A crab house and a piano bar? Just take our money!
The Nauti Mermaid (110 Chestnut St.), left the waters of the Chesapeake Bay to bring Southern Maryland charm to Old City Philly — and, for the most part, it’s succeed.
The cocktail menu proved an exciting start. The Key Lime martini ($12) tasted exactly like a spirited liquid version of the Southern dessert staple while the Nauti New Fashioned ($12), a concoction of bourbon, cherries, bitters and pineapple, was another strong and fruity winner.
We sidestepped the steamed Maryland blue crabs that the restaurant flies in from the Eastern Shore — because, in our defense, we didnt want to spend the evening breaking open and mining the sharp and armored crustaceans for the tasty meat, especially when offers less-work-intensive options like mini crab cakes ($14), the colossal crab cake ($17) and the she-crab soup ($10).
The latter, while pleasant, tasted more like crab chowder as it was conspicuously missing the crab roe typical of she crab, and also lacked strong sherry notes and the usual rosy color. On the plus side, the soup is generously portioned and contains huge lumps of crab meat begging to be fished out like pirate treasure.
The fried green tomatoes ($14), another Deep South staple, seemed to get lost under the goat cheese, chives and almost-absurdly thick pieces of bacon. But the bacon was so good, we weren’t complaining.
The mini crab cakes were filled with the maximum meat, minimum filler, with only remoulade and lemon rounding them out. The dish was simple and elegant — an unfettered offering of pure crab. Similarly pleasing were the fried oysters ($14), dusted with cornmeal, topped with a toasted chive crème-fraiche and served in a shell.
But Nauti Mermaid’s crowning achievement on our visit was its version of fish and chips. Seldom has such a pedestrian offering impressed us — until this one. The dish was piled high with the enormous planks of catfish that had an alluring, come-hither curl on its edges, which is the hallmark of some excellent frying. The complementary boardwalk-style fries, sliced both thick and thin, also were fried to a perfect consistency, and seasoned just right touch of malt vinegar available.
Nauti Mermaid definitely has their sea legs panted in firm culinary ground here in Philly. If you want well-executed raw, fried or steamed seafood and a comfortable and fun environment, dive into this Old City crab shack and sink your claws in.
If you go
110 Chestnut St.
Sun.-Thurs.: 5-10 p.m.
Fri.-Sat.: 5-11 p.m.