Mercat a la Planxa | South Loop | Tapas/Spanish, Restaurant | Restaurant

Mercat a la Planxa Recommended Menu

Hours: Breakfast, lunch, dinner: seven days
Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11

Price: $$$$

Catalanian tapas from chef Jose Garces in the renovated Blackstone Hotel.

Restaurant Details

Jose Garces’s splashy homecoming from Philadelphia—where the Chicago-bred celeb launched two successful tapas restaurants in as many years—marks him as a sort of Spanish imperialist. But the chef isn’t stamping out his empire with a giant cookie cutter shaped like the Iberian Penin­sula. His other restaurants have affinities for distinct Spanish regions (Andalusia and the Basque Country), and at this one, Mercat a la Planxa, signifiers of Catalan cuisine dot the menu: Spanish scallions (calçots), charred and served with romesco sauce (salbitxada); cured sausages like butifarra and fuet; and pa amb tomaquet, grilled tomato-garlic bread, to name a few. The menu is a bit intimidating in its depth and pricing, especially considering that these are small plates, but most were pretty darn good. Even an old standby like bacon-wrapped dates was distinguished, accompanied by a tiny pitcher of blue cheese and served skewered over a small bowl of frisee that helped cut the richness. Ordering the kitchen’s much-talked-about whole roasted suckling pig (cochinillo asado) is a bit like adopting a child, requiring a group of four and 72 hours’ advance notice. The little guy's carved up at your table, the delectable crispy skin and the fatty cheek tissue separated from the rest of meat and, if you request, the tiny, creamy gray matter removed from the skull, grilled, and plated it with a rich sherry reduction. Given enough notice they’ll brine the pig for up to three days, though ours was plenty juicy and flavorful as is. It includes sides of calçots, roasted fingerling potatoes, and two particularly fantastic dishes—sauteed spinach with raisins, pine nuts, and julienned apples, and a cassoulet-like crock of white beans with bacon. This just might be the best value in the restaurant, and it’s well worth the effort. Read the full review >>

Mike Sula

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Price: $$$$

Payment Type: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

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