Sunday, February 1, 2015

Fluent in Carnitas

Santa Monica's new cocina, Mercado

As a general rule, any night you pick up a couple of gringas is a good night.

But as a general rule, the gringas at Mercado don't wear heels or cartoonishly red lipstick. They wear onions and tortillas.

We're talking two drop-dead gorgeous flour tortillas encasing Dos Gringas: queso Oaxaca folded over pastor, onions and chile de arbol and avocado salsa.

Make that gorge-ous, because the menu gets even better from there, sourced from Jesse Gomez’s (Yxta, El Arco Iris) visits to authentic Mexican markets.

Start with the Nopalitos (sautéed cactus paddles) or affix the TGI prefix to any day of the week with the homemade sopa del dia

Chef Jose’s slow-cooked natural pork is the marquee dish — with guacamole, chile de arbol salsa, and cauliflower — though the carne asada with Niman Ranch marinated skirt steak is no slouch.

Ask the bartender to recommend a sipping tequila: they’re all small batch and selected carefully. Necesitas un mixer? The Mezcal Mojito doubles as a breath mint.

Just in case you find more gringas.

1416 4th St. (Santa Monica Blvd.), Santa Monica
(310) 526-7121

Prices: 3 (out of 4) Noise: 3 (out of 4)
Parking: Free lots, metered street
Scene: Flacas; Santa Monica tequila connoisseurs; Happy Hour sophisticates
Best bets: Carnitas, DeLeon extra añejo served neat
Hot seat: At the bar or the round table upstairs in the “tequila library,” slated to open in June
Nearby: 3rd Street Promenade; Hotel Shangri-La; Santa Monica Pier

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