3.5 stars for Hallandale Beach's quaint, cozy Il Mercato
1454 E. Hallandale Beach Blvd, Hallandale Beach
Hours: Coffee and pastries at 9am, lunch 11am-3pm Tuesday-Friday. Dinner 5-10pm Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5-11pm Friday-Saturday. Sunday brunch 11am-3pm (Lunch and dinner Monday and lunch Saturday starting Nov. 1)
Prices: Small plates $2-$8, ,pasta (half/full) $7-$16, entrees (half/full) $8-$19
FYI: Beer and wine only. Wine tasting 7-10pm Monday $10 ($5 if you bring a bottle in a brown paper bag for a blind tasting). Free WiFi. Reservations recommended on weekends; AX, DS, MC, VS.
At first glance, Il Mercato Café & Wine Shop looks like a neighborhood restaurant. At first bite, patrons know it's much more. This shoe box-size storefront in the alcove of a Hallandale Beach shopping plaza is serving dishes like duck leg confit, house-made tagliatelle and olive oil-poached shrimp with quinoa. And everything is under $20. Sommelier Michael Lynch and chef Emily Finne Lynch, a husband-wife team, opened the cozy, brick-walled café nearly three months ago. An unfinished, industrial ceiling and granite-top bar add a contemporary accent to the 36-seater (with another 25 seats outside).
The Lynches' motto -- "eat global, dine local'' -- is a perfect fit. She was born in Colorado, grew up in Bavaria learning about Italian food from her Sicilian stepfather, spent summers in Norway and attended a French culinary school in New York. They both worked in Manhattan restaurants (she at Eleven Madison Park and Danube, he at Keens Steakhouse and The Odeon), and later at Miami Beach's Table 8. The young, engaging staff provides warm and friendly service.
Michael Lynch sets the tone out front, making patrons feel welcome and answering questions about his Euro-centric wine list of 85 varietals, mostly under $100. Beer drinkers can choose from a lineup of handcrafted brews. The menu changes weekly and there a few daily specials, so even regulars find something new.
- Spaetzle – delicious, crispy, pan-fried German noodles with Gruyere, scallions and a dusting of paprika
- A tasty fried pork belly carnita, tucked into a soft tortilla with frisée, cilantro, avocado and a drizzle of sour cream. Crunchy roasted beet salad with creamy goat cheese crumbles and frisée in a perky vinaigrette
- A refreshing arugula salad
- Light, silky house-made ravioli filled with butternut squash, topped with chopped pecans and Parmesan and set in a golden brown butter sauce
- A moist, flavorful salmon entrée served with a wonderful side of barley and butternut squash in a ginger-spiked mushroom sauce with slices of shiitakes
- Buttery tender, well-seasoned and nicely-charred grilled hangar steak
- A rich green peppercorn-Gorgonzola sauce
- Pan-fried Yukon gold potatoes
- Grilled zucchini
- Ultra-creamy banana gelato made by Emily Lynch's stepfather
- Scrumptious zwetschgendatschi, a Bavarian-style plum tart topped with almond streusel
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