Little Tokyo’s new cocktail bar is a breath of fresh air—of the salt-air variety. Starting next Monday, The Mermaid is bringing nautical-themed drinks, boozy snow cones and tropical bites to Honda Plaza (2nd St and Central Ave), and it’s putting women to the front in the process.
Owned and operated by Arelene Roldan—formerly of Bar One Tap Room—and Katie Kildow, a Verdugo Bar vet, the new 50-seat spot aims to be the neighborhood’s breezy, seaside-inspired hideaway with a focus on inclusion, female distillers and drinks that don’t sacrifice quality for color.
The drinks come fruity, herbaceous and fun, but don’t call it a tiki bar; you’re just as likely to find rummy punches—like the Captain’s Punchbowl, made with Real McCoy 3-Year rum, orgeat, fresh lime, falernum, mint and allspice dram—as you are refined and more straightforward (but still-cheeky) concoctions like the Drink Your Vegetables, a martini take made of dry gin, dry vermouth, celery bitters, house pickle brine and a skewer of pickled veggies. What’s more, a number of the spirits in these drinks are either made by women or come from female-fronted liquor companies, to help support and highlight more women in a fairly male-dominated industry.
“It’s exciting to find ourselves building a team of creative and like-minded women who want to create a cozy, neighborhood bar that could serve as both a good time and a gathering place for the community,” Roldan says in a statement.
The vibe is cozy, indeed, warming up the former Tapas and Wine Bar C space with rich wood accents like an entirely new bar top. Subdued palm wallpaper, occasional maritime trinkets and a porthole window—complete with digital swimming mermaid—keep the aquatic theme strong without going, well, overboard. In the future, the team hopes to fill the space with guest bartender events, burlesque performances, loteria nights, trivia and other programming.
Once all the punch bowls and snow cones have you feeling peckish, seafood- and island-inspired snacks should do the trick with shrimp salad, pineapple pork, carnitas jackfruit, and braised brisket all served on buttered Hawaiian rolls. For more nosh, there’s nori guacamole, hearts of palm ceviche, house-pickled eggs, tater tot poutine, tropical Chex Mix and the option of tangy chicken wings. For night owls, the bar’s even serving a 9pm-to-midnight late-night handful of hot dogs, queso with chips, and bowls of seasoned popcorn.
Take a peek inside here, then stop by Honda Plaza next week for rum punch in person:
Shrimp rolls on Hawaiian buns
The Drink Your Vegetables cocktail with a side of tropical Check Mix
The Mermaid opens Monday, August 13, in Honda Plaza at 428 E 2nd St, with hours of 5pm to 2am daily.