Looking for an exciting, high quality restaurant to enjoy with your family and friends? Bäco Mercat is the place to go. In the heart of downtown Los Angles, you’ll find that the Baco Mercat menu has something for everybody. Experience a little bit of culture with your food. Whether you’re in the mood of a simple spaghetti and meatballs, or an adventurous fusion dish, your taste buds are in for an exciting surprise.
Bring Me Back A Baco
I currently live in downtown LA, and if I’m being completely honest, I always found myself passing this restaurant, but never found the time to actually go in. I spent a lot of my time in the area but didn’t get a chance to look around and explore. I’d heard and read so many positive things about this exotic looking place that I finally decided it was high time to check it out. So off to Baco Mercat Restaurant it was!
Baco Mercat Reservations
Bäco Mercat LA is a restaurant that is welcoming to everyone. If you want to make a reservation, you can do so online or by phone, it’s as simple as that. In Baco Mercat reservations for parties of six or less must be made online. You can call over the phone between the hours of 11am – 5pm. If no reservations are open, there is no need to worry! They have twelve bar seats and ten patio tables that have walk-in availability.
So… where IS it at?
If you’re a person who likes the vibes of the restaurants in downtown LA, then you’ll love everything that Bäco Mercat has going on. The restaurant is located on South Main Street in Los Angeles CA, in the historic Old Bank District.
Its central location makes it accessible no matter where you are. Parking is usually available on the street, but make sure to get there early enough to park close. Don’t have a car? Not a problem. Almost all of the main bus lines pass through South Main Street.
If you find yourself looking for things to do aside from eating, you’ll find great attractions in the surrounding areas such as: the LA fashion district, Lincoln Park, Los Angeles city hall, St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, and the The United States Court House. The weather downtown is always nice and consistently warm, even at night! Most stores in the area are open until the early morning hours due to its young and up-coming population.
Cooking Up A Storm: Josef Centeno
Owner and Chef Josef Centeno, opened Bäco Mercat in 2011. He studied at the Culinary Institute of America. His career started in New York, where he worked at Daniel, La Côte Basque and Les Célébrités. He also served as the executive chef at Meson G and Opus in Los Angeles and previously, the chef de cuisine at Manresa in Los Gatos, California. Josef and Bäco Mercat have been in the L.A. Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Food & Wine and Bon Appetit, to name a few. He also has been nominated for the prestigious James Beard award.
There’s No I in Team
Although Josef is undeniably the main reason that the restaurant remains so popular, it goes without saying that the team of managers and chefs contribute to the picture as well. Where would this place be without them?
Andy Villaluna, the chef de cuisine, was born and raised in Southern California and attended Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute in Pasadena. After his graduation, he worked at Boa Santa Monicain a variety of roles, eventually working his way up in the kitchen ranks to become chef de cuisine. In 2010, he worked alongside Josef as sous chef at the Lazy Ox Canteen and later contributed to the opening of Bäco Mercat in 2011.
Under the Head chef you’ll find 3 different sous chefs. Adam Tullouch, Anna Lagura, and Hannes Hedberg.
I generally classify myself as one of those people who couldn’t find a brick wall if one of its bricks had a change of heart and decided to leave its place amongst it’s, whether his or hers, brick friends, and fall directly into my own personal exterior facade. Well when I was trying to find Baco Mercat in the Old Bank District, even I was able to notice a clearly outlined tall storefront, which helped me find the place. The outer wall of the store is all window. Even before I had walked inside, I was able to get a feel of what it was all about inside. I noticed immediately that there was a lot of architectural character.
The first thing that I discerned upon entering, was the seating diversity. The restaurant is divided into several main parts. On one side they have tables for those who want to sit down to a full meal. The other side was more of a bar setting for people who are looking to grab a quick bite and leave, in fact, the locals lovingly refer to the restaurant as either bar mercat or bar baco. Although the bar had a different feel, the presentation and layout of the place settings were no different than those at the tables.
They have outdoor seating as well. However; due to the weather on that particular day, I chose to sit inside. The outside seating is beautiful and quiet which makes it a great option for anyone looking to avoid the noise of a busy day.
The brick walls and wooden floors, give the restaurant a cool and vintage look. I found the decors beauty lay mostly in its simplicity. There is also a large, rather beautiful, mirror with the Baco logo in the dining room that’s pretty hard to miss. Most of the tables and chairs are made from wood, which contributes to the rustic, and homey style that Baco Mercat has going on. Each table has brown paper placed underneath the place setting, which definitely goes along with the whole retro feeling.
Baco Mercat Menu?
On the menu I noticed that the food had many influences. Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern, Italian, Asian and Spanish – composed together to make amazing dishes that reflect the diversity. I was pleasantly surprised to read the menu and see some exciting ingredients from different parts of the world, particularly some from the middle east: lebni, soujouk, etc. If you pointed a dart at the menu you couldn’t miss. The menu consists of small tapas and large plates with a modern east-meets-west Spanish Mediterranean Cuisine.
The one-page menu has more than a dozen small plates and about the same number of bigger ones. Some people might not be able to tell apart the big dishes from the small, but if your smart you’ll look at the prices and figure it out.
Bäco Mercat is known to be the home of the “bäco,” the signature flatbread sandwich that was developed by Chef Josef Centeno.
The bäco bread is served in its original sandwich form, but is also rolled thin and baked crispy with toppings. This inspiration is taken from the Spanish version of a pizza called “coca.”
The menu spans Western- and Eastern-Mediterranean influences and continually changes with the seasons. They source their poultry, pork and beef from producers who raise their animals humanely with no growth hormones or antibiotics. You’ll find lots of vegetable dishes on the menu as well.
Ordering and Eating
I’m literally the worst at ordering. At every place I go to eat, I take at least a half an hour just staring at the menu and going back and forth figuring out what I should have. The waiters were patient as I took my time figuring out what I wanted. After my order was taken, I was surprised how fast I was able to get my food. It took about 25 minutes for everything that I ordered to be sitting at my table right in front of me.
The presentation was beautiful.
My appetizer – I ordered the Ricotta Fritters (saffron honey, lemon zest, dill,). At first glance, they kind of looked like little potato chunks, but they’re far from it. The saffron honey set my taste buds straight. It was just the right amount sweet to savory.
My entrée – I ordered a Coca (crispy or chewy flatbread) and the Slayer (baked bäco w/fried egg, pork belly, salmorejo, for only $19!) If you have Cocas and you want to add pork belly, bacon, sausage or spec it is an additional $5 which isn’t so bad at all for something that tasty. ‘The Slayer’ is like a huge yummy empanada. It was amazing! It was a calzone like morphing of the original baco, with pork/beef carnitas and salbitxada sauce. Supplemented with beef tongue schnitzel. Before I ordered I didn’t realize how big it would be. It’s definitely a big enough dish to share with other people, because I wasn’t able to finish it.
My dessert – I ordered the Upside down pineapple caramel cake, it was served with both fresh crème and ice cream. I had to wait a bit of time between my meal and desert but it was SO WORTH IT.
My cocktail – At first I didn’t know what to get because I wasn’t familiar with any of the drinks. I asked what was recommended and the waiter told me to get the Ginger Smash, which has gin, ginger, blackberries, lemon juice, and allspice dram. It was the perfect mixture to finish off my meal and I loved it!
With most successful restaurants, it’s common to feel that the staff is generally rushed with little to no patience. However, this was not the case at Bäco Mercat, every person who worked there contributed to the positive vibe of the restaurant. I was very impressed.
When I was a teenager I waited several restaurants around the world. Now, every time I go out to eat, the first thing I notice are the wait staff. My experience in the area helped me identify all the great things about the motivated and hardworking staff.
I found them to be happy, helpful, and friendly. They worked in a fast and efficient manner, which gave the place an overall good feeling. The waiters seemed to know exactly what it takes to run a smooth and productive operation.
My experience in a Nutshell
After everything that I’ve heard and read about Bäco Mercat, I have to admit that I was utterly impressed. It’s definitely one of the best restaurants in downtown Los Angeles. They have a smart urban setting and late-night hours, making the restaurant feel alive all season long.
I felt that the carefully thought out décor really added a lot to it’s mellow and chilled out atmosphere. An old building restored to glory, and repurposed with a fresh attitude. Downtown Los Angeles Epitomized.
The diverse seating was something that really appealed to me. It let’s me know that I can come and have a sit down meal or just grab a quick bite to eat. It serves as a huge plus and attracts people, giving off the impression that no matter what situation you are in, Baco Mercat in downtown LA fits the criteria you’re looking for.
Out of everything that I enjoyed there, what I was most excited about was the menu. The menu had so much to offer. Unlike most restaurants, Baco Mercat does not limit its customers to a specific type cuisine. It takes a variety of different foods from all over and lets the customer decide what they want, and how they like it. They live by the motto, “your food, your decision.”
Everything I ate there was amazing. They were extremely generous with the portions of their dishes. The food was cooked to perfection and presented in a brilliant way, making the food just a bit tastier. The Drinks were really creative to say the least. The bar tender worked flavors and combinations with a deftness you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a bar.
The staff was extremely helpful and attentive, which, believe it or not, contributed to my meal in a big way. They had a lot of patience for me. I can honestly say that it made my whole ordering process a lot less stressful than normal. Whenever I had a question about a dish they were able to tell me what I wanted to know and so much more.
I found my overall experience at Bäco Mercat to be a breath of fresh air. Delicious food, great prices, prime location, chilled out atmosphere, and most importantly, great service. Every minute I was there I was able to enjoy. I don’t think I could’ve asked for much more! I highly recommend this place to anyone and everyone looking for a fun, different, and tasty experience! Definitely makes my list of top restaurants in Los Angeles.
Make sure to check out our Lucques restaurant review!