Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers, or small plates, found in Spanish cuisine. They’re tiny, meant only to be a few bites; designed to be eaten slowly and to encourage conversation. In Spain, you often eat them while standing and sipping wine or beer. It’s the type of meal meant to stimulate the mind as much as the palate.
When it comes to tapas here in the United States, there seem to be three different types of restaurants:
1. Spanish restaurants offering either classic small dishes or an homage to those classics with new culinary twists.
2. Non-Spanish restaurants, which honor the theme of small plates by offering an array of charcuterie, grilled vegetables, and seafood.
3. Restaurants that label any old bar appetizers as “tapas.” (We’re talking greasy mozzarella sticks, chicken strips, and sliders.)
This article is about the first option on this list and I would definitely avoid the third kind. Here are five of Seattle’s best tapas restaurants.
Ocho. Ocho is tapas perfection. The restaurant is small, cozy, and intimate, with a hand-written chalkboard as the menu. The prices are cheap, the options are varied, and the servings are small. This is a great place to go for a date if you’re okay with sitting at the bar and using your fingers. My favorites are the Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes served with spicy tomato sauce and artichoke aioli) and the Setas de Jerez (sherried mushrooms and arugula on olive oil toast). Ocho also has a great patio for enjoying summery cocktails.
2325 NW Market St
Seattle, WA 98107
The Harvest Vine. I love sitting at the bar at The Harvest Vine, sipping wine, and watching the talented chefs cook the fantastic food just inches away from me. Another small and intimate location, The Harvest Vine is the most expensive place on this list, but the food is definitely good enough to warrant the few extra bucks. The menu evolves with the seasons and changes about every other week. Right now, I’d try the Piquillos Renellos do Bradada, a dish with salt cod stuffed piquillo peppers. The Remolachas is also to die for, thinly sliced red and golden beets drizzled with olive oil, sherry vinegar, garlic and sea salt.
2701 E Madison St
Seattle, WA 98112
Neighborhood: Madison Valley
POCO wine + spirits. If you can, get to POCO early and grab a table on the patio; it’s relaxing, small and a great place to catch some sun and people watch on Capitol Hill. The inside has more of a coffee house feel, and I prefer the outside ambience. My favorite on this menu is the Serrano Montaditos, crisp baguette rounds topped with thin serrano ham, manchego, and olive oil. The servers and bartenders are all very knowledgeable about wine, so don’t be afraid to ask for suggestions.
1408 E Pine St
Seattle, WA 98122
Neighborhood: Capitol Hill
Pintxo. Happy Hour at Pintxo is from 5:00 to 6:00 Monday through Friday and the prices are fantastic. Grab a seat at the bar, sip a two dollar mug of Estrella Lager, and enjoy food that’s all under $4.50. Try the Tortilla Espanola, a slice of traditional Spanish potato and onion omelet meant to be eaten at any time of day. And, as always, the Patatas Bravas is a great choice for starting the night out right.
2207 2nd Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
Tango. This is another tapas restaurant that’s best at Happy Hour. The largest restaurant on this list, it’s a great place to meet friends at a big table to sample a lot of different dishes. Try the Albondigas, Spanish meatballs with beef and spicy pork, tomato-pimenton sauce, and Cotija cheese. The Penn Cove Mejillones are also fantastic- mussels with peppers, onions, smoked garlic, linguica sausage, and grilled baguette. Wines are half price every Monday night.
1100 Pike St
Seattle, WA 98101
Neighborhood: Capitol Hill