Mermaid Oyster Bar is the resulting product of pandemic ingenuity and brainstorming restaurateurs. When Alicart Group’s Jeff Bank saw an opportunity for an oyster bar in Times Square, he partnered with the famous Mermaid Inn’s Cindy Smith and Danny Abrams to turn his newly purchased restaurant space into something truly unique. We talked with Mermaid hospitality’s Danny Abrams about the gorgeous venue, the delicious menu and the partnership that created the beautiful Mermaid Oyster Bar in Times Square.
A Taste of Mermaid Oyster Bar in NYC
No stranger to providing quality seafood to Manhattan, Mermaid Hospitality was perfectly prepared to create a new concept in the heart of the Theater District. “When we opened the mermaid inn in 2003, we filled a niche that was underserved in the New York market,” Abrams explained. “After a few years of looking at our sales and talking to our guests, we realized there was a need for a slightly more casual approach than the mermAid inn and one with a larger emphasis on raw bar items. We opened the original mermaid oyster bar in 2009, and our assumption was confirmed. We were busy from the first day, and we were able to replicate and expand on the raw bar offerings that people continue to request.”
The massive 15,000 square-foot space was once home to Heartland Brewery, and the huge footprint required the perfect partnership. ““I’ve known Jeff casually for about 25 years,” Abrams told us. “During the pandemic, he found a great spot but was unsure of what to do with it. One night he was eating at The Mermaid Inn with his family, and he had a thought: what about a Mermaid in Midtown? I was dining with a friend, and he came to the table and asked if we could speak for a minute. The next day I went and looked at the space, and we immediately decided to do it together.”
I was invited to check out the Mermaid Oyster Bar recently and found the space cavernous yet cozy—quite a feat for such a large space. “I’m really happy that the intimacy came across,” Abrams said in response. “Usually, big restaurants tend to be one-dimensional and lose some of that intimacy. By taking advantage of all the columns in the space, we were able to create different nooks or zones. One can never get an idea of how big the restaurant is because there is no one vantage point from which they can see the whole restaurant. The sight lines are obscured by the columns, so each zone feels more intimate.”
Despite its size, the restaurant evokes the elements of a neighborhood oyster bar, complete with subtle branding that’s quaintly evident throughout the restaurant. “My partner Cindy Smith and I designed all The Mermaids by ourselves,” Abrams explained. “We’ve lived with the brand for the past 20 years, so we have an idea of how it should look and feel. Many of the design elements are carried through in all our restaurants. The Mermaid, at its core, was designed to make people feel they were dining in a cute little seaside village.”
If you’re a fan of Mermaid Inn, you’ll recognize parts of the menu. The expanded offerings ensure there’s something for everyone—including those who don’t care for seafood. “We realized that when coming to Times Square, we would have to expand the offerings on the menu,” Abrams told us. “The other Mermaids are fiercely seafood-centric. So much so that out of 35 items on the menu, probably 32 of them are seafood oriented. In Times Square, where the clientele is so diverse, we wanted to put more items on the menu that appealed to those who didn’t want seafood. Hence, the burger, steak, ribs and risotto with duck confit were all added to give everyone a chance to enjoy The Mermaid.”