‘Merica, a new New York City restaurant, in the trendy East Village, offers an assortment of humorously-named dishes in support of its goal of being a place for “celebrating and making fun of all things MERICA,” an article on the Metro New York web site reports.
Co-owned by Radouane Eljaouhari, a Muslim immigrant from Morocco, and Zach Neil, who earlier opened a restaurant just up the street from MERICA where, an earlier Metro New York article said, “it’s Halloween every night,” this venture, which was scheduled to open a few days ago, does a lot of fun-poking at Donald Trump and the candidate he called “a nasty lady” on the third and (thankfully!) last presidential debate of this insane campaign season.
Neil’s earlier incarnation, Beetle House, has a menu described as “’fusion of American comfort, Latin, Italian and European dishes,’ which is broad enough to be virtually meaningless,” Metro New York said. So couple that with the sensibility of Eljaouhari, who puts himself in perspective by saying, ““I get my latte from a place where the owner, an old guy, always wears a Make America Great Again hat. It’s his views, and I still go to his place because I like the people who work there.
“This is what I love most about New York,” he declares, “and if the world could copy it, we would have peace: People can live with each other despite their completely different views.”
Eljaouhari’s closed his earlier restaurant, Zerha, to make way for ‘Merica, after he and Neil spent hours discussing news and “all this craziness. He’s a very thoughtful guy and he likes to talk about current issues. And at the same time, he’s always laughing, that’s what I like about him — everything turns into fun.”
So they formed a partnership to create a fun place to eat.
‘Merica “both idolizes and criticizes all things America,” Metro New York said. “On the walls are a caricature of two ‘Duck Dynasty’ stars captioned ‘Hunt’n, Fish’n, Hate’n’ and assault rifles that sprout flowers. Among the burgers and grilled cheeses, the menu has The WalMart, a daily special ‘made with stuff, more stuff you need and topped with extra stuff,’ and the house signature Pottamac, a heart-busting quartet of Americanized lasagnas. Straightforward food that you can’t order with a straight face.
“You feel like there’s so much effort into making a fancy menu,” Eljaouhari says of many restaurants in the city. “New York is a very sophisticated place, but this is also part of the American culture, having a very down-to-earth place that serves simple food.”
Eljaouhari and Neil’s place will feature once-a-week debate nights, where customers will pair off in teams with the losers having to do … something – either pay for the other’s meals, or accept a drinks challenge, or eat the spiciest sauce on the menu. (‘Merica is licensed to sell beer and wine.)
And because America loves its cultural heroes, there will be themed weeks honoring everyone from Barack Obama to Chuck Norris. The restaurant is also offering a free beer and 25 percent off the bill for active and veteran members of the military.
Though the current election inspired the ‘Merica, expect it to stick around as long as there are people who love America. “There’s always something in the news, he says. “If it’s not Donald Trump, who knows who’s going to run for mayor? There is always something to laugh about.”
(An historic note: The block where these restaurants reside used to be, a few decades ago, wall-to-wall Indian eateries on the south side of the street. They probably got priced out of a neighborhood that, when they were there, was home mainly to working class immigrants or their immediate descendants.
(Where a one-bedroom apartment in those days could be had for less than $100 a month — I know; I had one of them!– the same accommodation today goes for more than $2,000 a month!)