There’s something special about a French (or even French-inspired) bistro. It frequently has deep colors in decor complemented by natural light flowing through windows, the essence of espresso and pastry in the air and a menu featuring a richness and delicacy unique to French cuisine.
Uptown’s Mercat Bistro offers that aesthetic while serving traditional dishes such as coq au vin. At brunch, it offers that same vibe with a plate of eggs.
The setting is almost perfect except for some bizarre music choices. Traditional Parisian would have been nice. Or American jazz. They could choose to put on a Pandora station for Drive-By Truckers. Any of that would’ve been better than what they played: assorted tunes that might be suitable for a 1989 fashion show. If you can go with people who provide excellent conversation, maybe you can get beyond the sound that comes out of the speakers and focus your attention on the food.
To begin, you have a list of hors d’oeuvres: You can try an assortment of four fresh pastries with seasonal jam and house butter in the pastry basket ($14).
If you don’t want that many carbs, there’s a list of their patisserie, where you’ll find your expected croissant ($2.75) and a green tea variation for a dollar more.
Avocado toast ($11) with poached egg is also on the starter menu, as are shishito peppers ($10). The ricotta and honey ($11) may sound like something worth sharing, with ricotta made in-house and local organic honey. It’s a large serving, but the firm, cold cheese lacks flavor. The honey saves it, but then what’s the point? Also, the toasts served with it seem like they could break a tooth.
The entree list is topped with the green chile crepe ($16), a welcome pairing of Southern U.S. flavors in a French application. It’s a generous serving (which is welcome for a $16 crepe) with a well-executed crepe filled with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and roasted green chiles. More chiles could add more flavor — as would salt, which the dish needed overall.
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A lobster roll ($24) and a croque madame ($14) also make up the entree list. There’s a les oeufs list for egg lovers. A quiche Lorraine ($16) and steak and eggs ($21) are on this one, as are the expected eggs Benedict ($15). The poached eggs were cooked perfectly, providing a slightly runny but still firm yolk, and the Hollandaise was as it should be (excellent).
The atmosphere is Uptown brunch jovial and worth returning for (especially if they change the music). The brunch is good enough to wonder if you should go for a cocktail or plate of steak and frites later in the day.
Mercat Bistro, 2550 Harry Hines Blvd. (Uptown)