WTGW 1/29/14: The Merchant Tavern, Merriman Valley

Standard

Otherwise known to us now as “The Place of 1,000 Menu Specials.” None of which really seemed all that appropriately named.

The Merchant Tavern, located in the Merriman Valley area of Akron, recently changed hands and underwent a pretty extensive makeover from it’s previous life as The Bier Haus. We had actually been somewhat regular customers at The Bier Haus for a while around this time last year, and were fans of the burgers served on pretzel buns and the extensive beer list. But we noticed the place did kind of suffer from an identity crisis, and on any given night it was almost like you could see each of the different cliques take over their respective territories within the bar and try to figure out how they would best co-exist.

So, yeah, we kind of weren’t surprised when the place closed and resurfaced as something different.

Photobomb by the guy in the red shirt falling off the barstool

Photobomb by the guy in the red shirt falling off the barstool

Now, rather than a sports bar – meets dance club – meets funky artsy hipster bar … they’ve gone the more upscale route. So does that mean the latter of that list won the turf war?

The once extensive beer list has been parred down to a nice variety of domestic and imported bottles, most of which are recognizable to the non-beer-snob. The draft list is primarily local craft brews, which is nice to see – even if most of them are heavier than my tastes. I know, they didn’t consult me before making that decision, for shame.

Now the wine list takes up the majority of the menu … which, lets just talk about the menu for a minute, shall we? Not what’s printed on the menu … but rather what the menu is printed ON. Pages of copy paper on a clipboard may be interesting for someplace that’s going with a sports theme, but here it’s just a bit, well, unfitting to the rest of the decor.

And going back to that whole “place of 1,000 menu specials” I mentioned earlier – do ya think maybe, just maybe, since your menu is hot off the copy presses anyway, you can just photocopy a few extras of the daily specials and include those with the rest of the menu? Because I think the waitress just read us a short story when she was reciting them off. Seriously, I felt like I should’ve applauded when she was finished. Or given her an award of some sort.

The actual menu is somewhat interesting, with a good mix of entrees, burgers/sandwiches, wings and salads. On the “most intriguing” list: a “hell fire” burger loaded with jalepenos and ghost pepper aioli (OK, that one kind of straddles the line between intriguing and”I really want to treat myself to ulcer pains at 3AM so let’s go with that”), and some sort of a PB&J sauce that can be used either on your burger or wings (exactly, I’m not sure how to feel about that one either). Hence you see why neither of those were on our must order list.

The Merchant also offers a “build your own burger” page on the menu – so, I have to ask, is this the new thing now? Like the grunge stage in the 90s or the “lets everyone name our girl babies Kaitlin” phase of a few years ago? Because while I appreciate the ability to come up with my own creation if i don’t find anything to my liking on the menu, I really kind of take away points from you for making me do part of your job. Just sayin’.

Ted was adventurous and got the lambchop lollipops that were on special as the appetizer (see, we did pay attention to the story she read us). He said they were good, and actually better than his meal – which was the swordfish. I know, way to fancy things up.

I mean, it is a "lollipop" after all ...

I mean, it is a “lollipop” after all …

Along that same lines, I had the goat cheese and mac with chicken. It was good – just very heavy. Like I think I walked out of there weighing 5 more pounds heavy, and I only ate about 1/3 of the meal.

Shane and Amanda both got pizza. Shane willingly ate all of his; Amanda only did because she won a 6-pack out of it, having taken a bet from Shane that she wouldn’t be able to finish the entire thing. To her credit, it’s cut in 4 pieces, so you don’t think its a lot … but back to that whole food is heavy thing I guess. Regardless she instantly regretted that bet, and I’m sure will savor the alcohol she won once she finally has room in her stomach to fit it in there. Shane also got a 6-pack of the Italian Dry Rub wings, which Ted claimed tasted like they were coated in Shane ‘n’ Bake. Kind of makes me really wonder about the PB&J ones if that’s really the case.

Deceptively large pizza

Deceptively large pizza

Another thing to note about this place – the parking lot was extremely full when we arrived. Like more cars than we ever saw there when it was the Bier Haus, and we almost thought we wouldn’t get a table full. But upon entering, there were maybe 5 full tables in the bar and one large party on the other side of the space. Now unless we’re the only ones thoughtful enough to carpool, I’m not sure who all those cars belonged to out in the lot … but I guess my point is that the place probably isn’t full to the gills on any given night, so don’t let the fullness of the parking lot deter you from stopping in.Leave that to the hell fire burger and the 1586 daily specials you’ll immediately forget as soon as the waitress leaves the table.

CAPSULE

Picked by: Amanda
Drinks: We missed the extensive beer list, as we had some fun before trying some new things. 
Food:
OK. We all went with some sort of entree, so it would be interesting to try a simpler dish like a burger or sandwich. Quite frankly we felt things were overpriced.
Service: Good. The bartenders also handle the tables in the bar, so I’m not sure how that works out when it’s super busy – but on this visit we were well taken care of. I still have to give her kudos just for reading off the specials list.
Overall: Eh. If it weren’t so pricey I’d be more inclined to say we’d be back, but I feel like it wasn’t worth it for the money. But the atmosphere is decent, so maybe this will become more of a “let’s just go grab a drink” kind of place.

Next Pick: Ted

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5 thoughts on “WTGW 1/29/14: The Merchant Tavern, Merriman Valley

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