Homer is known for its eclectic mix of eating establishments, some of which have changed hands and menus many times over the years. One popular café that is now offering its customers a taste of Louisiana home cooking.
The arrow on a new sandwich board sign at the corner of Main Street and the Sterling Highway points downhill and the sign reads "Mermaid Café, Cajun Food, Sausage." The new proprietor, Jeff Lockwood was born and raised in Louisiana, and sausage is one reason why he got into the food business.
"A lot of it was not being able to find any decent sausage to put into gumbo," said Lockwood. "Every time I would make gumbo ... it wasn't right. So I just started messing around with it."
He first learned to cook out of necessity.
"After I left home, I realized that not everybody in the world is as good a cook as my mom so I had to learn how to cook," he said.
"Monkey’s Fist Sausage" became his name brand. It’s used in many of the dishes, and four kinds of sausages are sold at the Mermaid.
After working as a commercial halibut fisherman for many years, Lockwood began looking at other options. In early January, the café became available for lease, so he and his wife Kelly decided to take it on.
Customers chow down on menu items like Red Beans and Rice, White Beans and Garlic Sausage, and Chicken Gumbo. Fresh bread or wedges of traditional cornbread baked in a round cast iron skillet accompany various dishes.
The Mermaid Café is connected to the Old Inlet Bookshop, first established in1997 by owner Andy Wills. He relocated the bookshop to its present location in 2004. About a year later Wills opened the restaurant in the same complex plus a Bed and Breakfast upstairs.
Wills says over the years, managers of the Mermaid Café have taken various approaches.
"We're liking this one," he said. "It's kind of what we were aiming for ... the kind of place where you feel comfortable and can meet friends."
The Mermaid Café is open Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.