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Gumbo and Gin

MerCheri's is at its best serving up no-nonsense Louisiana soul food.

"Most people don't like that," said Chanel. "It's not sweet enough for them." With a name like Sweetie Martini, we reasoned, that's probably where the confusion was coming from. Classic Martini might be a better name.

My friend ordered it anyway and was quite happy with it, as was I with my Pearland, a vodka cocktail incorporating pear puree (of course) and tiny, crystalline ice shards that made the day's hot weather more than tolerable. The restaurant's signature frozen drink, a house martini that tastes blissfully like a frozen Greyhound, will undoubtedly increase in popularity as well as the days get hotter from here.

Hlavaty's seafood pasta that night was frustratingly lacking the crab meat that he'd requested, but was simple and very tasty regardless, with shrimp and crawfish tossed together amidst thick strands of linguini. A bit of olive oil, sweet peppers and a touch of spice rounded it out. The portion was large enough to share — MerCheri's serves its entrées in small and large sizes — and I made a mental note to order a "small" next time.

The gumbo and the boudin balls come from old family recipes.
Troy Fields
The gumbo and the boudin balls come from old family recipes.

Location Info

Map

MerCheri's Martini Bar & Grille

11200 Broadway St.
Pearland, TX 77584

Category: Restaurant > Cajun

Region: Outside Houston

Details

3 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to midnight, Thursdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.

Boudin balls: $12

Crab cakes: $16

Bowl of gumbo: $12

Small seafood pasta: $10

Small blackened shrimp: $11

Small seafood étouffée: $8

MerCheri's

11200 Broadway, #1160, Pearland. 713-436-7772.

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My straightforward plate of blackened shrimp fared equally well, served with a bowl of dirty rice that I loved but knew could probably be polarizing to some people, as it contained nearly as many liver and gizzard bits as rice. I ate every last, livery bite with zeal.
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Where MerCheri's does struggle is with consistency, however. On my visit with Hlavaty, the crab cakes — made with husky slabs of lump crabmeat — were buttery and wonderful, with a lightly crispy exterior and nearly no fillers other than crab. On my return visit with Brandi, they were rubbery and tasted microwaved.

"Not to mention they could use some lemon and green onion," commented Brandi. She was right. And although blackened shrimp on my second visit had been perfectly nice, blackened mahi­mahi on my third was merely burned.

MerCheri's doesn't quite know what it wants to be yet. The atmosphere can be off-putting to those expecting an upscale meal when it gets rowdy, with football games on the big-screen TVs and spades being played raucously at adjoining tables. On the other hand, those looking for a more laid-back meal might be put off by some of the prices — a foursome of boudin balls is $12, after all (as compared to, say, five boudin balls at Ragin' Cajun for $4.99). And while they're wonderful, that's also excessively pricy for an appetizer, at $3 each.

I've also walked in at times when I nearly thought the place was closed: tables and chairs in disarray, as if the staff had been cleaning up after a huge party, and no one to greet or seat you for a good five minutes. It's times like those when I understand why a casual visitor might find MerCheri's to be scattered and aloof.

"This doesn't look like the kind of place where I'd dig into a pile of crawfish," said Brandi as we walked into the large dining room on my final visit, stern tones of steel gray and Egyptian blue still imparting a slightly imposing air.

"Well," I responded, "I guess that's good, because they don't serve crawfish here. At least not boiled ones." But maybe they should.

I do wish MerCheri's would give in to the less "upscale" side of things here, add some po-boys and boiled crawfish to the menu and let the restaurant play those football games and rounds of spades with wild glee. That attitude would pair nicely with the boisterous, joyful spirit already found in the gumbo, dirty rice and plump, playful boudin balls.

katharine.shilcutt@houstonpress.com

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4 comments
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Stusnow1
Stusnow1

Crawfish etouffee does not have (or should not) any tomato in the mix. The orange color comes from the crawfish fat.

Sosa D
Sosa D

Yes , agreed. Dont know where this is coming from with the Tomato. Everyone's entitled to theirs. just wouldnt be seen around Breaux Bridge or Eunice that way lol

brandius
brandius

And I wouldnt be seen around Eunice!

I think the addition of tomatoes is a very "outside of Louisiana" thing. I'm not a fan.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

Yep, personal pet peeve, like I said. Although I've seen an increase in people using tomatoes in étouffée in so many places for some reason...

 
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