Metro-East Living

Columbia’s Merz on Main: Customers keep coming back

Steve Merz, in photo, and his wife Linda are owners of Merz on Main in downtown Columbia. They celebrated two years in business Oct. 1 in a location that has for decades been a restaurant and bar.
Steve Merz, in photo, and his wife Linda are owners of Merz on Main in downtown Columbia. They celebrated two years in business Oct. 1 in a location that has for decades been a restaurant and bar. tvizer@bnd.com

It was two years ago that high-school sweethearts Steve and Linda Merz got to do what they had talked about for a long time.

“I worked for 27 years in the construction field and my wife and I talked about having something, a restaurant,” he said, looking around the interior of Merz on Main in downtown Columbia. Now, life revolves around daily lunch specials like liver and onions on a Thursday, chicken dinners on Sundays and something called the Seattle Dog, most recently a Tuesday highlight.

“It’s a 1-pound hot dog with cream cheese, sauerkraut and spicy mustard on it,” said Steve. He’s not sure where the idea came from, but “that cream cheese changes everything!”

Taking a moment, he visited with a customer and asked if he enjoyed that day’s lunch special: turkey and dressing. (All specials are $7.95.)

“I had two helpings myself,” Steve said with a chuckle. “I’ll probably go get a third.”

The menu includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“We sell 200 pounds of fish every Friday,” he said. Cod by the pound is $11. A catfish plate with two sides and two hush puppies is $11.25.

Saturday, it’s time to inhale and smell the barbecue wafting from the smoker out back as slow-cooked ribs, pork steaks and more are prepared. (A half-slab of babyback ribs with two sides is $12.75.) Sunday, it’s fried chicken, hand-breaded and cooked to order. You can get it to go, too, and the fish and chicken are on the daily menu as well.

200 Pounds of fish sold every Friday

20 Years Linda Merz has been selling Senorita Merz salsa

The Merzes aren’t new to the food business. Back in 1995, Linda started making salsa using vegetables from the small family farm. She was so good at it that 20 years later Schnucks, Dierberg’s and other bi-state stores carry Senorita Merz Slow-Simmered Salsa in a variety of flavors.

And when a longtime restaurant and bar closed on Main Street, Steve and Linda saw a new opportunity to serve the community.

There’s nothing fancy about the interior, with faux brick trim on the walls, hunter-green blinds, a modest-size bar and two dining areas. A separate area has a big-screen projector and is popular for meetings or a friendly game of bunko among the ladies. A Wii bowling league is set to begin on Wednesday night and Steve wants to rent out the space (for free with food purchase) for kids’ birthdays, with fun movies and bean bag chairs.

It’s a 1-pound hot dog with cream cheese, sauerkraut and spicy mustard on it ... “that cream cheese changes everything!

Steve Merz describes the Seattle Dog

He said the focus is on making everybody feel comfortable, from the guy who wants to come in after a shift and have a beer to the young family who wants to enjoy breakfast after church on Sunday.

“We see the same customers three times a day. I’d say 50 percent come in twice a day, maybe for coffee in the morning and then lunch.”

Merz on Main

  • “Columbia’s Main Street Pub”
  • Where: 210 S. Main St., Columbia
  • Serves: Breakfast, lunch and dinner with daily specials and takeout
  • Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily; kitchen closes at 8 p.m.
  • Handicapped accessible: Yes
  • Information: 618-281-9901 and www.merzonmain.com
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