If you’re after authentic Mexican gastronomy in the heart of Santa Monica, then Mercado is the place to go. Co-owner Jessie Gomez has grown up in the restaurant game and Mercado (the third branch of the family business), features recipes that have been handed down through the generations, giving the menu personality and soul. Co-owner and head chef Jose Acevedo uses locally sourced produce to create imaginative, contemporary dishes to suit the fussiest of LA palates – the melt-in-the-mouth slow cooked carnitas are always a hit. With its sleek décor and unpretentious food, Mercado is refreshingly understated. But whilst it definitely doesn’t shout Central America, it does have an eye-boggling array of tequila and a cool blend of Latin American influenced craft cocktails for you to sample well into the early hours.