Bäco Mercat | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Bäco Mercat

photo by Anne Fishbein

Among the myriad emotional comforts our city has to offer, one of the most crucial to us is the knowledge that you can drop in to Bäco Mercat on any given day (at midday or dinnertime), plonk yourself at the bar and partake in the bright, soulful cooking of Josef Centeno. Centeno has basically laid claim to this couple of historic blocks, with Bar Amá around the corner, Orsa & Winston next door to that, and now Ledlow (né Pete’s) taking up the space beside Bäco. But Bäco Mercat stands resplendent as Centeno’s original vision for what downtown needed: a place that reinvented the sandwich (or is it a taco? A wrap?) in the form of a bäco, a flatbread/pita arrangement that smooshes soft bread with tangy sauce with meaty meat, whether it be beef tongue schnitzel or oxtail hash. The rest of the menu darts all over the globe, and reveals more about Centeno’s point of view than it adheres to any particular trend or style. Hamachi crudo with Abkhazian chile spice is tangy, fresh and pert; vegetable dishes such as sugar snap pea and pear salad with grapefruit and burrata remain utterly original in the face of an onslaught of derivative vegetable arrangements elsewhere. Be it a smoky romesco on a veggie-driven flat bread or a whole roasted chicken with saffron honey, something at Bäco Mercat will get you, and get you good. How comforting.— Besha Rodell