Friday, February 13, 2009

I am Bacaro's boomerang...

Being an SC student, I'm constantly looking for ways (and excuses) to get off-campus. Don't get me wrong, USC is great and I love every minute I spend here, but sometimes, you've just got to escape and retreat to (one of) your happy place(s) - the farther away, the better. I used to relish in sitting down at a restaurant far, far away from the hub of campus life, from the Row and from all of my classroom buildings, just to enjoy a glass of wine and unwind from my life within the Trojan bubble. Imagine my delight when I discovered that I could have the best of both worlds - this same feeling of escapism, without the hefty toll on my gas tank and wallet. That day, that was when I discovered Bacaro LA.

A stone's throw away from my cozy home north of the USC campus, Bacaro LA is truly in a class by itself, especially considering the (depressing) caliber of restaurants and establishments that surround it. This place is truly a breath of fresh air for foodies like me who prefer to savor a Thursday night by sharing a bottle of wine and delicately-crafted, Venetian-inspired small plates with a close friend or loved one, rather than sipping on mysterious "jungle juice," choking down shots of nameless liquor and ending my night with a tummy full of Jack in the Box "tacos" (apparently, no meat in these "meaty" tacos...). The first time I ever stepped foot inside Bacaro, the co-owner Daniel greeted us warmly and encouraged us to ask questions and explore his impressively cultivated menu that pulls from local artisans like BREADBAR (my personal favorite for all things bread), sustainable farmers and authentic, indigenous wines. While Bacaro is committed to using local ingredients, I really appreciate the philosophy behind their decision; using organic and sustainable products as often as possible, but particularly when the ingredients are the stars of the cichetti (tapas), the minds behind Bacaro strike the perfect balance between environmental consciousness and the reality of attempting to run an all-organic restaurant from the ground up.

One of the many great things about Bacaro is its versatility. I can take anyone here - my boyfriend, my parents, my best girlfriends - and have completely different, yet incredibly enjoyable experiences that leave my guests wondering, "Why haven't I come here before now?" and before you know it, they, too, instantly begin to formulate their own lists of companions to bring along on their next visit to Bacaro's small, dark and intimate setting. With no more than ten tables, Bacaro's ambiance softly whispers of sophistication that is neither stiff nor overly-serious. Rather, Bacaro fosters quality conversation, along with delighted outbursts at every first taste of the next tapas to come out of the back kitchen and always, always, the request for more little dishes than simply the three you ordered when you first sat down. Among my (numerous) favorites are: the crispy polenta squares with roasted market eggplant: the roasted rainbow beets with chevre and tarragon: the Gorgonzola, date, walnut, and orange honey-draped crostini; the hot artichokes with Parmigiano Reggiano; the pan-seared scallops with melted winter leeks and spicy crostini; and the very sinfully delicious nutella panino with strawberries. WHEW. If you think that sounds amazing, just wait until you cast your fascinated foodie-eyes on the sprawling wine list scrawled out in chalk on the far right blackboard of a wall. Along with tantalizing your tummy with advertisements of $1 nibbles like almonds, figs and apples, an assortment of fine cheeses, and baskets of tender, crisp slices of BREADBAR bounty, you'll find an impressive compromise between offerings by the glass and libations by the bottle from all around the world. Bacaro's special focus on Old World wines is a refreshing departure from the blase trendiness of Australian and New Zealand wines, and the friendly wine experts are more than heplful in helping you pinpoint what exactly you are hankering to enjoy with your over-indulgence in their sensational small plates.

But, don't just take my word for it. Give Bacaro a try soon (actually, now), and you'll be pleasantly surprised at your amazing dining and drinking experience at this dimly-lit, street-side wine bar. The more I go to Bacaro, the more often I go back, and naturally, the more people I introduce to Bacaro's refreshing, alternative offering on a Thursday or Friday night at a university known for its extremely localized night life. Each time I end my night at Bacaro, I promise them that I'll be back soon, and soon enough, there I am again, asking for wine recommendations and greedily eying every cichetti I cast my eyes upon. Maybe I've come with a new friend, maybe I've come looking for red wine instead of white, but one thing about my experience at Bacaro LA always remains the same: before I've even left, I've already decided that I'm returning soon, very soon.

Bacaro LA
2308 South Union Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90007

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