Review: Mercato


904 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR
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UPDATE: Mercato is now closed.

Wow, I think the Lunch Lady has a new favorite lunch spot in the Pearl. From the big screen TVs behind the counter (when we were there three were displaying the menu and the other was tuned to CNN) to the incredibly friendly waitstaff to the bright and open dining area to the display cases of yummy gelato, paninis, desserts and bottled drink offerings, Mercato is certainly off to a good (and tasty) start! Mercato opened just over a week ago, but they should definitely be on your lunch list.

If there is anything on the downside, it’s the prices. Though the prices are comparable to other Pearl lunch establishments, it’s still on the high side of the StumptownLunch budget. Salads start at $7, paninis go for $9 (including a small mixed greens salad), pizzas start at $10 (these are big, but not really big enough to share if that’s all you’re ordering) and pasta dishes start at $11.  They also offer a wide array of beverages, including espresso, beer and wine.

As you walk in, the waitstaff will offer you a menu and you order at the counter. After that, you can find a seat and they bring your food out to you. The spacious and bright dining area is dotted with brightly colored plastic chairs at differing sized tables. The service on our visit was really quick, which is good if you are in a hurry or if you plan to order it to go.

After carefully looking over the menu, I ordered the Prosciutto Panini and my lunch companion ordered the Piccante Pizze. My panini was delicious. The bread was perfectly chewy and the prosciutto, mozzarella and tomato combination was a delight for my taste buds. My mixed greens salad was incredibly fresh and the balsamic oil dressing was so good I was dipping bits of my bread in it! Yum!

As for the pizza, be warned that these are Neapolitan-style flatbread pizza. So, while the pizza might look huge, it’s pretty easy to polish the entire thing off at lunch. I tried a couple of slices of the Piccante, topped with spicy salami, a very authentic San Marzano tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, and now I am a huge fan. The salami was definitely spicy, which was a nice surprise. I actually prefer flatbread pizza because I don’t like all the bready crust overpowering the flavor of the topping-so this is pretty perfect in my book!

Overall, I’m now smitten with Mercato, and I am so happy to have a new dining option in the Pearl that is fairly reasonably priced (expect to spend about $10+ per person with a drink and tip) and just darn delicious! I’ll definitely be going back. My only problem now is deciding what to order! Mercato is also open for dinner with the same menu and the mouth-watering gelato is available all day!

Pros: Great food, great service, espresso bar, fresh and authentic ingredients, great place to lunch with friends, cool décor, close to the streetcar, good veggie options, great beverage selection, tempting gelato, they show CNN!

Cons: A little on the pricey side (at least for us on a StumptownLunch budget), parking in the Pearl can be tricky, a discounted daily lunch special would be awesome and local delivery would be sublime!

Download the Mercato menu
Mercato on Urbanspoon

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