downtown Marcus

I used to work around the block from Aquavit in the old days, and I had a few good business lunches there over the years. I don’t make it that far uptown anymore though. Good thing Marcus Samuelsson opened up the much cooler and laid-back Merkato Fifty Five. Forget about that fancy Swedish stuff — the food here is inspired by the chef’s African heritage. I’m not going to say anything they serve is very authentic, but I don’t care either way. When I ate there for lunch last week (and forgot to bring my camera to snap a shot of the gorgeous space), I realized very quickly that this is food I want to eat, often. What surprised me the most was the price. For such a hip experience, combined with such clever food, about $50 for two people seemed like a fair deal. About the food, we started off with some sambals and dips, just a couple to whet the appetite. Then we shared the fish & chips (wow!) and the lamb meatballs (another winner). I could eat those fries every day. And we finished it off with a couple of ice creams. The avocado was something you have to try once, just for the experience, but the jaggery flavor was the real star. I’d bet it’s hard to get a reservation at Merkato on a Thursday night, but I’d have to recommend you try, especially if you want to go with someone you’d like to impress. Then you can tell me how the dinner menu varies from the lunch one.

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