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Mercat A La Planxa

Mercat ala Planxa
He swooned over the fleshy orange papaya, the rows of red tomatoes, the glistening jamón, the cockles, clams and scallops tumbling from their bins at Barcelona’s market La Boqueria. But it was the chiringuitos that finally got Chef Jose Garces.


“You’re sitting on the beach, looking out at the Mediterranean and having this delicious seafood,” he says about the Spanish beach shacks, where octopus, squid and shellfish are pulled from the ocean and simply grilled. “That was something I wanted to bring back.”


Chef Garces won a James Beard Award for his skill in upscaling traditional Latin flavors, and Mercat a la Planxa — “market on the grill” — is his tribute to this style of food, and the food of Catalonia. At the Michigan Avenue restaurant near Grant Park, head-on prawns and baby squid are doused with lemon and garlic and seared on the grill. For meat lovers, housemade butifarra, the iconic Catalan sausage, and thick cuts of Wagyu beef also hit the coals (this is Chicago, after all.)
The cuisines of France, Italy, Spain and Morocco come together in Catalonia, and food is meant for sharing. Innovative tapas like “mar i muntanya” — a bite of short rib and scallop that marries mountains to the ocean — share the menu with Chef Garces’ signature cocas, flatbreads topped with sweet-spicy flavors like shrimp and chorizo. Pasta and paella – think rabbit-stuffed agnolotti and rice that’s dark with squid-ink – round out the cultural carnival.


But the ultimate sharing experience is Chef Garces’ whole roasted suckling pig, which gets carved at the table, filling the room with the aroma of sweet young pork. “It’s a great way to celebrate the culture of Spain,” he says. “And it’s quite a show.”



Renaissance Blackstone Chicago Hotel
638 Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605