One of the most difficult thing about enjoying a great restaurant is how limited you are. If you’re alone, you may try an appetizer and an entree, but that’s probably it. Even if you go with a date, at most you’ll get to try two or three dishes. That can leave you with diner’s remorse. Although you may have enjoyed your dish, you can’t help but wonder if something else would have been better.
Diner’s remorse is one reason to seriously consider trying tapas, if you haven’t already. Tapas is a Spanish word for small dishes, snacks, shared plates or appetizers. Some places that serve tapas stick to traditional Spanish dishes, like roasted garlic in olive oil and stuffed olives. Others may create their own kinds of tapas with Asian fusion, New American or other cuisines. Regardless of the origin of the individual dishes, the idea is to have a small portion just big enough for everyone in your group to try.
Sharing tapas is a great way to enjoy a night out with that special someone. It’s also a lot of fun to try with family, friends and even co-workers. Sharing plates and discussing each dish can be a fun bonding experience. You also get the pleasure of trying many more dishes than you could if you were simply ordering a full size entree. Since these small plates are so popular, you can find them at quite a few places around San Diego. We’ve tracked down four that you should consider visiting.
Location: 1653 Garnet Avenue (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 11 a.m. to midnight
Located in Pacific Beach, Costa Brava definitely stands out from other nearby restaurants. Their focus is on both authentic Spanish cuisine, as well as Basque food. There are dozens of incredible small plates on their menu, including cold and hot tapas. They also serve dessert, main dishes, soup and salad.
Their cold tapas include Spanish mussels in brine, fresh anchovies, Manchego cheese, marinated seafood salad and specially cured Spanish ham. Options for hot tapas include a Spanish potato omelet with onion, whole grilled shrimp, sauteed peppers, baby eels in olive oil, dates wrapped in bacon, chicken croquettes and escargot.
They have several exciting entree options as well. As long as at least two people in your group order it, you can have paella, seafood paella or yellow rice cooked with squid ink. Single person entree options include braised rabbit, filet mignon, ox tail in a red wine sauce, pork loin medallions and stuffed salmon.
You can also find some soups here that aren’t at many other local restaurants. Consider their chilled gazpacho, a white bean and chorizo sausage stew, or garlic soup served with a poached egg. Just be certain to save a little room for dessert, since you can order bread pudding, flan or even a Spanish creme brulee.
Location: 353 5th Avenue (map)
Hours: Monday: 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., Tuesday-Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.
Cafe Sevilla is such a popular destination for Spanish cuisine, music and culture that they have expanded their business to include locations in Gaslamp, Riverside and Long Beach. We’ll obviously focus on the location here in San Diego. The space is both modern and classic, and between the music and dance performances, you may have to remind yourself that you’re still in California.
The menu is almost overwhelming here, and there are so many things to try. For ceviche, there are four different tapas options, including an ahi tuna tartare tower, a shrimp and red snapper, and a spicy octopus. They offer three kinds of savory empanadas, including beef, wild mushroom and Manchego cheese with chorizo. They have Tapas de Carne (meat tapas), such as flat iron steak, Rioja short ribs, grilled sausages and more. Seafood tapas options include pan seared salmon, garlic shrimp in a white whine sauce, scallops and sea bass.
They do have plenty more to offer than small plates, however. They make a range of dishes featuring Moorish spices, as well as quite a few different versions of paella. They have some options that are gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian. The dessert menu includes lemon and apple tarts, orange-scented flan and a flourless chocolate cake.
Location: 1980 Kettner Blvd. (map)
Hours: Seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
If you find yourself craving Spanish food while wandering the streets of Little Italy, head right over to Bar Bodega. This place has a little of everything. They sell local and international wines, as well as craft beer. There are plenty of creative dishes, some of which are traditional Spanish tapas and some of which include influences from Californian cooking.
If you aren’t looking to share plates, you can order some creative tacos, such as lam barbacoa or mushroom tacos. They let you build a cheese board with three cheeses from Spain, olives, almonds, quince cheese and bread.
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There are over twenty options on their current tapas menu, if you include their different kinds of tomato toast. There’s plenty of seafood on this menu, including fried calamari, shrimp, marinated Spanish anchovies and tostadas topped with ahi tuna, avocado and chili oil.
For those who prefer turf to surf, there are beef sliders on brioche buns, lamb chops, chorizo deviled eggs and grilled chicken skewers. There are blue cheese stuffed dates, meatballs, garlic smashed potatoes, fried Brussels sprouts, beet salad and eggs, potatoes and onions with tortillas. When you combine those excellent flavors with an extensive bar, you have a perfect recipe for a night out!
Location: 4902 Newport Avenue (map)
Hours: Monday: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday-Thursday: Noon to 10 p.m., Friday: Noon to 11 p.m., Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday: 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Looking for a fun and unique take on the tapas concept in Ocean Beach? Look no further than The Joint. This eatery specializes in tapas, sushi and craft beer.
Their tapas run the gamut from traditional to clever. They offer a baguette from Bread & Cie services with California EVOO, mixed olives, cast iron roasted Brussels sprouts, macaroni and cheese made with penne pasta, a mushroom mix sautee, chicken and mushroom croquettes, artichoke spinach dip, sauteed shrimp, goat cheese, mussels served six ways, including Thai with a green curry broth and chicken wings.
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If you want something more substantial, they make chicken breast and burgers as well as sushi. Their burger options include beef, elk and tempeh. They also make a panini with imported Serrano ham, Manchego cheese, roasted peppers, wild arugula and organic tomato confit. You can also order side salads and French fries. Finish your meal off with a warm bowl of bread pudding.
They have some great Happy Hour specials, such as discounted sushi and tapas. Some of the options for Happy Hour are spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, salmon skin and salmon nigiri. Tapas offerings include marinara sauce with goat cheese, kimchi, picked veggies, truffle fries and even salmon tacos.