There's only one menu question at Merus Grill, and that's to clarify what exactly they mean by 'Not Your Ordinary' macaroni and cheese. Everything else is language we all know and understand from decoding menus over the past however many decades.
Merus Grill is the newest brand from Nashville-based J. Alexander's Holdings Inc., launching late last year in Uptown Park. It marks a return for J. Alexander's, who closed its namesake restaurant in early 2017. That joint was known for contemporary American in an upscale environment; Merus is very similar, touting a beef-aging program and fresh seafood, plus plenty of wine and cocktails, inside a large space with plenty of breathing room and group dining opportunities.
Needless to say, that's what was happening during my recent visit. In a dimly lit dining room, tables of at least four and up to eight were congregating over chops, big fish dishes, massive salads, and constantly filled wine glasses. In this sense, Merus feels right for parties where the guests have varied tastes. Everyone can get behind something with this menu.
Plus, the food seems to be well executed.
Consider the steak burger—ground tenderloin and ribeye paired with cheddar, grilled onions, thousand island dressing and ample arugula, all on a very soft bun (plus a side of shoestring fries). I'm not about to call it one of my very favorite burgers in the city, but everything works well together. The bun choice is perfect, and the arugula sharpens the bite just enough without taking away from the perfectly-cooked meat.
Then there's redfish fillet atop an absolute mound of rice mixed in with some tangy cream sauce. A second hill of fine-chopped coleslaw completes this enormous dish, great as a single order for two. Nothing about the recipe will blow your mind, but you'll feel like you got your money's worth with good flavor.
There are some small leaps, like the avocado bomb starter, where tuna, crab salad, and sauces are stuffed into an avocado and served with tortilla chips. I'd eat this over guacamole any day.
And desserts include well-known fare like crème brûlée (pretty good) and carrot cake (warm, moist, and reminiscent of a fall day). All very nice.
Nothing at Merus Grill is overpriced, a blessing but also a note for hardcore carnivores. There's a 10-ounce (certified Angus) filet mignon on the menu for $36. With that price, that piece of steak probably won't melt in your mouth, but it does come with a baked potato and vegetable. OK, maybe stick to the steak burger.
So, expect to know what you're getting at Merus Grill. Oh, wait ... what about that 'Not Your Ordinary' mac and cheese?
It's baked with a panko topping. My point stands. But again, also good!