Badass Butchery, Grilled Pizzas + Sorta South American Eats Upcoming at Mercy Me

Mercy Me, an all-day café, restaurant and bar from Call Your Mother + Timber Pizza creators Andrew Dana + Daniela Moreira is opening in the West End in Spring 2020. In the café, Call Your Mother bagels will be offered in simple or sandwich form, a new grilled, Roman-style pizza is debuting, and a menu of smoothie bowls and salads is upcoming. In the restaurant, Executive Chef Johanna Hellrigl is masterminding a culinary program of ‘sorta South American’ eats, a highlight reel of which includes programs such as empanadas cooked to order using three different types of dough, an in-house butcher shop, and ingredients that significantly impact the communities creating them. “Our menu lives in that intersection of loving on the foods that grow in and define our community, while taking inspiration from crazy-beautiful South American flavors,” says Chef Hellrigl. “It’s a little from here, a little from there, and whatever we call it, our goal is just to make some delicious food from places that are special to us.”

Sort·a South A·mer·i·can (/ˈsôrdə/ /ˌsouTH əˈmerək(ə)n): “It’s the food we just want to eat all the time,” says partner Andrew Dana. “But some of it has a little South American thing going on, some of it doesn’t,” he adds.

A preview of the track list:
The OG of Handpies: Mercy Me’s empanada game is strong, utilizing several varieties of both traditional and non-traditional types of dough to suit different fillings. Examples include a juicy braised oxtail baked in a beef tallow dough. There is also a melted colby cheese with an onion & bell pepper sofrito inside crispy thin layers of sfogliatelle dough and a vegan/gluten-free plantain & eggplant boronia mash in an achiote corn masa dough.

Grilled Pizzas: The café at Mercy Me will offer rotating selections of thick, crispy bottomed, topping-laden slices of grilled, Roman-style pizza. Served up on sheet pans, the new recipe is a collab between Moreira and Hellrigl, and uses a three-day fermented dough that is piled up with funky toppings (insert Mercy Me’s homemade habanero honey, a homemade crumbly chorizo and peach palm drizzle, to exemplify) and served by crisp and deliciously charred slice.

In-House Butchery Shop: Mercy Me is bucking the tradition of butchery as a brawny boys’ club with a full in-house butchery program. Chef Hellrigl and butcher Matt Levere will lug whole sides of pork, as well as dry and wet-aging 100+ lbs beef from APD Regenerative Farm in Warrenton, Virginia. Cuts are then grilled to order with Argentine rock salt and served with fresh sauces including a variety of chimichurris and colorful salsa varieties.

The DC BEC + Bagel Sandwiches: Yes, Washington. We do have a B.E.C, and it is really damn delicious. The café at Mercy Me will sell Call Your Mother bagels and offer rotating breakfast sandwich options. Owner Andrew Dana’s favorite: The B. E. C: A wood-fired everything bagel, fried egg, melty colby jack cheese and bacon. The smoked salmon with criolla is looking pretty awesome, as well.

Pot Pie: A steaming savory pot pie is the culinary equivalent of a warm blanket. While the origins of the pot pie lie in ancient Greece there have been few civilizations that didn’t love on the hearty dish. Mercy Me’s version hints from Suriname, and reveals poached chicken, malanga, lima beans, tomato-vermouth sauce under a sheath of housemade puff pastry and green mango relish.
Caribbean Life: The place where South America meets the Caribbean Sea is a delicious one, and the spirit of the region vibes at Mercy Me in dishes such as Coconut Rice Arancini {coconut rice arancini filled with braised conch and soaking up the sun in a sopa de mariscos seafood sauce} and grilled tamarind and panela glazed Paco fish ribs.

South American Culinary Cultural Collective: Chef Johanna has sourced several beautiful ingredients that have seldom hit tables in the US by developing a partnership with Culinary Cultural Connections, a collective that works to preserve cultural heritage and strengthen economic opportunity and security for small producers through fair income generation. Founded by Greg Prang (an anthropologist working in sustainable development with artisanal fishing communities) Culinary Cultural Connections has experience in economic and community development, biodiversity conservation, and education to source products from Latin American communities and connect them with chefs around the world.

Mercy Me’s culinary program is led by Chef Johanna Hellrigl, with chefs de cuisine Jaclyn Beasley and Ian Whalley.

About Chef Johanna Hellrigl
Johanna Hellrigl started full-immersion culinary school at age 4. It was then that her father, Michelin Starred Italian chef and pioneer of South Tyrolean cuisine, Andreas Hellrigl passed away, leaving Johanna’s mother to operate Palio, their 110-employee restaurant in Manhattan’s Equitable building. Johanna began spending all of her time in the family’s restaurant. Her entertainment cutting vegetables with a rubber knife her father had gifted her, and her babysitters being the most talented chefs and pastry chefs in New York.

Chef Johanna spent her school years living between Europe and the United States, during which she developed a passion for international development and relations. Johanna led a model United Nations, started a panel on women’s rights and became fluent in four languages. This journey into international development was the path that led her to The George Washington University in Washington, DC, where she studied international affairs and women’s rights, before accepting a job with the Women’s Democracy Network. It was in the years working with the WDN, that Johanna founded the Women’s Democracy Network Latin America (WDNLA), a network that brought together 13 Latin American countries which we recognized were facing several similar issues. Women from Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Argentina and other countries gathered and gained empowerment via leadership skills and tools to strengthen, find and use their voices. “These women are the reason I felt that I could leave my NGO career trajectory and pursue culinary,” says Chef Johanna. “I trained women around the world to build their leadership skills and follow their dreams- it was time I followed mine. Food was what always brought us together and they are so proud that their cuisines will be represented at Mercy Me.”
Chef Johanna’s early and heartfelt beginnings in the culinary industry, passion for global flavors and respect for the power of food to drive connection intertwine serendipitously to touch every part of the culinary program at Mercy Me.

Mercy Me is a full-service restaurant, counter-service café, 23-seat bar situated around a living room-esque dining room housing plush sofa and ottoman seating in the 6200 sq. ft. space. A mid-March opening is projected, and Mercy Me is located at 1143 New Hampshire Avenue, NW. Follow @MercyMe.DC on Instagram.