Welcome to Front & Center, a series highlighting front of the house professionals in Bay Area restaurants. Right now: San Francisco Examiner's anonymous food critic Jesse Hirsch on Martin Mercado, reigning doorman/bouncer at Pancho Villa Taqueria for the past 15 years.
Mercado has the patience of a saint, warmly greeting and holding the door open for every customer. It doesn't matter if they're grimy, condescending, crazy, or drunk. He always has a smile and a kind word. Mercado can also get tough when need be. I've seen him eighty-six belligerent drunks, and he once calmed a screaming lady with three-inch nails who was trying to vault over the counter and grab one of the cooks' hair. Another time he sat down with a hard-luck character who had fallen asleep in his burrito, before tenderly guiding him out of the restaurant.
I can honestly say I've eaten there over 100 times and Mercado is always there. Who can maintain good humor in the face of such a relentless tidal wave of humanity? I can't even be nice to my friends half the time.
—Jesse Hirsch of The Examiner
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