My Quest to Find the Best Eateries in Los Angeles
As Arnold Schwarzenegger put it, oh so many years ago – I’ll be back. Yes, I will indeed be coming back to Josef Centeno’s Baco Mercat restaurant, located in the old bank district of downtown Los Angeles. I got there for lunch, but will be returning before long for dinner. No doubt.
Bäco Mercat literally translates into “baco market”, and is pronounced “baco (like the word taco) mer-kot”. So, what is a bäco? Well, it is a flat, pita-like bread resembling – oddly enough – a giant taco. Its original use was in a sort-of fluffy sandwich form, to which Centeno added crispy pork belly and beef carnitas with caraway pepper, creating the original bäco sandwich which became a signature dish.
The restaurant opened in 2011. It has since become quite a sensation, raking in praise from all sorts of publications. Bon Appetit and Esquire named it one of the best new restaurants of 2012. LA Weekly even included it on its list of top 10 sandwiches in Los Angeles.
The menu is very eclectic, drawing inspiration from both East and West. Bäco Mercat caters to meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, and you will be able to find a variety of both meat- and vegetable-based dishes. If the original bäco sandwich – complete with AMAZING sauce, juicy pork, beef carnitas, and pepper – doesn’t do it for you, the eggplant dishes are a must try.
The portions are very much tapas style, which gives you the opportunity to order several different dishes, and taste them all. You will definitely want to do that, since there is so much to choose from. Bäco Mercat is open 7 days a week, and serves brunch, lunch, and dinner. The staff loves to use local produce in their cooking, so the menu changes with the Southern California seasons. They take great care to use only the finest ingredients, and work with producers who treat their animals in a humane manner, bringing them up with no BGH or other antibodies.
Baco Mercat reservations are as such, for larger parties, of 6-10 people, family style sitting is mandatory, and a separate menu is provided. Furthermore, reservations for larger parties must be made a week in advance. For groups under 6 people, there is the option of either reserving a table or simply walking in. Making reservations is recommended, of course, and can be done either online or over the phone (213.687.7000, 11 AM – 5 PM).
When I got there for lunch it was still relatively early, so there weren’t too many people. It is a small place, and I could tell it would fill up before long. We were seated immediately and chose to sit outside, to enjoy the midday air.
Understandable. After all, Bäco Mercat really is very cool, and not just because some arty-fartsy magazine says so. It’s an intimate eatery with an original concept, unique bar, and delicious mixtures of tastes and scents that will fill you up and leave you wanting more. It’s the kind of restaurant which anyone can appreciate, from the foodophiles and fine dining enthusiasts to your everyday Angelino.
Make sure to check out our Lucques restaurant review!