Back in January, I was so taken by the thrill of finding these amazing boudin balls at MerCheri's in Pearland Town Center -- the subject of this week's cafe review -- than I completely overlooked one important issue: The balls, while wonderful, were quite pricey.
The boudin balls I disliked so much at BRC Gastropub were -- for all their faults -- only $7.75. The similarly sad balls at Ragin' Cajun are only $4.99 for a big plate of five. And those luscious, now discontinued boudin balls from Samburger were only $3 for a large order.
So why is MerCheri's selling its boudin balls for $12?
Part of it is that the restaurant is attempting to capture a high-end crowd in its dark dining room with cathedral ceilings and a vast martini menu. MerCheri's says so itself on its website: "MerCheri's atmosphere caters to the posh mature adult crowd seeking a desirable experience like none other before." Like the $17 oysters from Zimm's Little Deck, the prices serve to ensure that only a certain demographic will be welcomed while eating there.
And just as with Zimm's, this seems to both work for and against the restaurant.
In its favor is the fact that you'll rarely find screaming toddlers or parties of roving, obnoxious youth at MerCheri's (something you're nearly guaranteed to find at almost any other restaurant in Pearland Town Center, most of which are chain eateries). For the most part, your fellow diners are at least in their mid-twenties, looking for a nice night out with a few martinis for good measure. As my dining companion, Craig Hlavaty put it, "It's the same kind of vibe you'd get in town, in old Pearland, but with a cool urban element to it."
Working against MerCheri's is the fact that Cajun food should simply not be this expensive, a claim I leveled against Zimm's as well. And there's the simple premise that if your food is pricey, your atmosphere needs to match that in all regards: That would mean no more loud football games on the big screen TVs and no more raucous games of spades.
But removing those activities would dampen the cheerful, inviting vibe at MerCheri's as well. And the bottom line is this: It's charging $12 for those [admittedly wonderful] boudin balls to cover the cost of renting the nearly 3,000-square-foot parcel at the Town Center. Taking away that space with its hard-edged concrete elements and tall ceilings would also take away that urban feel Hlavaty raved about. And you're paying dearly for that feeling, too; the feeling that you've left Pearland for the city without hitting 288.
While I'd like to see MerCheri's lower its prices overall and add more Cajun flair to the menu -- some poor boys, some boiled crawfish, perhaps -- I also recognize that it probably won't happen. So I'll enjoy it for what it is: a somewhat misguided but ultimately lovable martini bar that happens to serve killer -- if pricey -- boudin balls and pretty good gumbo to boot.
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That, in and of itself, is wonderful in its rarity.
For more photos from MerCheri's, check out our slideshow.