tapas

What American Tapas Restaurants Get Wrong

The other day, while reading my mother’s copy of Reader’s Digest, I stumbled along a “funny” quote:

What the ...?

What the …?

This shouldn’t have enraged me … but it did. Okay, perhaps “enraged” is the wrong word to use, but I was rather miffed after reading this. I even Tweeted about how this person clearly didn’t get tapas. But then I thought about it some more. This person did get tapas, except he had only had tapas in American restaurants, meaning his experience was worlds away from what real tapas are like. I guess I couldn’t blame him, though I did blame Reader’s Digest for publishing his inane comment.

The real question is—What do American restaurants do wrong when it comes to tapas? Is it even possible for them to do it right?

American restaurants serve tapas at raciones price.

In Spain there are usually a few different categories of dishes on the menu, including tapas and raciones. Tapa are individual sizes, whereas raciones are meant to be shared among 3–4 friends. In the U.S., the restaurants make you pay much more for smaller-than-raciones sizes, meaning the guy in my picture is, um, right.

Whole Foods refers to tapas as “tiny treasures of Spain.”

American restaurants hardly ever give you anything for free.

Don’t you love getting something “for free”? It’s not really free, but in many Spanish restaurants (outside of certain areas), you’ll get a free tapa when you order a drink (a beer, a glass of wine, or a soft drink). I’ve never been to a tapas restaurant in the U.S. that does this.

There is no tapeo experience.

The true Spanish tapeo experience involves walking from bar to bar to get the best thing at each particular bar. In Zamora, for example, we know the best place to get a pincho moruno (pork kabob), calamares (fried squid), and a sandwich made with pork loin and Cabrales cheese.

You go from bar to bar with a group of friends. Ponéis todos un bote, meaning you all pool your money for a kitty—you then use this money to pay at each bar instead of everyone paying for their own drinks at each place. (You must put someone in charge of this. Choose wisely.) At the end of the night, if there’s money left over, we usually just save it “for the next one.” In Spain, there is never the last round; it’s always la penúltima (next to last).

The drinks are expensive.

When I come back from Spain, I can never believe how much wine is here. You want me to pay $10 for one glass of mediocre wine?! And you’re going to serve it to me room temperature? And you’re going to fill the glass up? I know it’s not like that in nicer places, but so many places just don’t know how to serve wine. At all. In Spain, you can get a good glass of wine for €3–€4 in Madrid, and in Zamora, we pay for €1.30 for a really decent glass of Toro wine.

Beer in Spain, if not usually good, is at least cheap. There are more and more places to get craft brews, but those tend not to be your traditional tapas bars.

And stop it with all the sangría, okay? Spaniards do drink it—sometimes—but most will likely opt for a beer, wine, or even vermouth.

Paella.

I know not even to get a Valencian started on paella, so I won’t go too into too much detail. But stop with the paella crimes, okay? Just stop!

So what do American tapas restaurants actually do right?

In my opinion, not a lot. They push things like sangría, they mix up Spanish with South American, and they charge way too much for way too little. However, I can say one thing: The taste of the food is good, even if there’s too little of it to really appreciate.

What’s your experience with tapas restaurants in the U.S. or other countries besides Spain?

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De Tapas por Zamora—Where to Eat in Zamora, Spain

Zamora Spain Tourism

I’m in Zamora. But where should I eat?

Good question. I’m glad you asked! I personally love eating, but I know of no one who relishes good food more than Mario and his family, true Zamorans (zamoranos) who know a good meal when they see one. Thus, I’m very excited to share with you my favorite places to eat or grab some tapas in Zamora!

Check out my Google Map of Where to Eat and Drink in Zamora, Spain!

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11 Little Things that Make Me Smile, Madrid Edition

It’s the little things, isn’t it? The big things are great, wonderful—but they’re often few and far between. Of course, the fact that they are indeed scarce makes them all the easier to appreciate.

Puerta de Alcalá (HDR)

Photo by Emilio García

But the small things? They’re the type of occurrences that could and do happen every day. We just have to learn to notice them.

  1. All the crosswalks are green when you get to them, even those pesky ones with two distinct lights, meaning you usually have to stop in the middle of the street to wait for the second.
  2. Arriving at the metro station and hop right on the train, both at the first station and your transfer station. Bliss.
  3. There are available seats on the metro. In fact, there are more than enough so you don’t have to squeeze in like a sausage!
  4. Remembering an errand you forgot to do, only to walk right by the store you need, whether it be the supermarket, the hardware store, or the bank.
  5. When there’s no line at the bank.
  6. When the cashiers at the supermarket smile and treat you kindly.
  7. When there’s a long line at the supermarket and they actually open a new line—and you get to go first.
  8. When your Spanish comes out perfectly the first time.
  9. Seeing the weather forecast app predicts sun, sun, sun for the foreseeable future. Not only during the weekend, but the weekend too!
  10. The tapas bar is full, but not too full. If you get what I’m sayin’.
  11. The wine you order is a) delicious and b) costs less than €2 per copa.

What little things make you smile in your city?

The Rain in Sevilla

Our trip to Sevilla got off to a rainy start. After checking into our hotel after an unsuccessful attempt to visit the dentist (another story altogether!), night had already fallen. Another thing falling? The rain, of course.

IMG_0435My first view of La Giralda

Luckily, Sevilla is still pretty, even amidst the drizzle. The Christmas lights were lit, and it was hard to feel discontent with the whole city wishing us Felices Fiestas (Happy Holidays).

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