Wet Your Whistle

Belly up at a popular bar-and-eatery for a tip-top tap selection and a just-like-mom-used-to-make menu.

For years, Tim Murlick drew in crowds to Saginaw-area businesses as a trivia-game emcee. “I brought in between 70 and 80 people [to play trivia at various establishments],” he says. Two years ago, Murlick decided to bring patrons to his business, so he purchased the former Smokey’s Bar in Carrollton, rebuilding and re-opening it as Merl’s Tavern. Now, Murlick lures in a crowd to Merl’s for Saturday night and Sunday afternoon trivia contests that raise money for Carrollton schools and other worthy causes.

Games are just a small part of what goes on in the neighborhood bar and restaurant, which attracts a mix of sports fans, dart players, and families. With a fully stocked bar, a panini press, and a slow cooker, the enterprise has already racked up a few awards for its food and beverages.

Merl’s famous Coney dog, featuring a Koegel hot dog on a homemade bun with Murlick’s from-scratch Coney sauce and just the right amount of crisp onions, won a first-place prize from a WNEM-TV5 poll. Bring $2 and your appetite for two Coneys and a bag of chips, or try a twist on the classic dish with a plate of Coney nachos.

If you’re not in the mood for a hot dog, Mexican fare, salads, sandwiches, and homemade soups are in plentiful supply, too. The from-scratch soups are crowd-pleasers, and rotating flavors include hearty potato-ham, chicken-and-dumpling, and broccoli-cheese. Another must-have for many patrons is the French dip sub, loaded with melted cheese and succulent roast beef, accompanied with a steaming hot dish of au jus for dipping, often on special for $7. The grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich is a popular choice for families who come in with little diners.

Other fan favorites, and top $6 picks of Murlick, include the tostada meal—two tostadas topped with beans, seasoned meat, cheese, and fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion—and the Who Dat, a New Orleans-inspired sandwich that’s stacked high with sliced ham, Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, and a spicy bistro sauce straight from Bourbon Street.

There are plenty of award-winning beverage choices to accompany any meal, too. An MLive poll ranked Merl’s bloody mary eighth in the state, and the Moscow mule garnered a No. 10 spot. A $5 combination of vodka, ginger beer, and lime served in a copper mug, this chilled delight lives up to the hype that “nobody makes a better mule than Merl’s.” The bar also has everything from craft beers, such as vanilla porter and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, to old-time favorites, including Bush Light and Pabst Blue Ribbon, on tap.

Merl’s Tavern, 304 Shattuck Rd, Carrollton, 989-751-5140, Hours: Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. (kitchen closes at 10 p.m.), Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. (kitchen closes at 12 a.m.), and Sunday, 12 – 10 p.m.

Photos By: Doug Julian