The classy and trendy restaurant, bar and liquor store Merchant opened in December 2010 and has been a late-night hot spot ever since. The late-night eateries by campus tend to have long lines on weekend nights and are filled with UW students in a carefree state of mind. Sometimes, it can feel too hectic. If you are interested in a change of scenery, then the walk to Merchant is worth it. Once you arrive, you are in for an evening of fine dining and original cocktails.
In contrast to the scene of 18 to 22 year olds that occupies State Street by campus, Merchant attracts a much older crowd. According to owner Patrick Sweeney, the bar is very industry-oriented during the week and filled with young professionals. The bar skews a bit younger on Friday and Saturday nights and attracts lots of graduate students.
“Late night, it’s a party,” Sweeney said. “We have DJs. We have live music. We have drink specials but we never compromise on quality. We always maintain a safe environment with the highest quality spirits, beers and wines.”
Merchant’s late-night menu starts at 10:30 p.m. and lasts until 1:30 a.m. The food is locally sourced and is made from scratch. The menu is constantly evolving as the restaurant continuously adds new late-night options. Despite new additions to the menu, the cheese curds remain the most popular food item. They are Merchant’s bestseller and what the restaurant is mainly known for. They come with a buttermilk ranch dip and can either be ordered in a classic or Buffalo style. Fortunately, these bites of fried deliciousness are offered on the late-night menu and can be the perfect choice after a night on the town.
“We take a lot of pride in them,” Sweeney said. “They are handmade, battered and fried.”
The tacos are another one of the restaurant’s late-night best sellers. A vegetable taco is filled with chopped white onion, cilantro, lime and salsa verde. You can also order a taco with duck. The glazed chicken skewers served with lime-scallion yogurt sauce is another popular late-night option. The hot pretzel, served with house-made queso and mustard, is a new item on the menu and is selling very well.
“The pretzel was warm and doughy and perfectly balanced off with mustard” UW Senior and foodie Alexis Bendjouia said. “It was a good late night snack and it didn’t feel too heavy. I could have definitely had two.”
According to Sweeney, the food on the menu is oriented towards street food that he, other owner Joshua Berkson, and the kitchen staff have experienced around the world. The owners think of their restaurant as a late-night food cart that is indoors. The restaurant’s main motivation in serving a late-night menu is to provide customers with a balanced way to eat and drink. It is also geared towards people surfing the street.
“What we want is for when people get done studying or get done working at the restaurant next door or down the street is that they come here, still grab a bite and have some quality food,” Sweeney said.
In addition to the food being impeccable and tasty, the restaurant offers a bunch of creative cocktails. The service is also very up to par. Merchant is the perfect venue to relax with friends, have some good food and a few drinks.
“It’s all about soul and being able to lay back and feel good while your drinking and eating,” owner Joshua Berkson said.