At Taste of the Nation, George Abou-Daoud (Bowery, Delancey) discussed his summer plans for District, his first reservations restaurant, and for Mercantile, the adjacent Hollywood wine bar and artisan market. “You have places like Joan’s on Third and you have wine bars,” said Abou-Daoud. “This is a hybrid concept.” We reconvened at the construction site to better understand his vision.
Abou-Daoud said the 1924 building was previously a massage parlor, photo lab and beauty shop. He led the redesign and named the restaurant for Olsen’s Mercantile on “Little House on the Prairie.” The “urban country,” look includes an entrance that’s open to the street. Bricks were pulled from the wall to clear space for floor-to-ceiling glass panels. Those same bricks became the base for the L-shaped black steel bar. “We’ve always been fans of big bars,” he says. “That’s the socialization point.” Expect wines by the glass, bottles of wine to go and wine tastings.
Abou-Daoud frequents auctions and estate sales to hunt for furniture that’s affordable and has character you can’t find in modern items. As a result, the upstairs mezzanine will feature round wood tables that have “claw” feet.”
Both Mercantile and District involve executive chef Kris Morningstar, who’s already tweaked the menus at Bowery and Delancey. He was on-site and described a 40-cheese selection and various charcuterie, some house-made and others from producers they like. Mercantile will also house a house-made ice cream window and a butcher/fish window with things that aren’t readily available elsewhere, like pork belly. They’ll make sandwiches and salads, plus quiches and popovers. In the pastry area, Mercantile will offer dough and puff pastry for DIY baking. You might even find a twist on pigs in a blanket.
Abou-Daoud has launched several popular venues, but has never repeated a concept. “It’s more creative to do something different,” he says, “especially if the ideas are all good and you’re working with someone like Kris.”
Six weeks after Mercantile launches, District should be ready next door. He also has two more concepts in the works, including a Hollywood tavern and another concept that he’s not ready to describe yet. He did say that all of his concepts will be within four miles of one another.
Abou-Daoud added that he’s planning to open something in his hometown of New York.