Is It Any Good?

Spanish influenced Sandwiches of…unique invention in Downtown L.A.

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I’m not sure…where I am…or what it is I am having.

Yeah, strange thing to start out with for a food review, but I’m here at Bäco Mercat and I have no idea what the heck a Bäco Mercat is.

But everyone seems to like this place. It seems to be popular, and for the eight bucks in parking I just dropped, it better be.

Bäco Mercat has that vibe a lot of Downtown places have these days. A old building restored to glory, and repurposed with a fresh attitude. I’m having lunch and ht windows let in all the light.

I can’t tell, but the Air Conditioning seems…half on. I’m not sure. I’ve let A.C. incidents go in the past, and I’ve crucified places for it in the past. The difference is if you acknowledge the possible discomfort, and let your customers know what’s going on.

So far…no acknowledgment. Make of that what you will.

Since the A.C. is only half off, it’s only half-uncomfortable. This is one of those places where the ceiling is high,. high up, so the cool air only makes it’s way down to street level every other heartbeat or so. I’m not frying, but ice and a cool drink is something I’m leaning on right now.

So let’s get to the nitty gritty. What the heck is a Bäco? (And am I even spelling that right?)

It seems to be a flatbread sandwich served in a small salad bowl. It’s origins are…

…well, I’m going to have to look up it’s origins. Thank goodness for the Bäco Mercat Website, which says:

Bäco Mercat is the home of the “Bäco,” the signature flatbread sandwich that was developed by chef Josef Centeno. The original bäco was the crispy pork belly and beef carnitas with caraway pepper. Since then, the Bäco bread has taken center stage and works as a vessel for all things delicious: pork, beef, poultry, seafood and vegetables.

Okay, that settles that.

What’s not settled is where my damn, Bäco?

We’re entering another sketchy territory where, where everyone around me has received their food (even people who came in after me), and I’m sitting here like a jerk waiting to eat. It’s a symptom that does not speak well to the organization of the restaurant, or their concern for their customers.

I want you to consider the fact that I’m sitting here in the restaurant, and I’ve had time to type a rough draft of all this, and I still haven’t gotten my food. What makes things worse is, I tend not to be a yeller or a screamer when it comes to service. I figure, I don’t have to yell or scream, I can always get my revenge later and…

…ooh look, there goes another Bäco to another table that’s not me.

That one’s okay, I think those people were there before me.

 

Still this is not a good look. The second your customer has time to think about the fact they haven’t gotten their food, is usually a sign that the food is taking too damn long.

I’m not at the shred point yet…but I’m thinking about it.

“Sir, is the air cool enough?” “Can I get you something else?” These are the standard things you ask your customers who are sitting there waiting in the not-quite comfortable, not-quote uncomfortable environs of your restaurant.

But finally…it came.

Strangely, after I got my Bäco, I was ready to pull that portion of the review, but I’m waiting the same thing happen to other tables, and the other tables (like me) are wondering where their food is.

These ladies look like they're eating and enjoying.  I wish I was at the time.

These ladies look like they’re eating and enjoying. I wish I was at the time.

So let’s just go ahead and say it. The service at Bäco is a bit…aloof. This is not a case of the Westside Stink-eye. Instead, I get the feeling the staff was moderately overwhelmed. The staff was very nice…once you get to interact with them. Between interactions, things are a bit dicey. Now, Ive seen totally overwhelmed and this ain’t it. It’s like they’re two staffers short.

 

WHAT SHOULD I GET?: I went ahead with the Bäco Bizness lunch which is a Bäco and a salad. Hard to resist. The Bäco Original seemed the thing to get. (Then again, if I’m going to judge the place, might as well judge it by what it does best. The Bäco original is pork, beef carnitas, and Salbitxada.

The original Baco Mercat at...Baco Mercat.

What is Salbitxada? Had to look it up myself. It is apparently (according to Wikipedia) is a Catalan sauce which is served almost exclusively with a traditional local barbecue.

Okay, makes sense.

The Sandwich was…pretty good all things consider. Know going it, a Bäco has got some structural integrity issues, which probably explains why it’s served to you in a bowl. Tastes great The lead flavor is the roasted pork, that’s what you’re going to leave the restaurant with. Overall, with the salad, a good meal at a nice place.

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Remember what I said about the service. Well, if you don’t believe me you soon will.

Look this is a popular place. Nothing I say here will stop that, but…but…

Let’s just say that the Kitchen Crew takes a lot of time, and an lot of effort to make one sandwich. They take a LOT Of time. And of course, by taking all that time, they’re putting the hammer to their Waitstaff. But most of the people waiting were having a good enough time.

I wasn’t, but I liked the sandwich.

 

PARKING: It’s Downtown L.A., that nest of vipers of thieves. There is a lot on the same block as Bäco Mercat. It dinged me for about $8 bucks, but my car was in a good place, and didn’t have to wander around to find it afterward. Anywhere else? Good luck.

Baco Mercat in Downtown.

MAP DIRECTIONS:
Bäco Mercat
408 S. Main St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Phone:(213) 687-8808

Hours:
Monday-Thursday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, 5:30 – 11:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, 5:30 pm – 12:00 am
Sunday: 11:30 am – 3:00 pm, 5:00 – 10:00 pm