Mertens Prime debuts new menu

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The new chef at Mertens Prime finished creating his debut menu, and the restaurant is now taking reservations for its first day of indoor dining next week.

Paul Berglund, winner of the James Beard Foundation Best Chef Award Midwest in 2016, released his debut menu for Mertens Prime, at 35 Oakes St. SW in downtown Grand Rapids.

The new menu — which has 20 additions created by Berglund — can be viewed online at mertensprime.com, and the restaurant has begun taking reservations on the website. Dinner service will begin Wednesday, and the restaurant will be open 4-10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday.

Berglund said his goal was to integrate original dishes throughout the menu while staying true to the French brasserie and French-styled steakhouse concept that is Mertens Prime.

“Placing more thought into the quality and integrity of the steakhouse-driven sides and sauces was a focus,” Berglund said. “When you come to Mertens Prime and order a ribeye or our Chateaubriand with sauces and sides, you will be delivered a hand-crafted dish that has all the thought and time put into it as any of our more intricate new offerings.”

New side dishes include curried cauliflower gratin and andouille twice-baked potato with air-dried house olive tapenade.

One of the first courses will be New Orleans-style shrimp beignets, combining the flavors of a warm French doughnut with the “savory punch” of a spiced shrimp filling.

Main courses will include the Alsatian dish, schnitzel, which will infuse hand-pounded pork loin with French wine vinegar.

Mertens Prime will offer a nine-course tasting menu on weekdays, which will include a pescatarian option.

“It’s important we communicate to our guests that many restaurants, including Mertens Prime, are a peak-and-valley business, and that many survive only because we can have high peaks on the weekends. With the forthcoming capacity constraints, our peaks will not exist as we need them to, so it will be essential for us to attract diners on nights other than Friday and Saturday,” said Anthony Tangorra, managing member of Mertens Hospitality, which owns Mertens Prime.

“We’re hoping that, by offering this tasting menu on nonweekend nights, perhaps we can bring up the valleys to make up for the loss of the peaks so that we can have a business that is economically sustainable and that can continue to support the 30-plus team members that rely on Mertens Prime to put bread on our families’ tables.”

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