Ruddy Wang's family took over the Castro Street space in the 1990s to open Chef Liu, with Mervyn's Lounge continuing independently in the back, per this detailed history from local restaurant watchdog Max Hauser. Chef Liu closed last summer and the Wang family took over Mervyn's Lounge.
Now, a new restaurant is open in the front, serving up Japanese-style burgers and bar snacks. Wang said the idea was to maintain the Mervyn's Lounge history, but spice things up in the kitchen.
"Mervyn's has always been known as a dive bar ? we're trying to differentiate ourselves among the other competitors on our street, (do) something that nobody else really has," he said.
At J Love, you can create your own burger. Patty choices include menchikatsu, a homemade blend of ground beef and pork pate with tonkatsu sauce and sliced cabbage, "deep fried till best condition" ($9.95); the same patty blend but with homemade meat sauce ($10.95); "kinpira beggie," chopped burdock root and carrot cooked in a sweet soy sauce ($10.95); fried fish filet with tartar sauce ($11.95); yakiniku, grilled beef with grilled onion ($11.95); and BBQ ginger pork with grilled onion ($11.95). Go for a brioche, rice (extra $1) or ramen-noodle bun (extra $1.50). All buns are stamped on the top with the letter "J" inside a heart. Toppings are $1 each and include avocado, cheese, a sunny side-up egg or sliced tomato.
Snacks include onion rings ($4.95), fish and chips ($10.95), chicken tenders ($9.95), shrimp fries ($10.95), agetako (deep-fried Japanese teriyaki ball), sweet potato fries ($4.95) and anchovy fries ($6.95).
Salads range from $6.95 to $9.95 and include the J Love salad (lettuce, avocado, croutons, parmesan cheese and tomato in a wasabi-mayo dressing), tofu salad (cold tofu, lettuce, sliced seaweed, tomato in a Japanese-style spicy sauce) and fried chicken salad (deep-fried boneless chicken with parmesan cheese, romaine lettuce, seaweed and tomato in a wasabi mayo dressing).
Go for lunch and snag a deal: $9.95 for a burger, fries, salad and drink.
"Our backbone has always been known as Mervyn's bar," Wang said. "(It has a) very long history. We wanted to keep it intact ? just a little bit of an extra twist in the front."