Bar Mercado captures Spanish atmosphere


Shay Bowman

A Bar Mercado chef prepares tapas for the evening crowd.

Shay Bowman

It’s a Friday night, and Bar Mercado is packed. Waitresses carry around plates of food, and hosts greet you into the eclectic, lively restaurant. Kids and adults alike smile as they eat the small dishes placed in front of them. According to Kellie Bruce, a customer at Bar Mercado, the atmosphere plays a key part in the enjoyment of the meal. 

“It’s warm and fun and festive,” Bruce said. “I love the colors in there.”

Bar Mercado is a tapas restaurant located in Krog Street Market. Although it may seem to be just another restaurant, Bar Mercado has a history dating back five generations. Stephanie Castellucci and her two brothers are apart of the fifth generation. Castellucci is the owner and general manager of Bar Mercado. 

“It’s over 100 years of restaurant ownership and operating. My brothers and I really grew up in it. We worked in the restaurants growing up when we were eight, nine, ten years old up until now,” said Castellucci. 

Castellucci is constantly on the move through the restaurant when dinner service begins. She focuses on the finance and staffing of Bar Mercado while also finding time to talk to guests. Castellucci is very involved with the guests and is determined to make sure they are comfortable which she learned from her parents.

“They really taught us what sincere hospitality was and how to lead with passion,” Castellucci said, “They were great examples of what being a restaurant owner really truly means.”

Her brothers and parents play a role in Bar Mercado as well as the families’ five other restaurants, Sugo, Iberian Pig, Cooks and Soldiers, Double Zero and Bar Mercado’s sister restaurant Recess. However, Bar Mercado is different from the other Castellucci restaurants. 

“Our other buildings are free-standing or in neighborhoods. We’re the only restaurant in our group that’s in a market place and also close to the beltline,” Castellucci said. 

Bar Mercado gets its inspiration from Madrid’s central market in Spain, Mercado de San Miguel. The restaurant’s goal is to capture the authenticity and traditions of the market in Spain by serving tapas that match the vibrant cuisine across the sea. Jennifer Martin, the architect who helped design Bar Mercado, says she aimed for a restaurant with bold patterns and bright colors to reflect the excitement of the food hall in Spain.

“All the little towns around that area bring their micro cuisine to the city center, and it’s a great overarching display of great Spanish cuisine,” Castellucci said.

Bar Mercado fits well within Krog because it is appealing to many different types of customers. According to Castellucci, Bar Mercado is really unique because people walking on the beltline can stop by to have a quick snack and a drink (barhop) or have a full meal. The restaurant also suits different styles of dining. 

“I think what makes it really unique is that it is a little bit more casual but still elevated service and the tapas concept in this neighborhood is unique as well. There aren’t as many restaurants that are small plate focused,” Castellucci said.  

Both Bruce and Mariana Mcguire, another customer of Bar Mercado, love the tapas concept because of the unlimited possibilities of the combinations of tapas you can order.. The tapas are also easy to share. 

“I love where you can go and order several small plates to share with friends and family,” Mcguire said. 

The family businesses are immersed in operation, and Bar Mercado strongly believes in its core value and works with teams to embody the culture of the restaurant. 

“We’re in the restaurants on a nightly basis and we’re very well connected to what’s really happening,” Castellucci said.