El Mercat Bar De Tapas, located in Rockville Town Square, is one of the newest eateries on a block populated with franchise restaurants.

It opened late January, 2022 and has emerged to be a popular place for people both young and old. The restaurant has street parking and a parking garage free for the first two hours.

El Mercat serves traditional Spanish cuisine such as paella, tapas, and churros, in addition to its selection of classic Spanish wines. Food items on the menu range from $5 for appetizers such as aceitunas —made from mixed olives, arbequina, gordal and aragon— to $38 for larger entrees such as seafood paella.

Despite being in business shy of three months, reserving a table at this restaurant is not an easy feat. “It [gets] overwhelming because we’re always overbooked,” said Wendel Alves, the general manager. “We’re usually [filled to capacity] from Thursday through Sunday.”

This is a feat that co-owner and executive chef George Rodrigues takes pride in. Even with businesses across the state closing due to financial constraints, he took advantage of reduced rental prices to jumpstart his own endeavors. “Little guys like myself were able to open restaurants because I had experience, but not the financial backing,” he said.

El Mercat’s other success stems from Rodrigues’ decision to cater to an American palate.“ I think the main mistake people make is that they open a restaurant and cater to people from their [home] country,” he said.

This has helped to keep his customers happy. “I would definitely come back here,” said Liza Parr who is a high school teacher in Montgomery County. “I love that they have happy hour everyday, something that is uncommon in this area.”

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