Mercat del Carmen
Mercat Del Carmen is part cafe, part marketplace, and at some point it might also become a pintxos bar. Occupying the space adjacent to its sister spot Carmen , the new venture replaces Delica Kitchen 's short lived West Queen West expansion.
Unlike these other establishments, Mercat Del Carmen is a daytime destination. The market opens early for espresso and pastries and then serves a range of bocatas (sandwiches), salads, and sweets.
There isn't much in terms of seating; just a pair of benches and a couple tables. The pastry case and coffee bar occupy most of the floor, while the back wall is stocked with a mix of imports and house-made products.
The selection includes canned seafoods and olives, spirals of merguez, blocks of cheese, house-made taro chips, roasted nuts, canned tomato sauce, freshly spun aioli, and farm fresh eggs sold in bulk.
I'm here in the a.m., and I've got coffee on my mind. Laudes encourages me to go the Spanish route and order a cortado ($3), an espresso pulled from Trucillo Caffe beans and cut with a splash of steamed milk. It's strong but smooth.
I sample the pastries too; a house baked croissant ($2.50) and a danish ($2.50). Neither is especially flakey but both are wonderfully fresh. The croissant isn't greasy but still buttery, the danish is filled with a sweet and tangy blend of cream cheese and mascarpone.
As lunch hour approaches, there's a stream of walk-ins here for the sandwiches ($8) and slices of tortilla espanol ($6). Today the selection includes baguettes layered with Serrano ham and Brie, steak and cheese, and smoked salmon with cream cheese and plump capers.
Once licensed, the plan is to offer beer and olives and wine with pinxtos in the evenings. It will be especially nice in the summer months when the front-facing garage doors are rolled all the way up and the energy of this place spills out onto Queen Street.
Photos by Jesse Milns