The team behind Call Your Mother and Timber Pizza were on the verge of opening their most ambitious project yet when Covid-19 hit: Mercy Me, a “sorta South American” cafe, tropical bar, and full-service restaurant in Foggy Bottom’s Yours Truly hotel. Nearly three months later, they’re ready to debut an “edited version,” per co-owner Andrew Dana. The cafe opened today for all-day breakfast and lunch (takeout only for now). All proceeds from Thursday and Friday sales will be donated to Black Lives Matter DC.
A team of young, talented female chefs is at the helm. CYM/Timber co-owner chef Daniela Moreira partnered with former Doi Moi head chef Johanna Hellrigl for the restaurant, while Pluma pastry chef Camila Arango is behind the cafe’s South American pastries. A covered display case boasts medialunas (Argentina’s answer to croissants), guava vigilantes, cinnamon sugar-dusted Brazilian doughnut holes, and pineapple empanadas.
Breakfast runs all day, including Austin-inspired breakfast tacos made on Hellrigl’s homemade tortillas—a 50/50 blend of corn and flour. Classics include a “BEC” (bacon-egg-and-cheese) with crispy potatoes or a vegetarian option with scrambled eggs, poached sweet corn, and tomato sofrito. Both come with Venezuelan-style avocado salsa and house habanero hot sauce. Also, being a Call Your Mother production, there are South American spins on bagel sandwiches like lox with chimichurri cream cheese and salsa criolla.
While full-service dinner is on hold, you can still get a taste of South American parrilla through a selection of grilled pizzas. The fermented dough marries Hellrigl’s Italian heritage in its Roman style (think square and thin-ish) with the smoky flavors of Moreira’s native Argentina. Toppings run the gamut from simple tomato-basil-mozzarella to a pie decked out with chorizo, tomato sauce, pickled peppers, mozzarella, provolone, and a drizzle of habanero honey. Customers can opt for square slices or pizza by the quarter sheet.
Drinks in the cafe, open 8 AM to 4 PM, include Ceremony coffees, kombucha, and frozen coffee coladas. Chaplin and Zeppelin barman Micah Wilder—who’s also Hellrigl’s husband and a partner in the business—has a creative lineup of tropical cocktails ready to launch soon. We’re particularly excited for a Fernet-cola slushee and “kick ass” [pina] colada with toasted coconut. The team plans to roll out various offerings in phases to help the staff and customers with new safety measures. A small front patio and large, rear courtyard will open soon, and there are plans for a walk-up window with warm weather treats like cups of ceviche or soft-serve.
Mercy Me is the second Covid-era opening for Dana and Moreira, who debuted a Barracks Row location of Call Your Mother in April. Dana, who is from DC, says he and the team are particularly sensitive about the timing of this debut with the local and national focus on both the pandemic and protests surrounding George Floyd‘s death and racial injustice. In addition to donating proceeds to Black Lives Matter DC, the team has provided free food to demonstrators and is in the midst of additional racial sensitivity and deescalation training for staff.
“We were marching this past weekend. We’re absolutely inspired by the movement, the protests, and we don’t want to take anything away from that,” says Dana. “If we can bring a little joy while not taking away from the moment, that will be a win.”
Mercy Me. Soft opening hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 8 AM to 4 PM. Order online or in person for takeout.