Over here at Infatuation Chicago, we tend to forget that the Mercadito Hospitality group opened their first restaurant in New York, and not here, where the operation is based. Our New York team reviewed their Mercadito back in September of 2010, and with the exception of a few Chicago specific substitutions, our opinions on the River North Mercadito are pretty similar: Mercadito has good food, but a couple major issues turn us off from the restaurant package as a whole.
First, despite a number of solid entrees, tacos are the best items on the menu, and apparently Mercaditos everywhere maintain a taco ordering policy where you can only order them in batches of four. It makes eating here difficult because we can't easily order a variety, which is what we always want to do. Further infuriating our taco experience is the guacamole problem. Mercadito has unique guac options for dipping chips or putting on your tacos, but it’ll cost you extra, and kind of a lot extra. It’ll run you $9.50 for a less than generous portion of a single guac and $15.50 for a trio of mini scoops. And it's not the price itself that we mind, but the price-to-size ratio that we find criminal.
Issue number two is the atmosphere. The crowd here kind of sucks. No offense to those of you that enjoy your Mercadito outings, but something about the place makes me want to kick my own *ss when I'm here. It’s the unfortunate result of combining a pricy River North Mexican restaurant with what feels like a closed quarters Avicii after show. And there's not enough free guacamole at those either.
Pineapple jalapeno, bacon habanero, and sautéed chile serrano and mango are just some of your options. Interesting and tasty, just cost a small fortune.
A trio of salsas is a little more reasonable than its guacamole counterpart, but you seem to get even less.
Fried plantains are one of our favorite things to eat in general. These come with a ginger jalapeño sauce and are a solid side.
Shrimp tacos with roasted garlic, avocado, and chipotle mojo. The sauce is unreal, which is what makes these tacos great.
Chili ancho rubbed pork with chile de arbol salsa and grilled pineapple. Pork is well seasoned and the pineapple adds an interesting touch.
Marinated skirt steak with a creamy leek potato fundido (sauce), manchego, and habanero avocado salsa. Good skirt steak, and the leek potato addition may catch you off guard, in a good way.
Mahi Mahi for the win. It’s beer-battered, fried, and topped with chipotle aioli and Mexican style ‘slaw.
All of their margaritas are good, but this is our choice every time, and probably the reason the bill is always so high (can never have only one). Hornitos blanco tequila with cucumber, lemon, herbs, and a cumin salt rim.