"Lucky in business, unlucky in love," cracks Abrams as he leans on the bar on a recent morning. The staff is huddled in a corner undergoing training.
"We have an uncanny sense of timing," adds Bradley, 35, the more smart-alecky of the two, with a cigarette in hand. "Opening a neighborhood restaurant before a national tragedy was part of the plan all along."
However, for Bradley, the chef/owner who grew up in Narragansett, R.I., opening a New England-style clam shack like the ones he knew as a child really was part of the master plan. Finding the right place to do it proved to be more of a challenge — that is, until they discovered a space just three doors down from Frank, the beloved Italian joint that routinely has waiting lines topping an hour.
"The East Village has Italian, Indian, Mediterranean, Thai, sushi — you name it," says Bradley, "but it has very few chef-driven, hospitality-driven seafood restaurants. There’s a void here."
But don’t expect a replica of, say, the West Village’s Pearl Oyster Bar. The Mermaid Inn is less expensive, for one, and the menu has no lobster roll. Rather, its menu covers a range of North Atlantic seafood recipes, including lobster risotto balls, blue crab spinach dip, a Catalonian stew and spaghetti with green salad on top. The wine list features 34 bottles, and Bradley promises he’ll only charge $15 above the wholesale price of any bottle. "A steal!" he growls.
Better yet, dessert is free. "No selection at all," he says. "There’s one a night. Maybe a cup of tapioca, a cupcake, or a slice of watermelon. You can accept or decline." The check arrives in a sardine can.