Cocinas y Calaveras founder Jesse Gomez and chef/partner Jose Acevedo opened a new Pasadena branch of Mercado at The Commons on South Lake in April 2018. The journey is full-circle for Gomez, who worked for the Smith brothers at Crocodile Cafe in 2001 and promptly got fired. Now he runs the place, punctuated with four art pieces featuring skulls painted on gold bullets. Thankfully, the Mexican comfort food isn’t nearly as menacing. In fact, some dishes are downright historic. Chile Verde Estilo Arco Iris ($18) is a stewed pork dish that’s also on the menu downtown at sister restaurant Ytxa and originated at the Gomez family’s Highland Park restaurant, El Arco Iris, which closed in 2017 after 53 years.
“It’s one of my favorite things on the planet,” Gomez says of this large plate ($18) of tender Salmon Creek pork butt chunks slow-roasted in a tangy, slightly spicy green sauce crafted with tomatillo, onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Each plate comes with earthy chile piquín black beans crumbled with queso fresco, fluffy Mexican rice, and creamy sliced avocado. Diners also receive a choice of house-made blue corn or flour tortillas, both well suited for building tacos.
Dose of Vitamin P spotlights my favorite pork dish from the previous week.