Outdoor Vegetarian Brunch in Downtown Los Angeles

zinc_cafe

Fueling up for UNIQUE LA on Saturday, we met friends at Baco Mercat. It's been around a few years but it's still wise to show up by noon to be assured a table.

Baco Mercat (408 S. Main St. Los Angeles, CA 90013; 213.687.8808)

Quick Facts:  Western/Eastern Mediterranean & Spanish influenced omnivore restaurant with large selection of vegan and vegetarian. Excellent beer, wine, & cocktail menuReservations available but dog-friendly heated outdoor patio is reserved for walk-ins. Opens for lunch/brunch 7-days at 11:30am then closes until dinner at 5/5:30pm.

Our Order:  Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuit with Whipped Honey Butter ($6); Coca with peppers, asparagus and mozzarella; Potatoes with pickles; Eggplant with radish and pickled vegetables.

Our To-Do List:  The folks behind Baco Mercat are also behind Bar Ama, Orsa & Winston, and Ludlow. All serve brunch except Orsa & Winston and all have plenty of vegetarian options. Because the menus constantly change and everything is high quality, our to-do list includes "everything". Also, a Baco Shop is reportedly in the works for quick bites.

Baco Mercat's Eggplant with radish, pickled onions, and cucumbers

Baco Mercat's Eggplant with radish, pickled onions, and cucumbers

Baco Mercat's Potatoes with cheese and pickles

Baco Mercat's Potatoes with cheese and pickles

Baco Mercat's Coca with peppers, asparagus, and fresh mozzarella

Baco Mercat's Coca with peppers, asparagus, and fresh mozzarella

The coca (above) is a crispy, crackery, thin, round flatbread. It's absolutely rich with flavor and texture. Unfortunately, in my picture-taking fury, I didn't write down the name of the particular boca we ordered (or the eggplant and potatoes above). I want another coca immediately.

Also wanting immediately, the honey drenched cheddar biscuit shown below. You know what honey tastes like and you know what a great biscuit tastes like. That's what this is.

Baco Mercat's Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuit w/ Whipped Honey Butter

Baco Mercat's Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuit w/ Whipped Honey Butter


Spoiled by brunch two days in a row, we then celebrated Mother's Day (without our far-away mothers) at Zinc in the Mateo Arts District of DTLA.

Zinc Cafe & Market (580 Mateo St. Los Angeles, CA 90013; 323.825.5381)

Quick Facts:  Vegetarian French cafe with 3 locations (DTLA, Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach). While menu is completely vegetarian, egg & cheese features prominently so fewer vegan options. Large, dog-friendly, tranquil outdoor patio. Opens for breakfast at 7am daily with brunch Sat-Sun from 7am-2pm. Bar Mateo serves food & drink until 12:00am Mon-Sat.

Our Order:  Avocado Breakfast Toast ($9), Baked Spanish Egg Casserole ($10), Huevos Rancheros ($10)

Our To-Do List:  Asparagus Sandwich, Zinc Burger on Brioche, Pappardelle with Bitter Greens

Al fresco dining at Zinc Cafe & Market, DTLA

Al fresco dining at Zinc Cafe & Market, DTLA

Zinc Cafe's Avocado Toast

Zinc Cafe's Avocado Toast

I don't think I've had an Avocado Toast that I didn't like—and this was no exception. Smashed avocado, butter, radish salad, chives, lemon zest, crisp bread. That's all I need to say about that.

The Baked Spanish Egg Casserole (below) was a nice stew of Spanish peppers, onions, and paprika topped with ricotta cheese, gouda, and cracked pepper. This was a comfortable dish...if it were served at dinner I'd probably think it was bland because the seasoning level was, let's say, a gentler way to start the day. And that's exactly what I wanted Sunday morning.

Zinc Cafe's Baked Spanish Egg Casserole

Zinc Cafe's Baked Spanish Egg Casserole

Zinc Cafe's Huevos Rancheros 

Zinc Cafe's Huevos Rancheros 

Huevos Rancheros (above): Two corn tortillas with black bean chili, mango salsa, smoked gouda, poached egg, and marinara. I might have been put off by the abundance of black beans, but they were balanced out by the citrus of the mango and tomatoes. A touch of cumin and spice tweaked a ubiquitous dish into an island-y stand-out.

The vegetarian sausage (below) was not listed as a side, but served upon request. Nothing remarkable here, but sometimes you just want veggie sausage.

Zinc Cafe's Vegetarian Sausage 

Zinc Cafe's Vegetarian Sausage 

For a peaceful brunch experience, I'd recommend eating al fresco at Zinc. It's the whole package: classical music piped into the side patio, a bubbling central fountain, potted plants, excellent service, plenty of space for dogs, and great coffee. Not my top choice for day-drinking but definitely a place to bring mom. This neighborhood also has a rich abundance of photo ops (architecture, street art, things made out of bricks), but act fast because the malls are coming.

Baco Mercat had more of a sidewalk cafe feel, a smaller patio, and cars driving by. The dishes—served small plates style—were thoughtfully created and colorfully plated. The "baco" (sandwiches) and "coca" (crispy flatbreads) seem to be the chef's signature dishes, so bring a couple friends and try as many plates as possible. Day drink here.