dish buzz: mercadito

Mercadito, East Village

Mercadito, East Village

Sometimes I like to wait until a restaurant’s been open for a while before going – allow the kinks to be sorted out and the crowds to die down. I ended up waiting quite a while before finally making it over with a group of friends to check out Mercadito one evening. Reviews I’d read were all over the map and I was curious to make my own assessment.

We almost opted not to be seated. The gentleman taking names at the door was rude to our party. He read back to us that we were a party of 3, which was correct, and then proceeded to tell us we had told him 2 when we checked in an hour and a half later. We were rudely informed it would be at least another half an hour since we gave him the wrong number of people. Not only did we give him the correct information but it was inappropriate that he kept reiterating that this was our fault each time we checked in.

We decided to go ahead and eat since at this point it was close to 10pm. Mercadito is has a great assortment of Latin-inspired drinks and features a very extensive tequila menu. Our server was visibly put off when we did not elect to order drinks and tried on at least three different occasions to get us to change our mind.

Guacamole Tasting, Mercadito

Guacamole Tasting, Mercadito

We began with the guacamole tasting so we could try a little of each of their three guacamoles – the traditional, the mango and the pineapple. We were frustrated when the guacamole arrived since it was thrown out in front of us with the server hurriedly mumbling through the different types and leaving before we knew what we were eating. We turned it into a game, trying to figure out which was which. My favorite was the piña, or pineapple, which had a nice pairing of sweet and spicy in the pineapple, tomatillo, habanero, and mint.

Our neighboring table got up to leave and in the process knocked over my friend’s water glass causing it to break on the floor, getting water all over our table, my friend, myself, and the fabric cushion of the seat on which we were sitting. The patron did not acknowledge or apologize for doing this – which is out of our control – but the wait staff did not address this either. Not only did they not apologize or ask if they could assist us, but they simply looked at us and did not clean up the table; All they did was to sweep up the glass on the floor. Instead of helping to clean up the table top, they asked to shove our table over to make room for an even larger party next to us as we were sopping up water off of our laps and chair. It was not until they cleared the table entirely that they bothered to clean up the thick pool of water that had been there for some 30 minutes.

Tilapia Tacos, Mercadito

Tilapia Tacos, Mercadito

For my main course, I went with their fish tacos, which was sautéed tilapia, freshly grilled corn, huitlacoche (which I’ve since learned is apparently dubbed the Mexican truffle), manchego cheese, and tomatillo salsa. The tacos came served in a group of four. Each taco was somewhat small but the tortilla was fresh and flavorful and the ingredients shone through.

At the end of the meal, our server did not thank us or show any remote sign of gratitude that we have come to expect in a restaurant. We paid our bill, got up and walked past five different restaurant employees, none of which told us to have a good evening, thank you, or any acknowledgment at all. I appreciate that the restaurant is busy, that it was a Saturday night, and that the staff has the responsibility to move a large number of patrons in and out. However, none of this was acceptable. There was an attitude that the staff was riding on the quality of their food alone and in Manhattan where there are so many great restaurants to choose from, that’s just not good enough.

Mercadito – 179 Avenue B – 212.529.6490
Reservations Recommended

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