By Vegas Food Nerd
Recently opened in Red Rock Casino out in Summerlin is a new spot for Mexican food. We are certainly not short on Mexican restaurants here in the Las Vegas Valley, but with a billboard for the place which actually reads:
“The Taco that will change your life”
—I had to try this place for the sheer chance that I might have a life-altering experience.
The night that I put that lofty declaration to the test was a Friday night. Immediately, I was struck by the high level of volume in the place. It was too loud, though that seems to be what many diners long for lately. Texting is dominating good old-fashioned conversation these days, but that is a rant for a different day. The interior is dark and sleek with great lighting that will compliment just about anyone. So if you are overindulging in electronics at the time, it might be a perfect time for an all-too-common and narcissistic selfie. It is modern, yet the wood floors and ceilings bring nice warmth to the space. The dining room indoors is a bit scrunched with their seating, so if you are looking for more space, I would suggest trying the patio on your visit.
Mercadito, which translates to “Little Market,” is the vision of Chicago-based Mercadito hospitality, which was created by the Sandoval brothers, who were inspired by the little markets that they remembered from Mexico. The flavors they experienced growing up in Mexico helped to create this gourmet take on the standard Mexican restaurant that most are familiar with. The Tippling brothers came in to help them craft a unique cocktail menu that really complements the food.
We started with a Guacamole Sampler and their Salsa Sampler. Some big standouts for us were the Tocino Guac that was made with crispy hominy, bacon, corn, and their pico de gallo, as well as the Habanero Salsa with its nice, smoky flavor. The chips were warm and crispy and this sampler tasting of flavors was a fun alternative to the standard baskets of chips and salsa that you get in other restaurants. Sure, they do charge for this option, but it is worth it. Generally, if you aren’t digging the chips and salsa that other spots offer gratis, you still end up filling up on them, even if they are sub par.
Next up, we had to get to those Tacos. Each order of Tacos is served with 4 small Tacos, making it ideal to order a few different varieties and share at your table. We tried three varieties: the Blackened Swordfish Tacos (Espadas), Chicken (Pollo), and the Skirt Steak Tacos (Carne). All were unique and incredibly flavorful. The homemade corn tortillas really added to the tacos, as well. They offer bibb lettuce as a replacement to those amazing tortillas if you are watching your waistline, but I’d advise against it.
Our server raved about the Pollo a Las Brasas Chile-Crusted Chicken with Plantains served alongside their homemade Black Beans and Rice. I couldn’t resist adding a side of their take on Macaroni and Cheese. The chicken wasn’t our favorite dish, but those Rice and Black Beans and the Macaroni and Cheese were just incredible. Usually I leave the rice and beans till the end, but their version was so good that I can see making a meal out of just an order of them on their own. The Mac and Cheese was a comforting, gooey concoction of poblano chilies, corn, and manchego cheese, perfecting a classic dish with a touch of Mexican flair.
We also spent a little time trying a few of the Tippling Brothers’ cocktail mash-ups. The Sangria was excellent, but there was one true standout that got our attention. The V-9 is one of the more inventive libations that I’ve sampled in a while. It is a Tesoro Blanco Tequila mixed with pineapple juice, ginger, fresh lime juice, and super greens juice. Served in a glass that has been dipped in a blend of salt and other slightly hot spices, this drink was a table favorite. Savory, slightly sweet, and a slight burn to the tongue, it was worth a second round.
The buzz in the food world is that gourmet level Street Tacos may well become the new Sushi to foodies out there, and Mercadito food and service are proving that could be the case. A tad overpriced, but so is much of the food at Red Rock Casino. At least you’ll know your palate will be smiling when you leave. Now you have to be wondering, did that Taco change my life? No, not exactly, but I was a very happy and content food nerd when I left, so it did improve my spirits at least.
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