Went to Mercadito last night for the first time last ngiht. A welcome addition to the East Village dining scene. For those who havent heard of it, Mercadito is a new Mexican spot on Ave B betw 11th and 12th with ties to Pampano and Maya chef is Patricio Sandoval whos brother Richard is the chef at Pampano. Very cool guy who saw our interest in his food and was genuinely happy to explain his dishes and show us their renovation/expansion plans for the backyard. Darin (an owner) was also a gracious host.
They absolutely nailed the décor. Its a tiny place and someone with a keen eye for detail set the place up well. Lighting is soft and warm, the wood ceiling and Mexican tiles are earthy and soothing and their music selection was killer - and played at the perfect background level. The bar seating is a bit of a squeeze (narrow pathway behind the stools) but their price/quality ratio easily compensates for a few watch your back taps.
We started with an amazing appetizer 3 baked oysters with a little melted Manchego Cheese and crispy bits of home made Chorizo. My buddy and I almost came to blows over the 3rd Oyster. Next we tried an excellent Ceviche of smoked Mahi Mahi, grapefruit and cactus in a citrus-habanero broth - served with tasty crackers baked on premises. Finally, we had 3 orders of Tacos (9 total): Al Pastor which had a grilled piece of pineapple on top of ancho-guajillo rubbed strips of pork, flavorful skirt steak tacos and finally, smoky chipotle marinated shrimp tacos that covered my mouth and hands with juices. Being gluttonous idiots, we decided to try one last dish 2 fried cactus leaves injected with Requeson (?) (Ricotta-like) cheese, fried and served with a tomato based sauce accented with Cumin. From the house made tortillas to the deeply flavored sauces, this cooking had soul.
Theyve got to have at least 50 tequilas on shelves behind the bar and Brad the bartender made us some great cocktails including a tamatillo-cilantro-habanero margharita. If you prefer your tequila straight up, their Sangrita chaser is stuff legends are made of. They also had wine and beer and I noticed cans of Tecate and bottles of Negra Modelo.
I left Mercadito happily hammered and in a food coma but I vaguely remember their 6 ceviches being $8 each (3 for $18 sampler offered), the tacos were $7-$8 and the apps around $8. If you have more respect for you liver than I, you can easily get out for under $20 a head.