First Look: The Merchant

By Scott Kearnan  |  February 27, 2014
Credit: Michael Young

Come and get it!

Edible wares are about to be offered for sale at The Merchant, a new downtown American brasserie. Co-owner Shane Smyth, who is also behind Newton's new gem Sycamore, was ironing out the kinks when we visited this week for a quick look around the 200-seat space, which promises to be the latest in a line of destination restaurants that lure diners downtown even after 5 PM. (In fact, The Merchant will offer a late-night menu, a treat for some of the area's oft-abandoned residents.) "Silvertone has been here forever. Restaurants and bars like that, Stoddard's and jm Curley have been pioneers," says Smyth. "They really helped bring people to downtown areas they weren't going to before, and they helped keep here the people who were here. We're the continuation of that movement, and hope to complement it."

Here's a look at what you'll find inside. 

  • Credit: Michael Young

    The food. At the kitchen's helm is chef Matt Foley, last seen as sous at Cambridge's acclaimed Craigie on Main. He says the menu will reflect a marriage of what the chef learned at both Craigie and the now-shuttered Radius, offering creative American brasserie plates for lunch, dinner and late-night. (Open until 2 AM, The Merchant will offer food until midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and until 1 AM Thursday through Saturday.) Brunch will eventually be on the agenda too. For now, we'll dig into decadent-looking dishes like this steak and eggs plate: juicy sirloin with sweet potato hash and crispy bone marrow, topped by a fried egg. (The full menu will be unveiled soon, but here's a look at a close-to-final draft.) 

  • The space. The expansive main dining room seats about 200, with four at a raw bar and two additional rooms for private dining and corporate meetings (sure to be a hit with Financial District power brokers). There are red leather banquettes, rustic accents and oversized reproductions of decades-old sales flyers, paying tribute to the space's former life as a longtime leather-goods shop.  

  • The vibe. That history is preserved by retaining certain elements - like the old shop's original hardwood floors - while introducing new decor that introduces an industrial-chic vision. Including, say, oversized iron chandeliers with exposed bulbs. 

  • Credit: Michael Young

    The bar. Ian Strickland, formerly of Pigalle and The Beehive, will oversee the program for The Merchant's bar. It's a big one - that bar, that is - running 40 ft. long across the length of the restaurant. And it has depth too: expect 36 beers on draft, from local and regional craft brews to larger brands, plus 17 bottle and 13 can varieties. Plus: classic cocktails with creative twists. "We want it to be a place where everyone feels comfortable, where you can discover something new every time you come in, or enjoy an old favorite," says Strickland.