Starting off the New Year on the right foot, Mercadito Hospitality showcases the first look at the forthcoming Mercadito Counter (738 N. Clark St.), slated to open in early 2014 in the city’s River North neighborhood. Following successful restaurant collaborations with Vincent Celano of New York-based Celano Design Studio, Mercadito Hospitality tapped the agency to design a restaurant that blends the brand’s signature style of contemporary Mexican-inspired flair with classic elements of traditional delis and neighborhood corner stores.
“When working on a restaurant, we often create a design narrative or background story to go with the space,” says Celano, the founder and principal of Celano Design Studio. “For Mercadito Counter, we were inspired by the menu, this mash-up of Mexican and American street foods. The result is an old-school deli that has been taken over and transformed by Mercadito’s creative energy.”
To give Mercadito Counter a lived-in atmosphere, Celano Design Studio blended rustic design elements with traditional Mexican accents. Exposed wooden beams overlay a hand-painted tin ceiling dotted with industrial light fixtures. The warm ambient lighting reinforces the casual feel of the concept, where guests have their choice of dining in the 60-seat dining room or ordering items to-go from restaurant’s “Deli” menu. A light gray stone-top counter serves as the concept’s focal point, adorned with vintage scales, meat slicers, and reclaimed beer taps featuring seasonal beverage offerings from the Tippling Bros. A handwritten chalkboard touts menu items and rotating specials, while a glass case accented with black iron pipe displays a selection of housemade meats, cheeses, and other fresh ingredients.
“It was important for us to have Mercadito Counter represent the warmth and vibrancy that our concepts have become known for,” says managing partner Alfredo Sandoval. “Our previous work with Celano Design Studio made the design process for Mercadito Counter a truly collaborative effort that brought all the creative elements together.”
Guests to Mercadito Counter will find familiar touches throughout the restaurant from decorative shelves stocked with food products and traditional culinary items from Mexico to the graffiti-inspired paintings from artist Erni Vales. The large-scale art pieces feature the fanning skirts of traditional regional Mexican dancers that take on the swirling elements of flower petals. To match the rustic décor of the restaurant, Vales alternated between airbrushing vibrant colors onto reclaimed wood panels and sanding down each paint layer.
Once warm weather arrives, a garage door in the restaurant’s façade will provide an indoor/ outdoor access as it opens up the front seating area to the energy of the neighborhood’s streets. An outdoor patio will offer alfresco seating for up to 15 guests.
Images: Celano Design Studio