Tis the season to see all your friends posting their travel photos, while you're currently stuck in the sweltering heat of the Big D. Worry not, for brunch at Mercat Bistro is a little piece of France in the middle of the Harwood District of Dallas. Being an avid bruncher myself, my expectations are always set high for Mimosas and Eggs Benedict. In addition to executing these brunch essentials beautifully, Mercat boasts an impressive brunch menu of no-nonsense French dishes, carefully crafted coffees, and drink specials. I hosted a reunion brunch of 20 people during one of their Saturday Soirées, which happens once a month and includes a DJ. We had almost the entire outside lounge area near the DJ booth, and for the amount of people, service was good. But what we really care about is the food, which is simple and straight-to-the-point.
The Croque Madame is probably one of the most filling items on the menu, and I was very thankful it came with a side salad, but pommes frites would also make a delicious substitute. The Croque Madame features two slices of their fresh bread, made in-house, lucini ham, Emmental cheese, Mornay sauce, and a fried egg. The fresh bread soaks up the sauce and egg yolk beautifully, and it's rich but not heavy. The side salad, the usual pairing with any main brunch dish, is topped with a tangy sauce which is a lovely, light break from the savoury sandwich. It's easy to Americanize this dish, and hard to find around town done well. Mercat makes this one of the best dishes to order to complement a hangover or just soak up all those fresh-squeezed orange juice Mimosas.
Next is a brunch staple, and the way I judge most brunch spots, the irreplaceable Eggs Benedict. It's almost unusual in this town to have it done the traditional way, with lucini ham, fresh baked bread, and hollandaise sauce, and Mercat delivered. The poached eggs were perfect, with a completely cooked white and a huge, runny yolk. Unlike some places I've visited, they weren't watery and had a great consistency, served hot. All the eggs used at Mercat are pasture-raised and organic, from Texas. The side salad, once again, provided the dish with a pleasant freshness and tanginess, and made you feel a lot better about the usual high-caloric brunch intake. It left you feeling satisfied and not too full, saving room for one of their house-made pastries or a dessert crepe.
Egg white Omelet
The French Omelet comes with sautéed spinach and melted baby belletoile cheese, made both with the whole egg or using egg whites only. The melted cheese is an unexpected touch, complementing the flavour and fluffyness of the egg without being overbearing. The spinach and potatoes are well made and lightly seasoned.
Quiche Spinach and Mushrooms
A French classic finally done right in Dallas, this is the perfect light brunch dish. The quiche is fluffy, with spinach mixed throughout and mushrooms on the bottom. The crust is flaky without being overcooked nor flavorless. It's seasoned well, not too salty, with a good ratio of spinach to mushrooms. When you visit Mercat, this is a must-try!
Hard to imagine a French bistro without French Toast, is it not? Unlike American French Toast, this holds more flavor and less sugar perfect as a main dish or dessert paired with coffee or espresso. If you love Nutella, you'll love this; it has chocolate-hazelnut ganache, maple syrup, and whipped cream. The ganache isn't overly sugary, with a creamy texture that contrasts the crispiness of the toast itself.
Strawberry & Chantilly Crêpe
I'm not exaggerating when I say this is one of the best crêpes I've had in a long time, maybe even since Paris itself! The house strawberry jam is unusually paired with a tangy chantilly sauce, reminiscent of a crêpe you would have at a château on the Loire. The crêpe itself is thin with a lovely neutral taste in the dough, the jam and chantilly being the stars of the show.
Among their numerous drink specials, I enjoyed the Red Sangria, Mimosa, and Violet Fizz. The raspberries in the Sangria were a nice, fruity finish, and the fresh squeezed orange juice made for a memorable mimosa. The Violet Fizz was an interesting choice for brunch if you enjoy hints of flowers and violet, paired with sparkling wine.
Overall, Mercat Bistro has an eccentric atmosphere with a spacious outside patio, perfect for Francophiles, great service, and very French food. Their Saturday Soirées are a great way to break up the monotony of a regular brunch, with DJ Steffi Burns spinning an impressive set straight out of Europe.
To follow updates from Mercat or myself, check out @mercatbistro and @czarina_ekaterina on Instagram.