Chicago Tapas
Great Sharable Plates

It can be hard to whittle down a delicious-sounding menu to just one, single selection. And all too often the savory tastes of combined gourmet ingredients, plated for one, make it just too hard to share. Luckily, tapas restaurants are popping up all over the city and letting diners have it all and share it all in one relaxed and social dining experience.
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South Loop: Esquire Pick

Listed as one of the 20 best new restaurants in 2008 by Esquire Magazine, Mercat a la Planxa marks a return to his native Chicago for famed Philadelphia restaurateur (and Iron Chef America) Jose Garces. The restaurant takes its name from the Catalan word for "grilled", which is exactly how dishes like chorizo with smoked paprika are prepared.

West Town: Mexican Tapas

Though it takes its name from Barcelona's master of modernisme, Gaudi Café's menu also borrows from its owners' Mexican heritage. Veggie chimichangas and chicken flautas compliment goat cheese croquettes or a traditional Spanish potato tortilla.

University Village/Little Italy: Infused Tequilas

At La Taberna Tapas, flavors from Spain, Latin America, Mexico, and the Mediterranean meld together in the cuisine, but the flavorful fusions don't stop there. Pineapple-, lavender-, and jalapeno-flavored tequilas blend into margaritas and sangrias, while small plates meet sustainability on Wednesday nights when the restaurant offers an organic tapas menu.

Dearborn Park: Signature Sangrias

The bright colors on the walls of Tapas Valencia may distract the eyes, but never the taste buds. Instead, hot and cold tapas and signature sangria command their full attention. Composed of wine, liquor, and fresh fruits, red and white sangrias also come in flavors including peach and prickly pear.

Gold Coast: Spanish Tapas

Chef Emilio Gervilla brings his Spanish upbringing and experience working in his grandfather’s tapas bar to present authentic, Spanish-style shareable plates. The small meals may include Emilio’s famous garlic potato salad or various cheeses and meats, including imported Spanish Serrano ham.

Uptown/Ravenswood: Shareable Sweets

Diners who can't wait to sample desserts such as sautéed banana, cappuccino cheesecake, and flan can sate sweet teeth during dinner instead. Braised fennel arrives to tables topped with sweet garlic, pineapple, and fennel candy, while mango basil sauce sweetens wild Atlantic salmon and apples add flavor to curried cauliflower.

Lincoln Park: Bite-Sized Tapas

Billing itself as “Chicago’s Original Tapas Bar,” Café Ba-Ba-Reeba piles big flavor onto small plates, but its smaller, bite-sized dishes also pack a delicious punch. Known as Pintxos (PEEN-chose), these six dishes––including a short rib-stuffed piquillo pepper––are available by the platter or individually and are only $1.50 each.

River North: 4,000 Bottles of Wine

Just as the menu of hot and cold tapas––such as tuna cannelloni or beef tenderloin––allows guests to sample many gourmet flavors, a wine cellar filled with more than 4,000 bottles of wine allows them to imbibe various aromas, balances, and bodies.

Logan Square: Spanish Cheeses

Just steps off the Logan Square blue line stop, Azucar! gets cheesy with its customers, whether topping almond-stuffed dates with honey-mascarpone cheese or by offering up plates of 12-month aged manchego or soft, crumbly, blue la peral made from mixed cow, sheep, and goat's milk.

West Loop Gate: Farm-to-Table

Though the tapas concept derives from Spain, the ingredients at Province hail from much closer to home. Inside the farm-to-table restaurant, executive chef Randy Zweiban crafts small plates using sustainable seafood and veggies from Chicago's Green City Market. The Gold Level LEED certified restaurant also takes its sensibility past the stove by incorporating green building materials and equipment.

Evanston: Diverse Proteins

Imported Spanish ham and chorizo are the showpieces of many tapas meals, but at Tapas Barcelona they're only the beginning. Hearty, meaty bites include everything from smoked salmon to grilled duck sausage. Even baked snails are hard to resist when smothered in a delicious aioli and tomato sauce.

West Town: Mediterranean Tapas

In Greece, tapas style plates are known as "mezedes". Here, they're the perfect vessel for Nia Asimis to share her Greek culinary heritage with others. Her tapas menu pairs Spanish classics such as patatas bravas with Mediterranean tastes such as lamb and feta meatballs or glasses of sweet Commandaria wine.

Lakeview: Gluten-Free Options

Those with celiac disease or a wheat allergy can still enjoy Tapa’s Gitana’s Spanish cheeses, curried chicken salad, grilled tiger shrimp, or slices of chorizo. Among its tapas menu, the restaurant lists 20 gluten-free choices, as well as 10 vegetarian options for a truly inclusive dining experience.

Lakeview: Open 365 Days

Open even during all major holidays, Bull-eh-dia’s Tapas Bar makes sure customers never miss an opportunity to mark a special occasion with its many vegetable, cheese, seafood, and meat tapas. And to make sure daily customers don’t get bored, the restaurant changes its menu seasonally.

East Ukrainian Village/Wicker Park: Rustic Refinement

Besides reclaimed barn wood floors and vintage mirrors, guests to Black Bull are greeted with a bowl of marinated olives before noshing on tapas like ham, bacon, chicken, and oxtail croquettes. To minimize interruptions in conversation, tapas courses come served on elegant wooden boards instead of on clattering plates.

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