Tapping into Tapeo

Just when you think that the tapas trend has been passed over like yesterday’s hors d’oeuvre, along comes someone who does it so well that we just have to… share.

Tapeo, owned by Carlos Mendez, opened in July at the old TinFish location on So. Clematis across from the fountain, and already has a line-up of holiday parties on the books. Yup, they’re that good. Plenty of room downstairs and up. Those private parties are loving the upstairs room with its own bar.

And about those tapas: expect every plate to be attacked by a gaggle of over-eager forks. The presentation is irresistible, and the flavors? H-olé mol-ay.

Order all the small plates on the menu for a crowd, and a pitcher or two of sangria – one each red and white. Pretend you’re on a tapeo – a kind of tapas crawl in Spain – and make a night of it.

Shrimp in oil and garlic was my favorite. Patatas bravas – Spain’s answer to fries but with a spicy tomato sauce and creamy aioli. Pulpa a la Gallega – grilled octopus, split, and served with a salad. The croquetas are little crumbed fried balls filled with ham, chicken or seafood. First prize goes to the tortilla Española – an egg-and-potato omelet with onions. It’s a meal at brunch, but big enough to pass around, even though secretly I resented sharing.

Lots of paella choices, too: the classic Valencia, with shellfish, chicken, chorizo and saffron, or the meatless veggie, surprisingly tasty. There are entrees too, for people like me who tend to guard their food, but it’s not as much fun to eat conventionally here when there are 25 tapas on the menu, and five paellas.

The only thing that clued me into the fact that I was still on Clematis, not oinking my way through Spain, was the reasonable dinner hour.

I don’t do well waiting til 10 to sit down to eat. This is how you access truly authentic Spanish cuisine and the laid-back lifestyle that puts work and fun into their proper hierarchy. Eat all night at a communal table if you want, but I’ll be in bed by the time Spain’s sitting down to dinner.

Service couldn’t be friendlier – you’re likely going to see the owner’s son taking care of the dining room. This is about dining as an experience, not just sustenance. Go before the snowbirds get here and steal our seats.

You can gracias us later.

118 Clematis St. | 561.514.0811

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