Take one step inside Mercantile in Rice Village, or in the new location in Montrose, and you realize it's more than just a coffee shop. Mercantile, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is an adjective describing something that is "of or relating to the business of buying and selling products to earn money." That would explain why the quaint shop sells a multitude of local products, wine, beer, frozen treats and baked goods. It's a miniature specialty grocery store inside an espresso bar and coffee shop.
Mercantile might not be as large as other specialty markets, but it does hold a variety of products you need to buy, other than coffee throughout the day, or beer and wine at night. So, order a latte and scan the store for these ten best items.
10. Gray Gardens Granola
Gray Gardens Pantry Provisions granola was recently added to Mercantile's offerings. There are two flavors available in the store: espresso cacao and cranberry walnut. Each comes sealed in a personal bag perfect for an afternoon snack or to stir into yogurt. The cranberry walnut granola is slightly sweet with huge dried cranberries, and is perfectly balanced with the proper seasoning of sea salt.
9. Homestead Gristmill Mixes
Mercantile sells pancake and waffle mix alongside Cowboy Cookie and Gingerbread mixes from Homestead Gristmill located in Waco. Each prepackaged mix is easy to use and makes delightful treats, especially the whole wheat pancakes. Many restaurants use the stone ground grains from Homestead Gristmill, so now you can enjoy the Central Texas producer's offerings.
Sweet treats with coffee and tea go hand-in-hand. I dare you to resist the small package of a single baklava from Houston's Baklava Cafe. The sticky, sweet Mediterranean pastries come in a variety of flavors -- stuffed with pistachios, almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts, which is one of the best. The chocolate hazelnut baklava contains a thick layer of hazelnuts and chocolate sandwiched between thin and flaky fillo sheets bound together by syrup. Enjoy a piece with a cappuccino in the morning, or with a glass of wine in the evening.
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7. Sinfull Bakery Treats
Mercantile joins the lineup of local coffee shops selling muffins, bars and cookies from Sinfull Bakery, and that's a good thing. It's hard to choose which vegan treat to buy when each are so tasty. You can't go wrong with the popular Everything Bars, which, like the name says, have everything you love in a granola bar. But, you also can't go wrong with a soft oatmeal raisin cookie or pumpkin cream cheese muffin. Start you morning off right with one of these baked goods -- it's vegan so it can't be that bad for you.
6. American Spoon Fruit Preserves
I'm a sucker for cute jars of fruit preserves. I love pairing a few with homemade bread or scones, then giving to friends as gifts -- or just keeping it all to myself. American Spoon, located in Michigan, creates beautiful jars of preserves in a variety of flavors, such as Bartlet Pear, Black Mission Fig and the ever-popular Early Glow Strawberry. Trust me, it's hard to choose just one.
5. Garden Dreams Houston Jams and Marmalades
Next to the American Spoon preserves, you'll find a selection of jams and marmalades from Garden Dreams Houston. Kick things up with the spicy Habanero Gold, a sweet-savory-spicy spread made from sugar, dried apricots, white vinegar, red onion, red bell pepper and habanero peppers -- it's perfect on crackers. Spread the Strawberry Balsamic Preserves made with fig balsamic vinegar, strawberries, sugar and ground black pepper onto a scone or piece of toast with butter in the morning.
4. Kickin' Kombucha Tea
Stop by Mercantile during the hot afternoons for a bottle of the cool and refreshing Kickin' Kombucha tea brewed and bottled in Houston. The locality of this drink is a good enough reason to purchase a couple bottles, but so is the selection of flavors. Mercantile sells multiple teas, such as the sweet and tart Blueberry Mojito, or the no-frills Straight Up brew focusing on the traditional kombucha blend from teas and tisanes, or herbal teas. One bottle of this goes perfect with a pumpkin muffin or almond croissant.
3. Tejas Chocolate Bars
Both Mercantile locations carry a few chocolate bars from Tejas Chocolate. If you're unsure as to which flavor you want to try, start with one of the tasting squares; who knows, you could fall in love with the new Dark Matter chocolate bar, a 70 percent cocoa bar blended with black pepper and black lava sea salt. Savor the creaminess of the Tres Leches bar, a 55 percent cocoa bar balanced with the slight bitterness from dark chocolate and smoothness from milk chocolate.
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2. Tiny Pies
Mercantile in Rice Village just added these miniature pies to its grocery store offerings. The mother-daughter team, Kit and Amanda, make their pies out of Austin and have started spreading them to the Houston area. Each Take & Bake box contains four pies in a variety of flavors, such as Original Cherry, Chocolate Brownie and Blueberry Bliss. Purchase a box of Tiny Pies to bake at home then serve with a scoop of ice cream for the perfect summer treat.
1. Ice Cream and Gelato
Speaking of ice cream. Why not take home a pint or small cup of frozen treats from Fat Cat Creamery or SweetCup Gelato? The Rice Village location has an array of flavors in a couple of sizes. Choose from Vanilla Bean Tres Leches, Chocolate Sorbet, Pomegranate Rose Sorbet or Vietnamese Coffee from SweetCup Gelato, or the year-round offerings from Fat Cat -- Cat's Meow Mexican Vanilla, Strawberry Buttermilk and Milk Chocolate Stout, plus some seasonal flavors.