UPDATE: According to Grub Street, 'Merica has closed after just three weeks.
The sleek-looking fabric covering the banquettes at ‘Merica really speaks to the whole motif of the place. It’s duct tape -- red-white-and-blue-colored duct tape -- though management humorously calls it “American leather.”
If the name 'Merica didn't immediately tip you off to the kitschy theme, the rest of the decor at this subterranean East Village saloon will. That duct tape is complemented by political cartoons, old sports memorabilia, Christmas lights, and guns... lots of guns (all purportedly non-functional, thank Jesus). Much of the displayed artillery comes with accompanying floral arrangements in an apparent attempt to appease both hawk and dove diners alike.
The hokey concept is the brainchild of Radouane ElJaouhari, who previously operated the restaurant Zerza in the same location, and Zach Neil, who runs the Tim Burton-inspired bar Beetle House nearby.
Say what you will about the cheeky dish titles -- Bald Eagle Wings? Pizza Pottamac? All Merican Super Macho Fire House Chili? But you can’t argue with the near-perfect timing of the restaurant’s arrival -- toward the bitter end of one of the most divisive presidential elections in US history.
So, on the eve of the third and final 2016 presidential debate, Team Thrillist stopped by the new venue, now in “soft opening” mode, to taste-test its two headline-grabbing burgers, each created in tribute to the respective major-party candidates, neither entirely flattering in their menu descriptions, nor quite cooked to order (which is fitting, given the low likability of both politicians).
First up, the “T-Rump Mexi-can Burger,” a beefy ode to Republican candidate Donald Trump, his controversial comments about Mexican immigrants, and his proposal to build a wall along the US-Mexico border. The item is described as a “[g]round rump roast burger (the butt of the animal),” topped with “half-white American cheese, half-Mexican pepper jack cheese separated by a wall of sauteed mushrooms, onions, and sweet peppers.”
This so-called “wall” turned out to be a pretty thin layer of toppings, which, we suspect, is part of the joke. An orange-tinted drizzle of Sriracha mayo, meanwhile, seemed like a nice touch, albeit a shade or two lighter than the traffic-cone-level suntan of the actual candidate himself.
Overall, the sweet flavor of the burger seemed somewhat out of character compared to its namesake. Adding some sour pickles might produce a more appropriate puckering effect in line with a man whose lips seemed perpetually pursed.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, you have the “Hillary Burger (A 100-Calorie Lie),” which obviously references Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her perceived untrustworthiness. This burger involves “creamy macaroni and cheese stuffed between two beef patties topped with bacon and melted American cheese.”
We liked this burger much better than the other one, though the humor is a lot harder to find. To be fair, we can’t come up with a good edible reference to her missing-emails scandal, either, though a slice of SPAM couldn’t hurt.
The verdict: maybe we should’ve just ordered the “Bottomless Sanders” instead. This appetizing platter of fries with your choice of dipping sauces is named after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is no longer in the race. But by the time we were done fixating on the burgers, it was simply too late. How apropos!
What becomes of ‘Merica’s very time-sensitive menu once the presidential race is finally over remains to be seen. The operators have pledged to carry on with the theme regardless of the outcome. Very American indeed.
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Perhaps the best way to deal with extreme patriotism is to make fun of it, which is what this kitschy, every-day-is-the-Fourth-of-July restaurant in the East Village is doing. Opened during the heat of the 2016 presidential election, 'Merica brings all the stereotypes that make our country so damn ridiculed to life with a menu featuring greasy burgers, artery-clogging grilled cheeses, and a fried chicken dinner called The WMD, aka weapon of mass...deliciousness. The ultra-thematic spot is complete with red, white, and blue decor and posters of John Wayne, plus events like weekly debates.