Last night, I had the pleasure of going to eat at BARcelona Tapas in Indianapolis with my mother, my father, and a family friend. Obviously, it is a “tapas restaurant.” I was excited to return to the restaurant. I had been there once before, back in 2007, before I ever went to Spain. I wanted to evaluate it now that I knew what the real experience is like.
I wrote a post on tapeando already. Tapeando is, basically, the art of going for tapas. As I said in the earlier post, the point of tapeando is not to stay in one bar. It’s not a sit-down dinner at all. Ideally, you can hit up anywhere from three to six bars in one night, depending on your hunger and stamina. When I go out with Mario and his friends, we all put a set amount of money in the bote and put someone in charge of it. Then, we go from place to place, not worrying about it, as the person in charge will take care of paying. At each place, everyone orders a drink: beer, wine, or water (usually). With this order, we get a free tapa to eat. There are all sorts of tapas, and I don’t have the time to get into all of them, but they can be very, very good and, of course, not so good. You have to know where to go!
In the US, the craze for tapas is just starting. Tapas restaurants are popping up everywhere. Spanish cooking is beginning to get the recognition it deserves, thanks in part to chefs like José Andrés, who as this Wall Street Journal article states, arrived in the US in 1991 with little money, back at a time when basically no one knew what Spanish cuisine even consisted of.
My favorite tapas are usually cheese-related. (Surprise, surprise!) To me, nothing is quite as good as a slice of queso manchego with dulce de membrillo (a type of quince jam, which my mother-in-law makes at home). I also love patatas alioli, smoked salmon with cream cheese and bread, croquettes, and olives. Se me hace agua la boca.
Tapas are great, no doubt about it. What’s so great about them? It’s not just the food. It’s the atmosphere, the fun you have standing up in a noisy bar with your friends, drinking and eating great food. It’s walking from place to place after a few cañas. It’s the shared experience.
With that said, I wonder whether the tapas experience can ever truly triumph in the States. Most of all, it’s because we just don’t have the walkability of Spain—except in big cities of course. But I’ve always had the most fun in a small town, Zamora, because Mario grew up there, and he knew all the best places. We love going to El Chillón, a bar known for its tortilla con salsa de callos (a Spanish potato omlette with tripe sauce. Yep, you read that right. It’s delicious!) I know that in Crawfordsville, my home town, there is really no such thing as walkability. We have to drive everywhere, unless we want to walk an hour and a half to the grocery store. The real tapeando experience would not work here, nor would it in the majority of US cities.
[Image from Notes from Madrid.]
Nonetheless, the idea of introducing good-quality Spanish food is a good one. Many people believe (falsely) that Spanish food is similar to Mexican. It is not. Spanish food is not spicy. Many people go to Spain and leave believing that all Spaniards eat is pork. While they do love their pork and other pig-based products, Spanish food is extremely varied and usually delicious. I’m glad that BARcelona Tapas is doing good work. That said, some of my favorites from last night:
- Alcachofas fritas—Crispy artichokes with Romesco sauce and shaved Manchego cheese.
- Empanadas de espinaca y champiñón—Spinach and mushroom pastries with cumin garlic alioli.
- Trigueros con Romesco—Grilled asparagus with Romesco sauce and Manchego.
- Tres quesos—Manchego, Cabrales and goat cheese with Spanish picos.
What do you think? Will the art of tapeando ever really triumph in the US? Or maybe just the tapas?
201 N. Delaware
Indianapolis, IN 46204