IMG_4217The modest facade doesn’t prepare you for the wonders of Mercado.

IMG_4196We started with the cream of lobster, Tuesday’s soup of the day.  Not what you would expect from an upscale Mexican restaurant.

Chef Jose Acevedo  was raised in Guanajuato.  Travels throughout Mexico  shaped his perspective on traditional Mexican food. He made his first carnitas at age seven.   “I can make them in my sleep,” says Chef Acevado.   
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Co-owner Jesse Gomez grew up in the business.  His family brought the food of Queretaro, Mexico to Los Angeles in 1964 at their restaurant El Arco Iris.

IMG_4202Eclectic modern styling features substantial rough- hewn tables, amber lighting and sleek black panels.  The high-top rectangles serving ten and low tables for two allowed  intimacy and community.

Great ingredients in the right hands made for a memorable meal.  

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Here’s our top ten for Mercado:

1. Mercado Margarita:  100% agave silver tequila, triple sec, fresh sour.  

2. New Fashioned: smokey mescal , cane syrup, Mexican bitters. A clever take on the Old.

3. Cream of Lobster  Soup: blissful fresh lobster, onions, potatoes in rich cream. 

4. Guacamole: Haas avocado, Serrano chile, cilantro, red onion, chunky chile de arbol salsa, spicy pepitas  and fresh chips.

IMG_42015. Ceviche Tropical: a piquant combination of citrus-marinated white fish & shrimp, mango, avocado, jicama, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, red pepper, served on grilled pineapple slice, with grilled shrimp atop. Served traditionally with saltines. 

6. Kale salad: a tasty mix of kale, arugula, candied pumpkin seeds, queso fresco, dried strawberries, agave lime vinaigrette, and cotija pesto IMG_4207croutons. 

7. Elote Callejero: incredible grilled sweet corn, caramelized onions, chile piquin butter, and queso cotija.

8. Handmade tortillas: these were the simply best we’ve ever eaten.

IMG_42089. The Signature Carnitas: Chef Jose’s slow-cooked natural pork, guacamole, chile de arbol salsa, cauliflower with escabeche: from an old family recipe. 

10. Flan: the richest custard and caramel.  “Even those who dislike flan like this,”  said our server.  My mate, formerly not a flan fan, strongly agreed.

After opening a restaurant together eight years ago, Jesse Gomez and Chef Jose Acevedo became friends.  They’ve linked their passions and their roots in Mercado. The partners spoke with anticipation of another IMG_4205Mercado to open near the Grove in L.A. in several months. It will be more than twice the size of this restaurant.

We  look forward to more of the authenticity, great tastes, and vibe.

Mercado Santa Monica: 1416 Fourth Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401; www.mercadosantamonica.com