I have to be honest, I was hesitant about Mercantile Dining & Provision when it first opened in Union Station. Sure, it comes from James Beard semi-finalist Chef Alex Seidel (of Fruition Restaurant and Fruition Farms), but I wasn’t really ready to pay Mercantile’s prices for dinner. I was finally convinced to try it when I ran into Chef Matt Vawter (Mercantile’s Chef de Cuisine/Proprietor) at Denver’s Cochon 555 (which he won that year). Matt Vawter made some amazing pork dishes at Cochon that I kept coming back for — so I figured I now had to go try his other dishes at Mercantile.
And so I gathered my foodie friends and off we went to Mercantile. And I have to admit: yes, it’s expensive, but it’s also totally worth it for a special occasion. It’s a beautiful restaurant with impeccable service, perfectly chosen wine, and melt-in-your-mouth food.
I think Mercantile perfectly rounds out the array of restaurants inside Union Station. It’s somewhat upscale, but still trendy in that non-intimidating “Colorado” way. The dining room is bright, open, and airy — not dark or stuffy:
And the bar area, with its white tile and wood, is perfect for lunch:
When I first came here, I wasn’t too sure about the wine list. I tend to be of the opinion that if a restaurant can’t put more than 1 wine option on the menu for under $40, they won’t be my best friends. After all, I can easily drink 4 glasses of wine on my own over the course of a 2-hour dinner.
So this is where I really have to take my hat off to the Wine Director at Mercantile, Patrick Houghton. He really knows his stuff. On his suggestion, I had the best Pinot Noir of my life here. You can’t get it at a liquor store, you can’t order it online, and you can’t even stop by the winery itself (Rivers-Marie) without special reservations. Sure, it was a $75 bottle, but it was a pretty amazing special-occasion wine that paired perfectly with our food and exposed us to something new.
On to what everyone really cares about — the food. The shishito peppers ($8) were delicious, but I wouldn’t say they were significantly different from shishito peppers other places, other than for the minor addition of a little bit of pigs’ ears. Maybe if there was more pig ear…
If you’re a fan of salad, the Green Strawberry & Rhubarb Salad (with miner’s lettuce and green almond vinaigrette) is fantastic, but obviously there’s not that much of it.
I don’t care that this was $17 — it’s one of my favorite things here: Alaskan Halibut Cheeks with seared foie gras, fava bean fricassée, and celery root purée. I could have had more than one of these.
With all the other options, I wouldn’t really recommend the Marrow Bone Brûlée (with carrot pancakes, black currant jam, and butter poached radish). I think places like Euclid, which cut the bone in half, do a better job because then you can add spice/flavor to not just the ends. Plus, you don’t have to go digging through it.
This was one of the table’s favorites: Toasted Farro Carbonara, with 61° farmhouse egg, cauliflower, pecora broth, and guanciale ($13). The egg was perfect and added just the right amount of creaminess to it.
The Egg Tagliatelle was one of my other favorites, with razor clams & white shrimp escabeche, sea urchin, and house made bottarga ($16).
Onto the entrées!
If you’re a fan of octopus, this is definitely one of the better octopus dishes you will find anywhere: Spanish Octopus à la Plancha, fingerling potato bravas, garlic aïoli, saffron tomato broth ($26). I like that it doesn’t have chorizo (which is what most restaurants pair with octopus) — so the saltiness and spiciness of the sausage don’t overpower the unique taste of the octopus.
Personally, I recommend going with one of the “family dinners” (served with confit fingerling potatoes, roasted cauliflower, arugula & fennel salad). This is the Whole Branzino à la Plancha, with leeks, fresh thyme & oregano, and lemon ($60, but it easily serves 2 people). And yes, it comes like this so you don’t have to get the meat off the bones yourself.
And then there’s the Bone-in Creek Stone Ribeye (36oz), with truffled sea salt, roasted garlic gastrique, and a veal reduction ($98, but serves 3-4 people). If you like steak, you can’t go wrong with this. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I was gnawing on that bone by the end of my meal.
And the dessert options are of course no less delicious than everything else. Personally, I’m a cheese-for-dessert kind of person, and Mercantile was more than accommodating there. And there are also more traditional desserts, although they look anything but “traditional.”