with two eggs); pancake stacks doused (or neatly drizzled) in maple syrup; and, less traditional, No Huevos Rancheros, a vegan veggie scramble of black beans, quinoa, spinach and soy chorizo. And for lunch/dinner, served after 11:30am, there’s a similar blend of traditional and original dishes. For a classic diner meal, order The Merc’s Reuben sandwich with shaved corned beef, Gruyère cheese and spicy but creamy Russian spread; or get some house-made meatloaf sliders with garlic mashed potatoes; or, for the more adventurous, dig into the fried oyster po’ boy sliders. For dessert, try the key lime pie, served in a mason jar with burnt meringue and toasted coconut.
“The whole idea behind The Mercantile is to give Saratoga something that Saratoga needs, and that’s a modern diner,” says Chris Luriea, owner of The Mercantile Kitchen & Bar. “I grew up on Long Island eating at diners all my life, and since I was about 20, I’ve been telling people, ‘I’m gonna have my own place one day.’ [The Merc] just kind of fell into place, and I really feel like we’re going to give a lot to the city with this restaurant.” Like any authentic Long Island diner, there’s a great drink selection of cocktails, beer and wine as well. Take my word and try the Merc Punch (Jamaican rum and Cuban rum, strawberry, pomegranate, pineapple, lemon and cinnamon) or the Sky’s of Valor (lavender gin, raspberry liqueur, lemon and agave). The bar even stays open an extra hour after the kitchen closes each night.
Luriea has a number of years of experience in the food industry, working at Max London’s for nearly four years and rising to manager before heading over to Cantina to manage that restaurant’s (in)famous tequila bar (with nearly 100 different types of tequila). At Cantina, Luriea got to know the restaurant’s owner, Jeff Ames, as well as the talented Culinary Director, Frank Otte, who now serves as Culinary Director of both Cantina and The Merc. Before long, Luriea and Ames had partnered up and were looking for a place to do their own thing outside of Cantina, which, at the time, was still at its old location. “I actually moved away and traveled the country for about eight months,” says Luriea. “I moved back, and Jeff said, ‘Guess what? I bought the old Lillian’s [Restaurant] building. You want to do something with me where Cantina used to be?'” Luriea jumped at the opportunity. I for one am glad that he did, because it means more Merc cocktails—and all-day breakfast—in my life.