Have Mercy's Southern vibe wins over Edmonton AM food critic Twyla Campbell

Tacky, trashy and tasty — it's a winning combination at a new Southern U.S.-themed bar and restaurant in Old Strathcona, Edmonton AM food critic Twyla Campbell says.

Have Mercy a honky-tonk on par with those in the Deep South

Edmonton AM food critic Twyla Campbell called these shrimp and grits a highlight of her recent trip to Have Mercy, a new restaurant and bar just off Whyte Avenue. (Facebook/Have Mercy)

Tacky, trashy and tasty — it's a winning combination at a new Southern U.S.-themed bar and restaurant in Old Strathcona, Edmonton AM food critic Twyla Campbell says. 

At Have Mercy, located just above El Cortez at 8232 Gateway Boulevard, you get a hint of what's to come before you even take a seat.

"You kind of feel like you're in this gritty honky-tonk in a slightly seedy part of a southern American city, and that is a very good thing," Campbell says.

A steep set of stairs lead into the bar, which officially opened July 4. Patrons are met by exactly what you'd expect in a dingy Dixie bar — the walls are coated in peeling blue paint and low-hanging, mismatched lightbulbs and neon lights lend the perfect, dim glow.

And don't get Campbell started on the washrooms, particularly the wallpaper.

"It's so gaudy it's perfect," she says.

Have Mercy has nightly food and wine features, and music ranges from an Elvis impersonator every Tuesday night, to karaoke, blues, country and rock throughout the week.

And the menu? In a nutshell, goodbye, diet.

'This is sort of trashy food, and they're OK with that'

"This menu is a really good representation of what you would find on the back roads of the Deep South," Campbell says. "You'll find fried green tomatoes, fried chicken, collards, ribs, cheese dip, shrimp and grits."

Campbell couldn't wait to tuck into the fried green tomatoes, cut thick with andouille gravy and a shrimp on each tomato. It was hot, saucy, and savoury, and if you're going to try only one dish, Campbell says this is the one to order.

The Frito pie she tried next was basically a bag of crushed Frito Lay corn chips nestled under a bed of pulled pork, cheese and ranch dip.

"This is sort of trashy food, and they're OK with that," Campbell says.

The fried chicken came with two juicy, crispy, salty pieces, and a doughnut on the side — because, why not? The "ridiculous" combination was a home run with Campbell.

This menu is a really good representation ofwhat you would find on the back roads of the Deep South.- Twyla Campbell, food critic

The ribs with collard greens were tasty, Campbell says, especially the rub on the meat. But the meat itself could use some work and the collards were a bit too tangy.

"That meat just needed some extra loving. It was a bit tough, could have used more smokiness," she says. "I really like the collards. They were pretty good other than being overdosed with too much lemon juice at the end."

Campbell's favourite dish was the shrimp and grits. You get a heaping helping of grits, which she says were "fantastic." They had lots of cheese, were very creamy, and had a perfect hint of salt. The dish is topped with shrimp, tomatoes and andouille gravy.

Have room for dessert? Campbell says she can't imagine how you would, but the restaurant offers a buttermilk pie with strawberries and ice cream, and a pecan pie from Edmonton's Portuguese Canadian Bakery

There's plenty of booze in the house to wash down the heavy food — Have Mercy serves more than two dozen kinds of bourbon and a dozen other whiskies, as well as half a dozen draught beers, including offerings from Old Strathcona's Situation Brewing.

Campbell was also impressed with the cocktail list, which is —you guessed it — heavy on the bourbon, but the wine selection is slim.

"Have Mercy is fun," Campbell says. "It is totally gritty. That food is soul food, and good drinks and lots of them. And that setting is a 10 out of 10."

You can hear Campbell's reviews on Edmonton AM every second Friday. You can also see more of her reviews on her blog, Weird Wild and Wonderful, and can follow her on Twitter at @wanderwoman10.