Mert’s Heart & Soul is located in downtown Charlotte. When you walk through the doors, however, you forget that fact. You feel like you are in an out-of-the-way hole in the wall establishment. I love it. The walls are filled with personal pictures and other interesting memorabilia.
Some of the criticisms we’ve heard of Mert’s is that the service is lacking. We found that not to be a concern at all. Our waiter, DJ, took care of our large party perfectly. He even posed for a picture with me!
Sincerely, I should put these cornbread cakes down there in the desserts. Especially when you slather them with this amazing honey butter. But, alas, they bring them before the appetizers, so I feel I must insert them here. This is what everyone talks about. These tender pones are just sweet enough to satisfy the Yankees, but still savory enough to tempt the Southerner. (I don’t know about your family, but my people call yellow, sweet cornbread “Yankee” cornbread.) Whatever you call it, it is glorious.
Mert’s has a limited selection of appetizers. Everything we tried was delicious, but my favorites were Mert’s Soul Rolls. These egg rolls have a unique spin: they are filled with seasoned rice, black-eyed peas, collard greens and chicken. They are served with a spicy honey mustard sauce that has just enough punch to elevate this crunchy favorite.
Every Southern/soul food place worth its salt has Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu and Mert’s is no different. The tomatoes themselves were sliced perfectly (not too thick) and fried crisply. The remoulade sauce that dressed them was tangy and a little spicy. It was a good dish. But honestly, it is one of those things, much like calamari, that is on every menu, and there isn’t enough variation in taste from one to the other to really justify getting it and forsaking the trying of a new dish. But hey, I understand cravings. If you are just jonesing for some FGT, then by all means, enjoy. But branch out!
For dinner I got the Fried Chicken Wings with Winston-Salem Sauce. They were maybe the best pieces of fried chicken I’ve ever had. Crispy, not greasy, and seasoned perfectly. The sauce is merely hot sauce dowsing it, which was perfect. The macaroni and cheese was perfection and the black-eyed peas were creamy and well seasoned. I’d get that exact same plate if I went again. So good.
Laurie got the Fried Whiting on the recommendation of our waiter, DJ. She said it was amazing! The fish was crispy on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside. The macaroni and cheese was the best any of us had ever eaten. Cheesy and creamy with just enough crusty edges to add a little texture. The collard greens were braised perfectly, and topped with fresh tomato and onion: mixed together to make a perfect bite!
Erika got the Salmon Patties with macaroni and cheese and greens. She said the patties were fine, but nothing special. Next time she’d try something else.
Anessa got the Fried Catfish and Fried Chicken Combo with Yams and Macaroni and Cheese. The chicken and fish were fried and seasoned perfectly. The yams were slow cooked in brown sugar and butter…how can that be bad? And the macaroni. Yeah, we’ve already talked about how life altering that is.
The lemon pound cake was tangy and had a good flavor. Anessa reported it was a little dry, so next time she might try another dessert.
My peach cobbler came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. It was decent cobbler, but my mom’s is better. Not overly sweet, but not overly flavorful either. The best dessert of the night was this:
This is the banana pudding cake. It was moist, cakey and full of banana flavor. I never even thought I liked banana pudding all that much, but this cake…what a great twist on a classic.
Here’s the real deal: No matter where we go, or what we eat, we always ALWAYS have a blast together!