Archive for February 6th, 2010

Dearborn’s Mercury is Back, Just Like Old Times

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Most people look for a reason to stay out of the kitchen.

Toni Johnson and Fred Pascaris have found a way to get back into the kitchen.

And that is going to make the palates of many people in Dearborn smile with joy.

Toni Johnson and Fred Pascaris are back serving homemade delights at the New Mercury Restaurant, 3765 Telegraph in Dearborn.

Say hello to The New Mercury Restaurant. The location has changed but the great food, good people and, yes, even the free advice is back.

Nearly four years after the original Mercury Coffee Shop at Michigan and Military closed, Dearbornites once again have a place to sit elbow-to-elbow over eggs in the morning or steaks in the evening.

“We are excited to be back here,” said co-owner Fred Pascaris, a cook at the original Mercury for some 13 years who also owned and managed several other area restaurants with his brothers before retiring in 1989. “We talked about opening a new restaurant many times after the Mercury closed and now here we are. We are going to give it our best.”

The New Mercury Restaurant is located at 3765 Telegraph in Dearborn.

Located at 3765 Telegraph, just north of Annapolis on the east side of Telegraph (in the building that once housed the Great Ham Company restaurant), the New Mercury will serve up a host of daily specials and delightful deserts, including Toni Johnson’s homemade pies and cannolis. Patrons will also be treated to homemade split pea and bean soup, roast beef, liver and onion on certain days and, of course, the famous coleslaw.

“I started cooking when I was 7-years-old in Italy,” said Johnson, who has lived in Dearborn since 1952 and worked at the original Mercury for 20 years. “I do everything fresh. I don’t open any cans for anything. I guess that is the Italian in me.”

The New Mercury doesn’t quite have the cramped coziness the original restaurant had with its horseshoe shaped counter but there is at least a counter. This one has 11 stools that patrons can mosey up to and catch the latest Dearborn news or you can slide into one of the restaurants many booths that ring the outer walls of the restaurant. And when you walk inside and see the smiling faces of people like Toni, Fred, cook Steve Selman, waitress Paula Barbas (both Mercury Coffee Shop veterans) and even Fred’s brother Gus (who once owned the Mercury and now “supervises” from his seat at the counter), it all feels good. It all feels very Dearborn.

Word that the New Mercury is now open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday has been spreading. Fred and Toni say about half of their customers since opening about three weeks ago were regulars at the original Mercury. Two of those customers are Mary Ray and her husband Mike, owners of Campbells Paint & Wallpaper in Dearborn.

“I have a list of people who will be as thrilled as I am to know that the Mercury is back,” said Mary Ray. “I am already ‘jonesing’ for the coleslaw and the Friday fish sandwiches, as is Mike for the tuna salad plate. I used to think of the Mercury as the ‘Cheers’ of Dearborn. Never entered the place without saying hello to someone I knew.”

Ray is one of a growing group of regulars from the original Mercury who are slowly rediscovering their favorite foods and catching up on conversations that ended when the original Mercury officially closed its doors May 1, 2006 after more than 46 years of business.

It is hard to explain why so many of us get so attached to little things in life, such as restaurants like the Mercury. Perhaps it’s the comfort food served by the friendly folks or maybe because it’s one of those places where you can escape to and know that someone there will lend you hand or give you an ear.

Whatever the reason, we are just happy to see it back.