Houston needs more areas like Rice Village, areas where you can park your car and walk around and have access to stores, bars, restaurants and cafes. I’ve always liked Rice Village but lately we have been visiting every Saturday morning early, and that reason is to visit Mercantile.
We have been going to Mercantile since day one, since it was shiny and new. From the outside it didn’t look like much, in fact they still had the sign above the shop from the store that used to be in that space. Since then they have added some new signs and several spots to sit outside surrounded by some large potted plants. Very nice by Houston’s terrace standards.
The inside is one large room with an ordering counter and cash register right in the center. On the right side there’s a series of glass display plates covered with freshly baked goods from local Angie’s Bakery; the pain au chocolate and almond croissant are both surprisingly good and a necessary part of our weekend. On the left side of the counter sits a beautiful coffee machine. It is stunning and worth visiting Mercantile just to admire it from all angles.
The rest of the space was and still is a little bit sparse, but we have been assured that this is just the start, that the space will soon be packed full with delicious goodies. All the food items they currently carry are from either fantastic companies or even better, fantastic local companies. They have cheeses from Houston Dairymaids (ohhh so good) and chocolate from Voges (see here for a review of their hot chocolate in New York). Apparently a wine and beer license is also on the way too, which will make this our definite go to spot.
The hot chocolate here at Mercantile is pretty similar, if not exactly the same as the one from Catalina Coffee (same owners) I reviewed last year, but somehow I enjoy it more here, and that despite the fact that it is served in…oh the horror…a paper cup. Because they are operating under a grocery license at the moment, they’re only allowed to sell dairy products for take away, and that unfortunately includes my hot chocolate. But I don’t mind. It is beautifully creamy, the creamiest hot chocolate I think I have ever had. “It’s the milk” the barista told me the first day we went. The milk comes from Mill King, a family run farm in Waco Texas that produces low temperature pasturized non-homogenized milk from a range of happy, grass fed Holsteins, Brown Swiss and Jersey cows.
We have now been to Mercantile for a hot chocolate and almond croissant easily dozens of times. Every time they have different staff working. At this rate it will take over 100 visits before any of them notice we are regulars! Each one prepares my hot chocolate slightly differently too. Some will give it a quick squeeze of a magical homemade vanilla syrup they have, not a lot, but just enough to make a difference. Sometimes it has a bit more chocolate, other times a little less. The hot chocolate tastes best on a cool (by Houston standards) morning, sitting outside on one of the chairs early before the Rice Village shoppers arrive.
Verdict: Mercantile is a great little spot and I think once it is filled up a bit more and possibly maybe also has a few tables and chairs inside to enjoy drinks it will be full, all the time. My only request, maybe a second hot chocolate on the menu? A rich and chocolately one? Houston (and I) need that. Mercantile, 54-7 Morningside Dr, Houston, TX, USA