Talking Business: Merkantile Cafe Serves Lunch in Downtown Longview | Local company


It’s hard to miss the new restaurant when entering The Merk.

The Merkantile Café juts out into the main atrium of the historic downtown Longview building with no storefront or suite number. Customers can look directly into the kitchen as Randy Burns, the cafe’s owner and operator, gathers orders and brings them to tables in the center of the building.

The cafe is open for lunch five days a week with a rotating selection of soups, sandwiches and rice bowls. On St. Patrick’s Day, the cafe sold out the daily special, an Irish beef stew made with a Washington-brewed dark beer, at 1 p.m.

“It helps when you walk into the building and you can feel it right away. I think that’s been a big key so far,” Burns said.

He’s worked in local restaurants for years, but Merk Café is his first attempt at ownership. He was one of the first kitchen staff at the Mill City Grill in Longview and the Michael Jordan Steakhouse at Ilani Casino in Ridgefield when they opened.

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Before he started cooking, Burns worked at the Reynolds Metals aluminum plant for years before the Longview plant closed in 2001. He used recycling money he received from the company to change industries, enroll in the Western Culinary Institute in Portland and go to Arizona. for his first restaurant job.

“I knew wherever I went in the country I could find a job,” Burns said. “I didn’t know I would end up at Longview.”

The pivot to opening his own business was a recent development. Burns said he heard about the space from The Merk in November. He had prepared the cafe to open on December 18. The restaurant has a part-time employee who works Wednesdays, but otherwise Burns runs the entire operation himself.

He makes many items by hand, from salad dressings to gluten-free oatmeal. Food options swing between several nationalities with Irish stews, Chinese-style pork belly and Mediterranean rice bowls co-existing on the menu.

Merkantile Café owner Randy Burns finishes a bowl of curry rice for a customer on March 17.

Brennen Kauffman

Much of the cafe menu is vegetarian or vegan. Burns is not vegan, but he knew vegan options were limited along Commerce Avenue and wanted to appeal to a wide range of consumers.

“I don’t go too far out of people’s comfort zones, but I like to stretch out a bit,” Burns said.

In the café’s first three months, Burns said he gained loyal customers from other businesses in The Merk and Longview town centre. Burns said he sees high demand throughout the week and Saturdays vary depending on what other events are going on.

Burns said once it gets to late spring and early summer, he could expand the hours to attract more customers on sunny days.


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