The Top 10 Best New Restaurants of 2012


Cooks County


Baco Mercat

408 South Main Street


Josef Centeno is such a culinary border crosser that he had to come up with his own lingo to describe the dishes. Bäco stands for the restaurant’s signature puffy wraps, which reach their crescendo filled with the beef tongue schnitzel he hits with a dab of blazing harissa. Then there’s cocä, the crisp flatbread he freights with things like guanciale and a fried egg (a dish he named the Salty Jowl). Despite piling bold flavor upon bold flavor—something he did at Lazy Ox as well—Centeno achieves piercing clarity in a high-ceilinged room that’s been furnished with Eames-style office chairs and Edison lights. Rarely emerging from the kitchen, he lets the precision of his food carry the show. Celery root julienne dressed with ravigote vinaigrette underpins the sear of scallops, but it’s the feta-poblano crumble and the lick of salmorejo, a bread-and-tomato cream, on the golf ball-size fava fritters that make this a wrap like no other.