I'm already starting to get nervous for the NYC summer ahead. It's May 3rd and it's officially H-O-T. This is the time of year when I am usually itching for consistently warm days - and more often than not, they are few and far between. And sure, just a week ago, I was piling on the scarves and sweaters. But the thunderstorms and humid weather of recent days have all too quickly erased the few chilly memories of April 2010. What ever happened to spring? There is no question that we are in for a hot one this summer. In fact, we may even want to reconsider Memorial Weekend from proclaiming the start of bikini season. With Cinco de Mayo just a few days away, I'm ready to declare this festive holiday as the official kick-off for Summer 2010. Some may call it jumping the gun - I'm just validating breaking out the white pants, turning on the air conditioners full-time, and acting like it's summer break.
Whether or not you are ready to call it summer, there is no reason to wait until the end of the month for your next celebration. And Mercadito makes it even easier to get festive this Cinco de Mayo. It's as if they knew weeks ago that this year would be one of the hottest as they planned for this year's holiday and created the Vato Loco - The Hottest Drink on Earth. On Wednesday only, they will be serving their secret recipe cocktail using tequila, fire, and spice. Intrigued yet? To find out what this delicious (confirmed by yours truly) combination is really made of and how tough you really are, head straight for their bar. I was quickly reminded that heat can be a really good thing. The mandatory release form should only entice you more, guaranteeing a once in a lifetime tasting experience as "drinking the 'Hottest Drink on Earth' will instantly make me cooler than anyone who has not tried it and I will thus be able to gloat that I am more manly (or womanly) than anyone else." This is certainly a challenge for all spice-lovers or just anyone with even a hint of a competitive edge.
While the Vato Loco is without a doubt a reason to head over to any of the Mercaditos on Wednesday, their food and excellent list of more traditional tequila drinks will keep you there late into the night this Cinco de Mayo and throughout the rest of the year. The menu offers some of the most authentic Mexican cuisine in New York City while still showcasing their creative energy evident in this week's drink special. When ordering guacamole (which is always a must), you will be served a sampling of three - tradicional, mango, and pina. The fresh mango combination has an excellent smoked flavor as it is made with chipotle, pico de gallo, and jicama. The use of serrano chiles in the tradicional guacamole brings the right amount of temperature to the table - Vato Loco or not. And the pineapple option is just an added bonus.
A combination of ceviches and tacos creates the perfect sized meal following this unique trio. These dishes are all extremely fresh and surprisingly light - reminding me of the food I always rave about when in Mexico. I highly recommend the red snapper ceviche made with watermelon, pico de gallo, and serrano chile as well as the shrimp with pico de gallo, tangerine, roasted jalapeno, and citrus broth. The use of fruit with the seafood is wonderfully refreshing. The tacos, prepared with mini homemade corn tortillas and served four to a plate, should be shared so that a variety can be sampled. My favorites are the coca cola braised pork carnitas served with cured onion, chile de arbol coleslaw and toasted peanuts for a meat option and the beer battered mahi mahi with Mexican style coleslaw and chipotle aoli for a seafood option. They are so full of all of the right Mexican flavors.
No matter what you order and when you are at Mercadito, the chef and bartenders make sure that there is more than a little spice in your life. And this Wednesday, they are truly embracing their love for this stamp of authenticity and taking it to a new, uncharted level. Are you ready for the Vato Loco? Life is always more interesting when things get spicy. Happy Cinco de Mayo, Happy Summer, and Happy Heat!
179 Avenue B (11th and 12th sts)
New York, NY 10009
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):