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Mercadito Brunch

River North
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Sorry, New York. You’re being robbed of your title. Chicago is the city that never sleeps. And last weekend I was in Chicago and I didn’t sleep. Like, at all. I partied my ass off.

Photo credit: Becca Clara Love

After two loaded nights of jumping from bar to bar to club to club (Manor, Le Passage, Bull and Bear, Red Lady, Sweetwater, Wildfire, Rhino, and so on and so on), a solid Sunday brunch is definitely in order. But 11 a.m. reservations? What was I thinking? Toto, we’re not in DC anymore.

I dragged my ass across my Drake hotel room to grab my phone and dial up Mercadito. Can we move our brunch rezzies to this afternoon? “No problem, lady. We’ll see you when you get here.” That’s it. I already like this place. And when we finally did get to the Mexican hotspot, I felt right at home.

There was funky modern art on the wall, intricate handmade light fixtures hanging everywhere, and a huge Agave plant perched next to the hostess stand. Credit goes to the artist Erni Vales and the firm Seed Design, whom the family restaurant taps to design the interior. I particularly liked our special Mayan-graffiti corner. Not to mention the waiters were wearing “Hole Mole” shirts, and the speakers were pumping old school hip hop. Atmosphere? Me likey.

Photo credit: Becca Clara Love

Plus, the finger-food menu was speaking my language. The “Perfect Hangover Cure” includes family-style entrees (choose three and share!), plus a drink each for $18 per person. Because our party of four couldn’t settle on just three entrees, and because our server was just so excellent at suggesting things from the menu, we decided our perfect hangover cure was more like one of everything.

And there was a lot to choose from: Three types of guacamoles, three types of ceviches and six types of salsas just in the appetizer menu alone. We went for the tradicional guac (tomatillo pico de gallo, jalapeño, garlic, key lime, cilantro), which was nicely spicey, and the camarón ceviche (shrimp, tangerine, pico de gallo, roasted jalapeño, citrus-guajillo broth), which was a perfectly refreshing counterpart to the guacamole.

Photo credit: Becca Clara Love

The entrees were all served on (or with) mini tortillas. More traditional, said my half-Mexican brunch sista. We went for the huevos con carnitas, where the scrambled eggs, tomatillo pico de gallo and ancho salsa all came baked in a bowl with Berkshire pork caarnitas perched on top. Also on the table: tacos de huevo a la Mexicana, made of scrambled eggs, pico de gallo, queso fresco, black bean hash, chile de árbol salsa, avocado. Who knew breakfast tacos could be so adventurous?! Go chefs Patricio Sandoval and Jose Mendin!

Then we did a few classics: carne tacos (rosemary marinated organic skirt steak, potato-rajas-cactus fundido, avocado) and pollo tacos (herb marinated chicken, chipotle pickled sweet, potato, chipotle salsa, crispy manchego). It was like eating Mexican sushi – everything was bite-sized and tasted amazing. It doesn’t look like much on the table but it fills you up quickly.

Photo credit: Becca Clara Love

But my fav dish was the mango mimosita cocktail. Made with cava, mango, and green chile, the mango was so thick it was like a meal unto itself. Apparently the family keeps more than 200 bottles of tequila behind the bar. But I couldn’t stomach much more than champagne (the boys at our table downed bloody maries, which were absolutely ladled with alcohol. Brave boys.).

Paul Tanguay and Tad Carducci of Tippling Bros devise the creative cocktails on the menu. I wish I could have tried more of their concoctions, but I fear my body would have rebelled. It was time to leave Chicago and actually get some sleep.

The bitches say: A! Killer Mexican for the foodie in me,  spunky atmosphere, great service, good brunch package deal.

Mercadito Chicago
108 W Kinzie Street
Chicago, IL 60654
Tel: 312.329.9555

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Good For
Brunch Date, Group Brunch

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  1. Wow. I want to get drunk and be hungover so I can experience this place after reading this, Becca! Wish I could have made it. Great bitch session.

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