Bon Appetit was right on when it named Baco Mercat one of America's top 10 best new restaurants of 2012. In fact, it was well worth the drive from Santa Monica in rush hour traffic one Friday night to get to the restaurant in what felt like a deserted area of town.
First and foremost, the food at Baco Mercat is fantastic. Unique and creative, even adventurous, but always outstanding. To start off, the namesake baco is a must. A baco is a type of sandwich made on flatbread and folded in half. It's served in a bowl, probably to make sure you don't lose a drip of what deliciousness might fall out of it. We had the beef tongue schnitzel baco and it was amazing although I wish I had also tried "the original" made with carnitas as it looked like everyone else in the restaurant was having one. Best part might be that a baco is small enough that you can still get a few other dishes along with one. And that's good because the vegetable options are amazing too - stuffed squash blossoms, grilled peaches (yes, I know peaches are a fruit, but they are in the vege section of the menu), ceasar brussel sprouts, pickled eggplant salad. We had no room for it, but had to try the wild boar pasta which was, again, fantastic. And then there is dessert. Homemade dessert, which means a 15 minute wait for fresh pineapple upside down cake and yes, as you can probably guess, it was well work the wait.
Don't miss the drinks either. What sets them apart is their originality. Here at Baco Mercat, many cocktails include an ingredient called "shrub", a vinegar-based flavor that usually takes the place of bitters or juice keeping drinks from being overly sweet by adding a splash of sour. Some flavors you'll find in the shrubs at Baco Mercat include celery seed, ginger and oro blanco. Plus, you may find that your favorite cocktail is available "barrel-aged" which means it's been sitting in a barrel for three or more days getting even better. And if you aren't in the mood for an alcoholic drink, you'll find a great selection of homemade sodas with just as unique flavors.
Finally, we also love the atmosphere and attention to every single detail in the place. It's rumored that the owner and chef, Josef Centeno, washes the windows himself. And they are very big windows. But he also picks the chairs, decor and lighting which are all perfectly chosen to set a cool, but casual scene. It's a place you could spend a lot of time, comfortably, working your way through an extensive menu and never wanting to leave.
Don't just take our word for it, here are a few other reviews of Baco Mercat:
- LA Times Blog: Baco Mercat's Bazole landed at #91 on their top 100 dishes of the year.
- LA Weekly Review: So many dishes are described in this article that my mouth literally started watering as I read it and my mind hollered "book a flight to LA, now".
If you are lucky enough to get to LA and try out Baco Mercat for yourself, let us know your favorite dish. Bon appetit!
Baco Mercat, 408 South Main Street, Los Angeles, CA, 213-687-8808, bacomercat.com
UPDATE (February 2013) - We rated Baco Mercat as our favorite meal in 2012. All the details and the rest of the list are here - http://30somethingtravel.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/best-meals-of-2012.html.