The Mermaid Tavern at The Great Deep Brewing Company - Excellent Beer & Excellent Food
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
You've probably heard the saying that "big surprises come in small packages", right? Well, this saying holds true for what could potentially become another landmark establishment in the village of Hagatna, and that is The Mermaid Tavern at the Great Deep Brewing Company in the GCIC Bldg. Arcade. Located just a few steps down the hall from the military recruiting offices, The Mermaid Tavern is a refreshing change from all other pubs that serve beer and food for several reasons. First, it is a Smoke Free environment. This fact alone makes it an exception. Second, it serves a selection of quality, Locally-Brewed fresh beer, placing it above nearly all the rest, with the only exception being Tumon's Mac & Marti, which sells beers created by the very same brew masters, The Great Deep Brewing Company, proprietors of The Mermaid Tavern. A third reason, is the fact that The Mermaid Tavern serves a unique menu of excellent fare you just can't get anywhere else in Micronesia or the rest of the Western Pacific. It is a menu of superb salads, fantastic burgers (the Hot Chili Burger is not what you'd think it is since it uses sliced green Ortega chiles and not the red chili sauce laden with beans), Homemade Southern Gumbo, and a family of Famous Po Boys, which are the Southern version of sub sandwiches.
At this writing, The Mermaid Tavern is only open for dinner (Editor's Note: lunch service is now available M-F 11am-2pm), however, lunch service is on the radar for the owners, Rick Wood and Todd Inman. Both work at the University of Guam; Rick as a chemist with WERI and Todd as UOG's Housing Director. We first wrote about these gentlemen and their beers in a 2002 issue of our newsletter when they first offered their locally-brewed beers at Le Tasi Bistro. The Great Deep Brewing Company has perfected 6 brews and serves them on tap at various times. The beers (some of which have local names, origination histories and ingredient blends detailed on their beer menu) are Knapstein Pilzen Ale, Sirena Pale Ale, Dos Amantes Irish Red Ale, Man Hita Scottish Ale, Maga'lahi Dry Stout, and MCD Oatmeal Stout - their strongest brew named after Marine Corps Drive (with a grateful nod to Staff Sergeant Flick, a Marine Recruiter, who was one of their first customers and thus adhering to the "good neighbor policy" that is a tradition on Guam!).
The Mermaid Tavern is not just a pub with a bar, it is a comfortable, lounge (small, but adequate), that has a soothing ambiance created by soft lighting, strong wood tones, sophisticated music (Astrid Gilberto's appealingly melodic voice was heard singing a nostalgic love song in the background), and arguably the region's most extensive collection of "mermaid" art - something you just don't see everyday. But let's get down to the business of food...good food, the reason for my existence!
We asked our server, Josh Wood (Rick's son), for recommendations and settled on a cup of Gumbo ($2.99), the Hot Chili Burger (1/4 lb $5.50 or 1/2 lb $6.95), and a Sausage Po Boy (Chamorro Sausage or Longaniza $6.50). We also ordered a 15 oz Pale Ale and a 10 oz (half of an Imperial Pint) Pilzen Ale ($4.50 and $3 respectively). The Gumbo was an authentic version of this traditional Cajun soup, although it was not the spicy, hot type that we prefer; although you can add Tabasco to liven it up. It was thick, filled with vegetables and pieces of shrimp and sausage. The Hot Chili Burger was a hit, since the large hand-made meat patty is seasoned with a special chili spice and sported sliced strips of Ortega chiles on top. The sesame bun had a mound of melted Cheddar Cheese (other cheeses available are Swiss, Provolone, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Parmesan, American or Blue, with extra cheese at $.75). A side sauce Josh recommended was Chipotle Mayo, which was absolutely tasty and a perfect match for this burger (other mayo blends are Wasabi, Ginger Sesame, and Dill with Honey Mustard and Tartar sauce available as well). The burgers come with a choice of house Potato Chips, Potato Salad, or Macaroni Salad. I chose a combination of potato and macaroni salads, which were both the homemade kind like mama makes. We even put a little Chipotle Mayo on ours to give it some more zing (both are not overly spiced - giving customers the chance to add more).
The Sausage Po Boy was a treat, with the Chamorro Sausage sliced in strips that are grilled, releasing their juicy spiciness. It came with Provolone cheese which covered the length of the French roll and the sausage was piled on top of a sauteed cabbage blend. We had the potato chips and were quite surprised by how thick, crunchy, and notably delicious they were. These were Kettle Chips, and they helped make the meal. This was another fabulous sandwich, good enough to order again. Other Po Boys are Steak, Chicken, Yellowfin, Shrimp, Salisbury Steak, Smoked Ham, and Vegetarian.
Also on the menu are four homemade salads, including Chicken, Steak, Tuna and an All American Chef Salad complete with Ham Strips and sliced boiled eggs (another tradition upheld!), with a choice of House, Thousand Island, Ranch, Blue Cheese, Caesar, or Italian. The salads are loaded with ingredients - lettuce, tomato, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, garbonzo beans, bean sprouts, mandarin oranges, and sliced almonds.
One of the reasons why the food was so good is the man behind the kitchen doors, James Flores. James is effervescent, friendly and always smiling...his unbridled enthusiasm is contagious. He has cooked in several places including the Red Carpet, the Islander Terrace at the Hilton, and Michelle's Coffee Shop. He loves what he does and puts it inside the food he creates.
The Mermaid Tavern has a Chess Board and a Dart Board, allowing for a little recreational play while enjoying a brew or a glass of wine. The phone number is 472-BEER (2337) and they open at 5pm for drinks. Dinner is served from 5:30pm until 8:30pm Monday thru Saturday. I can assure you this will become a popular favorite once they open for lunch, since dinner time in Hagatna is usually slower most people having already gone home. The Mermaid Tavern may do well due to their uniqueness. It is still new and they are working out some of their service and delivery areas. However, they handle themselves well, are humble, hard-working, and considerate. I believe they'll do well! And, I'm sure you'll agree that the food and the beer is excellent.