Friday rolled around and I wanted Mexican, but I didn’t want the two extremes of common Mexican restaurants: a really cheap hole in the wall/chain or a super over priced and overdone upscale establishments (such as the shitty dos caminos – hate that place). So, I did some research and stumbled upon some positive reviews of Mercadito Cantina in the East Village, and decided to make a reservation. Not knowing what to expect, I entered the place with trepidation but instantly was relieved by the fun, upretentious vibe, communal wooden benches (similar to Momofuku), and latin music drumming the background.
(Above image is just an example of the things they offer)
1. La Palomita (drink): This restaurant only serves beer, wine, and tequila so I decided to go with one of their many tequila concoctions. Served in a tall tumbler, this had grapefruit jarrito, lime, and epazote, and was perfectly sweet and salty. (5)
2. Cacahuate Salsa: grilled tomato salsa with a peanut finish: Have never tasted a salsa so interesting, more of a puree with a very distinct peanut buttery taste. Not necessarily what I would love to eat with chips, but worth a try for its originality (3).
3. Veracruzana Zalsa: A roasted tomato, bell pepper and pickled jalapeños with a great chunky, tomato-y texture and a smokey, earthy taste. Wish it had been a larger portion. (5)
4. Mole poblano Guacemole: The resto offers a variety of guacemoles, this one with pico de gallo, plantain, mole poblano, chile serrano. Hands down the best non traditional guac I have ever had – had chunks of plaintains to give it a subtle sweetness and a chile glaze that brought all of the ingredients together. Perfectly seasoned for the salty chips that accompanied it. (5)++
5. Estilo Baja Tacos: 2 tacos with crispy chunks of beer battered shrimp, roasted habanero and avocado cole slaw. Slightly skimpy on the shrimp, but crunchy salty combo tasted delicious (5).
6. Pescado Tacos: 2 tacos with sauteed chunks of buttery tilapia, chile poblano, tomatillo-garlic mojo. These tacos melted in my mouth and were perfectly seasoned. (5)
7. Pollo Tacos: Two tacos with tequila grilled chicken, corn pico de gallo and salsa verde. The corn pico de gallo is what made these interesting: huge pieces of corn kernels added a unique texture. Otherwise, next time will opt for something more different, as the chunks of chicken were nothing special. (3)
8. Green rice Casserole (Arroz Verde al horno): one of my fave dishes of the night. Piping green rice covered with crispy, melted manchego & oaxaca cheese. Addictive!!
9. Vegetarian black beans: meh….nothing special, a little watery and tasted canned, but no offense taken – how interesting can beans really be? (2)
You have to love tacos to enjoy this place, because there’s not much else in terms of main courses on the menu…but considering the variety of the tacos that they offer, this little yet vibrant Mexican joint is DEFINITELY worth the try – the vibe puts you in a good mood and the food is light enough to make it a perfect pre-Saturday nigh party din din. And they take resos!
I give it a 5!
Address: 172 ave. b (10th & 11th st.) and various locations