Josef Centeno has had his plate full since his new restaurant, Bäco Mercat, opened its doors in early November. Good thing it's only half a mile from the Lazy Ox Canteen where he continues as chef.

We recently found Centeno perched high on a ladder outside Bäco Mercat wielding a squeegee. It was his first day off in weeks, he said. “But I guess I'm still working,” the chef-owner added with a shrug as he wiped another window clean.

There's a reason for Centeno's high spirits. “After a great soft opening, Bäco Mercat is happy to announce our grand opening,” he tells us in an e-mail. The downtown L.A. restaurant is now open Monday through Saturday with expanded hours and is taking reservations.

Lunch is 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner is from 6 p.m. until close, usually around 11 p.m. The bar opens at 5 p.m. with specials until 7 p.m.

On Dec. 3, Bäco Mercat will begin Saturday morning service from 9-11:30 a.m. You'll have just two options: waffles with powdered sugar, or a “breakfast bäco” with chorizo, eggs and chile. (Centeno describes the bäco as a “sandwich-taco-pizza hybrid.”) Both are meant to be “easy to carry away, for easy in and out,” Centeno says. Bloody Marys with celery vinegar and Handsome coffee supplement what Centeno calls a “hair of the dog” meal.

crispy shrimp bäco; Credit: D. Solomon

crispy shrimp bäco; Credit: D. Solomon

The lunch and dinner menus change daily and include a couple of dozen specials. On a recent evening, diners could choose from small plates of salads, vegetables, cheeses, meats, fish, and pasta. Zataar, kabocha, pecorino, romanesco, trout and morcilla sausage accounted for some of the ingredients.

Several bäco varieties are on the menu every day. And there is always “bäzole” (pork-chile broth with crispy pork, beef carnitas, noodles and a fried egg) and “coca” (a crispy flatbread baked with toppings).

Last week, four desserts were offered: double fudge tart, banana cream cannoli, almond cheesecake pudding, and warm lemon pound cake.

What's next for Bäco Mercat? “Stay tuned for our upcoming event calendar that will list nightly specials,” Centeno tells us.

Grain salad with cucumber and mint; Credit: D. Solomon

Grain salad with cucumber and mint; Credit: D. Solomon

LA Weekly