Review: Mercado, Santa Monica

What an inventive little Mexican food spot this is!

We’ve been twice to this place in the last six months, and we’ve loved the food and the ambience. Not to mention the awesome tequila drinks!

I would describe the restaurant as romantic and yet lively, and contemporary. It does get fairly packed on weekends so plan accordingly. They do offer carry out, if that works better.

This place is really close to Third Street Promenade, so I am sure it gets many tourists. It is also ranked #24 of 500 restaurants in that area. That’s what sold us, and that’s why we went, and we didn’t regret it.

Some of the dishes were not to my taste, but that could just be me. I prefer my vegetables seasoned and cooked more. I loved the guacamole. I liked that they customized for a fussy vegetarian. My kid loved the beans and rice. That said, I wished that the portion sizes were bigger, given the price. Even the happy hour seemed expensive.

Downstairs is more lively than upstairs. Sit downstairs if you want to get a flavor of the place, and upstairs if you rather have a conversation. Reservations are a good idea. This place is open for dinner only.

I don’t recommend going with little kids but it is okay if you do – I took mine and they were very accommodating. We had a kid melt-down the second time we went. Can’t blame her, she was tired of home-hunting, and completely jet-lagged! And the meltdown happened right after we ordered, so we decided to get everything packed and eat at the hotel room, at Huntley. They obliged. We also ordered milk (that was not on the menu, and although they charged us, we got what we asked for – we were delighted!) I remember that there were no grocery stores near our hotel, so getting that glass of milk was a BIG deal. Brownie points for Mercado!

I would go again, now that I know what to order and how everything tastes. I would definitely catch the happy hour on a nice date with dear Mr. Kapoor and order us some guac and chips and margaritas.

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