The Mermaid Inn in the East Village is charming and casual, a crowded oyster bar and a richly wooded dining room pop with a dash of sophistication that meets and understated nautical kitsch. A small but affordable wine list offers one rose by the glass, which happens to be local, a Paumanock Cabernet Franc ($9) from North Fork, Long Island. Oysters are impeccable, and they have a solid selection of east and west coast.
Their entree menu, mostly comprised of seafood, is hit or miss, it seems. Seafood Fra Diavoli ($25) is overwhelmed by heat, the inherently spicy red sauce was lacking any balance of flavors and half of the shellfish is poorly cooked (unopened clams are a bummer.) The Mermaid Fish Tacos ($21) are much better, keeping it simple they impress and comfort with crispy battered fish dressed in a marinated red cabbage, jalapeno and pico de gallo.
Dessert, an espresso sized cup of chocolate pudding is on the house, accompanied by a fortune telling fish. (Though I am not so sure about him, he told me I was jealous - that's a red paper fish for you!)