Some chefs are just never satisfied. Two meals a day won’t do, and neither will the constraints of the printed page. At Lazy Ox Canteen, Josef Centeno filled a blackboard with nearly as many dishes as he had on the handout. He also became known for nightly specials. Basically, if he could carve out a few more inches of culinary real estate, he would, kind of like the architects who figured out how to place houses on the side of steep hills in L.A. canyons. Given his approach, we were only mildly surprised when the Baco Mercat owner listed Saturday morning “hair of the dog” brunch on his website, and we ventured to downtown’s historic core to experience the first day of service.
We settled into a butcher paper-lined table near a window that faced Main Street and ordered. Our first plate featured a rosy-hued Pork & Fennel Sausage ($7) patty studded with fennel seed and chile flake. Chef Centeno seared the meat on the griddle, locking in the juices, and served with a refreshing salad of parsley, pickled red onion, radicchio, and thin shaved radish.
Chef Centeno built the restaurant around his bäco, a folder-over flatbread sandwich, so of course we had to order one. During my initial visit, in the first week of business, they were pretty good, but by the time we returned, he’d really dialed in the flatbread portion, which was supple, lightly crisped on the bottom, and similar to good pita. Part of the reason oxtail isn’t approachable is that people have to pick the meat from the tail’s chambers. For Toron ($12), Chef Centeno pulls the juicy shreds forms them into a patty, pairs them with a crispy hash brown “tater” patty and rounds out the balanced fillings with sprouts, arugula and mesclun mix, spicy orange aioli, pickle and cheddar.
They offered bread-based options like a “tart cherry muffin,” a “yeasted Belgian waffle” and “house granola” with lebni and honey, which all sounded good, if the two of us weren’t already at capacity.
Baco Mercat makes sweet & sour sodas with macerated fruit, vinegar, sugar and soda. Tangerine-Szechuan and persimmon were both heavy on the vinegar, so they tasted fairly tangy, but were still distinctly flavorful. Still, we probably should have ordered a drink special from the mirror menu, be it the Bazerac or Gin-Pop! After all, it isn’t truly hair of the dog unless you drink alcohol.