Chicago >Food & Dining > Mercat
638 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL | Directions 6060541.873275 -87.624448
Neighborhoods: Loop, Central
I believe this to be true: Mercat is the best tapas restaurant in the city.
What a breathtaking dining room. Plus, the best food of any hotel restaurant on Michigan. Great tapas. Be sure to get the special sangria.
Great Spanish food – Order the Catalan Express if you're here for lunch, it includes a first course and second course, plus soft drink or iced tea for $18. This is a great deal considering that the priciest second course, Tuna, is already $17.
Our waitress was great and she gave us a very thorough rundown of the menu to begin our meal. The busboy though, was completely clueless, mixing up dishes between tables and amongst diners at our table.
I had the Ensalada Verde to start, mixed greens with asparagus, avocado, green beans and shaved mahon cheese. Very good, although there was maybe just a touch too much vinaigrette. It overpowered even the cheese.
Everyone else started with the Arroz a la Cazuela, a saffron scented broth with shrimp, chicken chorizo, artichoke confit and piquillo aioli. The crostini with aioli was a hit, and the soup was well-received, although quite salty. Everyone was surprised by the generous size of the shrimp.
Two of us had the Atun con apio-nabo, yellowfin tuna, smoke pine nuts, celery root and basil-emulsion. Very light flavors, wonderfully presented. Our tuna was lightly grilled, though it could have been even rarer. The celery root was the highlight of this dish.
The Black Angus Hanger Steak and Mercat Burger were both prepared well. The burger had a very unique La Peral cheese sauce that was very light, padron peppers and red wine onion jam. The hanger steak was accompanied by potato croquette, and beech mushroom escabeche. Iron Chef Jose Garces really personalizes each offering on the menu.
For dessert we had the signature Croquetas de Xocolata - milk chocolate croquettes, banana marshmallow, rosemary caramel, and arbequina olive oil. Again, a very unique dessert, unlike anything I have ever tasted. I am not crazy about it because I don't generally like fried food and I much prefer dark to milk chocolate, but I can appreciate the combination of flavors in this sweet dish.
Marcat and the Table-Side Pig – The best part about group dinners is group orders. Usually, a party of 8 at a Tapas place would mean that one could sample 1/2 the menu. But today we sampled 1/2 a pig and were ripped off with no denominator.
As most gimmicks in the restaurant world, table-side swine is heavy on price, light on meat and lax on preparation. If one wants to nibble more than pork, it's important to dine with a large, sample-friendly party and without the vegetarians, Jews or Muslims. One needs to plan ahead: our party reserved the piglet 3 days in advance. And one needs to pay down the plastic because staring at this snout is going to cost you a car payment.
The newborn table-pig is not a newborn concept. Greektown has been doing it for as long as Halsted crossed Van Buren. But unlike the flesh of nature's oceans which allows for great variety in the sampling of Snapper, the only ready portion of a porker lies in the loin. And maybe belly. And maybe, if we were in China, the trotters and tail and every other damn thing. But, for the American table, little piggy means little else than 5 pounds of pulled pork. Not bad but how much sloppy pig can one eat? I did more than my fair share but not enough to make it worth $220. However, how cool would it be if the restaurant would send the porker back after its table-side theatrics and proceed to cure some ham, cut some shoulders, braise some ribs and bring back the dinner party a week later for pig-round-2? THAT would make it worth the price!
Sadly, with the way things stand, buying the pig defeats the entire purpose of Tapas dining. Your party would have to seat 15 to make the purchase viable and taste some other dishes. But at that size, you'd be fighting over the single piglet. And if you get two, well, from forth the fatal loins of those two porks, a pair of star-cross'd piglets gave their life; whose misadventured piteous oven-spits doth with their death bury their diner's appetite.
Mercat is a good restaurant. Go there for tapas. Or suffer the 3-hours' traffic of pig's stage.
Amazing! – My Boyfriend and I were visiting Chicago and got a recommendation to go to Mercat. We both absolutely LOVED it. I understand why some people think that you get little for what you pay for, but you have to go into it knowing that tapas are going to be small plates and this is an expensive restaurant (I think it was a little misleading that Google gave it a "$$" rating when it should be "$$$$") . Our waiter clearly told us that we would need multiple plates and was very helpful. I will be recommending Mercat to friends and family if they are in the area.
Terrible Service – Went there on June 20th for a birthday celebration. When the waitress asked us whether we had been there before, we responded no, and she offered no explaination. We chose the tasting menu. Most dishes were good. The tapas that was a dumpling of some type was terrible. When she asked us, what we thought we told her and her repsonse was "how odd, most people think this is the best. I had pre-ordered a dessert to be brought to the table, which of course was not. For the money, the service should have been rated a ten, but was not even close.
great food, small plates, leave w/light wallet and stomach – we had some great tasting short ribs, cheeses, rice dishes, mushrooms and shrimp but the portions were somewhat ridiculous compared to the typical tapas places around the city. a $16 rice dish is 2-3 spoonfuls. $20 gets you a couple slivers of meat. not as if we expected to stuff ourselves at a tapas restaurant, but after a $50+ meal, we had to go somewhere else to get more food.
?Horrid service, staff with an attitude and not a good one? – We stayed at the Blackstone this past weekend and were looking forward to a pleasant stay. This is a wonderful hotel but this restaurant, which is the one option for food, leaves much to be desired.
We arrived around lunch, went immediately to the restaurant as we had read the good reviews. We were seated and ordered. The food did not come for at least 45 minutes.The manager apologized as the food arrived. We were fine but hungry. We decided to go back for dinner since we love tapas. The menu had many things
At 6, we returned. We were told that it would be 8:15 before we could get a table. We made the reservation and had good drinks at the bar. The drinks were excellent; the bar staff was great. We were told that we could have a bar table with tiny plastic chairs. We were in the bar area and knew we would not enjoy a long dinner there. We would wait for a regular table in the dining area. 2 and 1/2 hrs. later we still hadn't been seated.At 8:45, we were told that we could have the same table which was available at 6.The server showed us to another tiny table but with a banquette. This was more comfortable.I explained to her why we didn't want the table and she understood. Obviously, we could have eaten two hours earlier but wanted a table in the actual dining room.Suddenly, a hostess came to us and in a confrontational way told us that we had only waited 15 minutes and we were lying about the whole situation. She was extremely loud and obnoxious. She also said that we had been in our room lounging. She continued to rant so we started to leave. Then a manager told us that we were lucky to be there and the bar table was fine for us. He also told us that those table also required reservations. We are still in shock at how horrible there people are who work there. We will never recommend this place to any of our friends who live and work in the Chicago area (and we have many!)
Stay away!!! – By far one of the worst meals I have had in this city. Service was SLOW! The food was cold! The prices are out of this world. One shining spot is the atmosphere, energizing. I can not believe how many positive reviews this place gets. There was 6 in our group and no one wants to eat there ever again.
!Delicioso! – Check this place out. I was simply delighted - where to start. Chef Garces culinary talent shows: food was delicious! Loved the higos con almendra, cocas de costillas de ternera, and the scallops a la planxa, . Our waiter was very friendly, cognizant of wines, grapes, and regions - they have a great selection of Spanish wines. We arrived over 30 mins early, so we had time to relax and enjoy some sangria on the downstairs bar/lounge. We were treated very well by the staff and left with a desire to return as often as possible. Great way to start the Saturday evening!
Riotous decor mirrors huge Spanish flavor at this lively South Loop hotel restaurant. – Photo by Jasmin Shah
Mercat follows the lead of the Blackstone's draw-dropping overhaul, so in the spirit of upgrade, the space received soaring etched-glass panels, miles of mosaics and a shocking expanse of hanging fixtures responsible for the two-story room's flattering glow. Chef Jose Garces keeps up the fireworks from the giant exposed kitchen. Catalan dishes range from safe bets like Cocas--yeasty dough topped with things like manchego, mushrooms and artichokes--to more adventurous items, like Morcilla-dense blood sausage that arrives fragrant and still sizzling. The "Planxa" part of the equation refers to grilled-to-order items like Uruguayan Filet and head-on prawns.
Great addition to the Chicago dining scene – GOOD: Virtually everything on the menu. We had two of the grilled items (a la planxa; squid and chorizo -- both very good), a flatbread with shortribs (very good), stuffed dates (amazing) and patatas bravas (the weakest of the bunch). The room is great -- big, colorful, and with a buzz. And the staff is genuinely welcoming and friendly.
SO-SO: our waiter needed a bit more seasoning, and could rush diners less. He told us he'd space out our food (not true -- things tend to arrive in bunches), and advised us to order from the top of the menu down (which is just plain silly in a tapas-style restaurant).
BAD: dessert (four chocolate selection) was silly. One of the chocolates was a smear of a sort of chocolate pudding -- I thought of someone in Spain smirking at this one.
RESULTS: we'll definitely return. We'll skip desert, ask for food delivery to be spaced better, and sit back and enjoy the mostly wonderful food. We really like this place!
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