Homer Alaska - Business

Story last updated at 7:31 PM on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mermaid Bistro gives restaurateurs a new home

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff writer


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

Operating out of Mermaid Cafe under the name "Mermaid Bistro," Evan and Kathy Vogl's eating establshment is a new neighbor for The Old Inlet Book Shop, 3487 Main Street.

Even an early spring snowfall couldn't erase the warmth emanating from Mermaid Bistro. Was it the welcoming aroma of locally farmed oysters topped with spinach and reggiano? Perhaps any of a dozen tapa selections — including broiled sable fish that will be served with rice and mushrooms, and pork that's been cut thick, braised slowly that will be served with a red onion jam — being prepared for the late-afternoon and evening crowd? Maybe it was the soup of the day: puree roasted chili served with pork and rice?

Operating out of Mermaid Café under the name of Mermaid Bistro, Evan and Kathy Vogl are back, serving an assortment of mouth-watering dishes.

"We wanted to stay with the mermaid theme because people know the location and it's a known entity, but we wanted to change it up to 'bistro' to signify we're focusing more on lunch and dinner per se, more than breakfast and lunch," said Kathy.

Mermaid Bistro is open seven days a week, opening for lunch at 11 a.m. and closing at 10 p.m.

"In the summer, we'll add an earlier (opening) time, but it's just too much right now," said Kathy. "What we would do at 9 a.m. would be just coffee and baked goods, with lunch starting at 11."

The aggressive seven-days-a-week schedule reflects the couple's go-for-it-attitude.

"We think people still eat on Sundays and Mondays," said Kathy, laughing.

As in the past, Evan's emphasis is on keeping ingredients organic, their sources as close-to-home as possible.

"That includes produce when we can get it," said Kathy. "Evan has talked to some of the new high tunnel farmers in town and they're wanting to keep us as local as we can."


Photo by McKibben Jackinsky

Evan Vogl updates Monday's menu at Mermaid Bistro, 3487 Main Street.

Eggs are farm-raised. Meat sources include McNeil Canyon Meat Company. Beverage selections draw from K Bay Caffee, Ring of Fire Meadery and the Kenai River Brewing Company. As far as wine goes, the Vogls are researching a source for a tasty organic wine.

"I don't think there's anything genetically modified on the menu," said Kathy. "We've really put a lot of thought into this."

The Vogls' familiarity with Homer's eating habits led to an emphasis on the tapa, or appetizer, selections.

"We've experienced that people want to eat later so the evening menu is really fun and very social," said Kathy. "There are lots of tapas. We've designed dinner-type items that are smaller portions so you can order two, three different ones instead of entrees."

Then there's the entrees, which change nightly, with a seasonal theme, and are served with heirloom rice and organic grains such a polenta and quinoa.

Sandwiches are available for lunch; salads and pizza are available all day.

The bistro's seven tables allow for seating up to 30. Once warmer weather arrives, the wrap-around deck will offer room for six outdoor tables. The Vogls have no plans to take reservations "but are definitely encouraging to-go orders and have set it up to be easy for us and the customer," said Kathy.

The Vogls style of cooking has been known since 2001 when they began serving pizza from Fat Rack at Alice's Champagne Palace. Two years later, they relocated to Fat Olives, selling their shares in that business in 2006. Hole in the Wall Barbecue on the Spit came next, with the Vogls selling that in 2007, before moving out of town for a year and a half. They returned to the southern peninsula's eating scene last summer, first at Fireweed Golf Course in Anchor Point and spending the last eight weeks of the summer season on the Spit.

"This won't be seasonal. This will be year round," Kathy said of the location at 3487 Main St. "We'll both be in there, so you'll see one of us there at all times."

Mermaid Bistro's staff includes two in the kitchen with Evan and four servers in addition to Kathy.

"This is excellent stuff, for sure," said Kathy, referring to the staff as well as Mermaid Bistro's menu.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben. jackinsky@homernews.com