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Mercato, Tiny BYOB in the old Camac Food Market Building on Spruce and Camac Street - Washington Square West


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------> EXHIBIT #1

EXHIBIT #2
Seared scallops, portabello and pea risotto with parmesean crisp and truffle oil, at Mercato, in Philadelphia; a tiny (38 seat) new byob on Spruce.

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Mercato has only been open a few months. It is the sister to Valanni across the street (which came in handy when they ran out of bread - just sent someone over to refill the huge basket). There is a small open kitchen at the rear, and an unadorned dining room of dark wood tables placed cheek by jowl on the bare floors, with cushionless wood chairs (there is a banquette running down one long wall, with a nifty system of horizontally sliding backrests) and unadorned walls. In other words: very loud and cramped - in a good way - a good choice for dining solo. Every table was occupied the entire time I was there. Patrons on either side of me were practically in my lap and happy to share their opinions on what they were eating and what other byobs they like. I thought it was friendlier and livlier than Melograno, and had better food than Porcini. As with many byobs in Philadelphia, they don't take reservations, and they also are cash only. Fun, frivolous feature: they have a separate olive oil tasting menu and they give you tiny glasses for the "flight" of the oils. I didn't try it, because the herb/lemon butter that comes with the bread was so good, but I'm waiting for this gimmick to come to DC (of course, we can righteously claim we did it first at the Fall '05 picnic.)

Edited by DonRocks
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Dined in a BYOB in Philly last weekend. Mercato in center city was great Italien. The 96 Brunello I brought didn't hurt though the stemware was average. We had a trio of Olive Oils, a Great Antipasto and a few great main entree(Scallops and Lamb Shank) Place was crowded but with a vibe that DC just Doesn't have.

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Had an absurdly good meal last night at Mercato. Four of us, and not a bad dish on the table. Pappardelle with pine nuts, orechiette with meatballs, ricotta gnocchi with short rib ragu (!), and "pyramid pasta" with lobster and shrimp, every one more delicious than the next. The "flight of olive oils" mentioned earlier by crackers, two oils and a vinegar for $5, was fun once but in future I'll stick with the addictive whipped butter. We just moved into the neighborhood and it is going to be dangerous living so close to somewhere this tasty -- not to mention the second outpost of Tria the next block over.

Dessert afterward at Capogiro (toasted almond/wildflower honey; dark chocolate/peaches and cream; dark chocolate/rosemary honey goat's milk; Thai coconut milk/toasted almond) was, as always, expensive but totally worth it.

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Had a chance to eat at several restaurants in Philly last week (Vetri, Osteria, Radicchio and Mercato). Obviously that cuts across a wide band of price tags but the one I am most anxious to return to is Mercato. On the 1200 block of Spruce a block away from Vetri. Adorable , small, trattoria, open kitchen (reminded me a little of Gotham's Del Anima and Casa Mono in feel) and delicious and cheap Italian food. Also stopped by Parc, the newest Starr restaurant. Great looking design - similar to Balthazar but even nicer. Did not eat there but plan to on my next visit.

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