30 Sandwiches in 30 Days is, technically, over. We, however, can't quit. Not when there are sandwiches as spectacular as the ones at Baco Mercat. Of all the new, upscale, non-deli sandwiches we've tried over the past month-and-a-half, Josef Centeno's bäcos are, hands-down, the most original and most compelling.

Baco Mercat: The Original

Opened in early November, Bäco Mercat is the newest addition to Centeno's mushrooming DTLA roster, which features Lazy Ox Canteen. The flavor profile mashes up influences from Italy, France, Western China, Tuscany, Peru, Georgia (U.S.) and Georgia (eastern Europe), but there's substance beneath the style (cough, cough).

The signature item is the bäco (pronounced “bah-ko”):

“flatbread sandwiches, vaguely resembling pita wraps, that Centeno has flirted with at most of the restaurants he has cooked at since he was at Opus in the mid-aughts, but never served officially because he was afraid its popularity would overwhelm the rest of the menu.”

Centeno was right to worry. The bäcos, wrapped in a soft, pita-like bread and filled with intriguing flavor combinations, are such stunners, they make it hard to eye anything else on the menu.

A few bäcos show up on the dinner menu, and we're told Cenento makes an incredible chorizo and egg version only on Saturday mornings, but if you want to experience the bäco — and you do, though you may not know it — show up at lunch. There's bound to be half-a-dozen options including El Pollo, a spicy chicken escabeche, and The Original, crunchy yet tender chunks of fried pork belly with garlicky, almondy salbitxada (a Catalan sauce). It's the bäco for which the place is best known, though it's not the most dazzling. That title belongs to The Toron. A generous scoop of oxtail hash rests on what the menu refers to as a “tater” and what we know as a latke, a shredded potato pancake that would make bubbe proud, with melted cheddar on top and a mess of tartly dressed sprouts and greens. It's everything: meaty, carby, melty, bready and incredibly satisfying.

Baco Mercat: Interior


Elina Shatkin is a staff writer at LA Weekly. Follow her at @elinashatkin or contact her at eshatkin@laweekly.com.

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