Merchant opened recently in the Maritime condominiums at 800 Common St. It's a narrow space, minimally decorated. The focus of attention is a gleaming chrome espresso machine that sits behind the long bar that runs the length of the restaurant. Merchant is one of the only venues where Illy coffee is served in New Orleans.
Merchant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, from 7 a.m. until midnight. Breakfast options include quiche and pastries baked by Manhattan Jacks. Crêpes are a specialty of the restaurant, and the sweet crêpes are particularly good for breakfast. You can choose between Nutella, cacao, sugar, lemon, cinnamon, butter, strawberry, banana, confectioner's sugar, and whipped cream, and the restaurant suggests classic combinations such as Nutella and banana; apple, cinnamon and sugar; and lemon and confectioner's sugar.
Savory crepes include an excellent version filled with duck confit with apple, blue cheese, basil and a balsamic vinegar reduction, and one with triple cream cheese with baked apple and honey. The French version of panini, croque baton, are another choice. There's a three-cream with truffle butter; salumi and basil with goat cheese and tomato; and pancetta with roasted tomato, red onion, arugula and lemon oil.
Toppings for crostini mirror the ingredients in the croque baton with some minor variations; the olive oil tuna is topped with arugula and lemon, while the croque baton also has roasted tomato and red onion, for example. The duck confit crostini is excellent, and comes with goat cheese, olive tapenade and roasted peppers. The crostini tend to be a dollar less than the croque baton, which are pretty reasonable to begin with, running between $7 and $10 for the duck confit. There's a pancetta salad with hearts of romaine, hard Italian cheese and an onion vinaigrette, and a blue cheese salad with apples, walnuts, tomatoes and arugula.
Merchant's slogan is “coffee, crêpes, grapes,” though because the restaurant has not yet obtained its liquor license, the “grapes” portion isn't yet accurate. It's coming, and when you can order a glass of wine with the small plates and crêpes, Merchant is going to be exponentially better.
As suggested above, coffee is taken very seriously at Merchant, and there's a good selection of teas as well. Italian sodas such as Aranciata and Limonata are options for drinks, and Coca-cola with cane sugar is available in place of the standard stuff sweetened with corn syrup. Hollygrove Market and Farm sets up on Sundays in the corridor adjacent to Merchant from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., which is pretty neat.
You can call the restaurant at (504) 571-9580 for more information and to ask about whether they've obtained their liquor license.