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Where are the top tapas?

What spots serve the best tapas and or small plates? Prefer downtown and North to Evanston. Thanks for your help!

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  1. Mercat a la Planxa in the Blackstone Hotel.

    1. Agree on Mercat, but you might want to give Tapas Valencia a try a little further to the south. They're now offering a tapas selection at $2 apiece before 6:00 on weekdays. Nothing spectacular, but what we had was solid and authentic and at $2 each well worth the price:


      A nice selection of wines by the glass, too.

      1. Has anyone tried Pintxos, the new weekend-only place above Cafe Iberico?


        1. A third vote for Mercat a la Planxa. www.mercatchicago.com

          Other good ones include Emilio's ( www.emilostapas.com ) and Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba ( www.cafebabareeba.com ), both in Lincoln Park.

          Once you get north of that area, there aren't many tapas places. Evanston has Tapas Barcelona, which is just okay nothing special, and there's a place in Andersonville I haven't been to called Tapas las Ramblas.

          You can read opinions about many of the tapas restaurants in town in these discussions:

          3 Replies
          1. re: nsxtasy

            Ok- Mercat a la Planxa is a go after all the recommendations. Seems a bit pricier than other spots but we will try it. Have you been there?

            1. re: schaf1

              i had lunch there on a trip recently - they have a pretty good deal during the day where 18 dollars buys you a first and a main - not a HUGE savings but not bad either. the first courses ranged in price from 8-11 bucks and the seconds were from 10-14. oh, and they threw in a soda/iced tea with the deal, so we probably ended up saving most of the money we left as a tip. Portions werent tiny but were kind of all over the place - the burger was very good and well-sized, my scallops came with two scallops each of which had been halved cross-wise (they were nice sized scallops to start with).

              1. re: tex.s.toast

                Mercat's lunch deal makes this a good choice for lunch in the area. That being said, it won't give you a chance to experience the best of their tapas. Mercat can offer IMO the "best" tapas experience in Chicago, but sometimes the "best" is costly (especially when the location is a Michigan Avenue hotel).

          2. A fourth vote for Mercat a la Planxa. Just had a phenomenal meal there Saturday night. Every tapas dish entree we ordered was phenomenal (except dessert - just not that great). Excellent service and outstanding sangria. You really can't go wrong there.

            1. Definately Mercat a La Planxa also, I would recommend Arco de Cuchilleros at Halsted & Cornelia.

              1. I'm with everybody else on Mercat. Not much of a fan of either Ba Ba Re Ba or Emilios. I think they both had their day, but it's gone.

                1. Mercat is good but overpriced. Try Azucar in Logan Square. Great tapas--a little different than the usual fare available at Ba Ba Reeba, Emilio's, Iberico. I also like Twist in Lakeview.

                  Azucar: http://www.azucartapasrestaurant.com/

                  Twist: http://www.twistinchicago.com/

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jasonkc99

                    We ran into Twist today - not on purpose, but because we did the random tourist thing and ended up in Lakeview. It was good. Kind of Mexican Tapas. Not great. And nothing like authentic. But reasonably tasty and the price was right. The place was an odd counterpoint to all the Cubs themed bars nearby.

                  2. I'm going to go ahead and put one vote in for Cafe Iberico. It's definitely worth a visit. I haven't yet tried Mercat but I have tried Cafe Babareeba and Iberico is better!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: foodlover23

                      I agree about Cafe Iberico. I think it has gotten better recently. I went there often for a more authentic tapas fix, but used to always be disappointed. I just visited twice recently and was quite happy, although the food was definitely presented better at a quiet Wednesday lunch than at a hectic Wednesday dinner (with lots of families and tables of 20+-- so they were really busy). I like Emilio's in Hillside, but find it less authentic-- not a bad thing, just different. I don't like Cafe Babareeba-- food was okay, but service was like molasses, and it wasn't even that busy.

                    2. Tapas Las Ramblas in Andersonville is really good. Only been there one time.

                      1. Absolute best tapas are at Avec on Randolph. I'm so confused that no one has mentioned it previously. I actually joined Chowhound and set up an account just because I was so confounded that no one had mentioned Avec yet on this posting. GO. You'll be amazed.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: casmith

                          I would agree. I suspect the lack of mention of Avec here is really because the title of the post suggested tapas, as opposed to small plates, and Avec is not what one would traditionally think of as a tapas restaurant. But I don't think you'll find a lot of disagreement here that Avec is a great restaurant and better than any of Chicago's tapas restaurants (Cafe BaBaReeba, Cafe Iberico and Mercat a la Planxa).

                          It might be worth adding the Bristol (in Bucktown). I have not been there yet but have heard extremely positive reviews and their menu appears to emphasize sharing and small plates.

                          1. re: BRB

                            Love the Bristol (and Avec) but like BRB, I wouldn't consider either of them tapas restaurants.

                            Tapas is Spanish bar food. Mostly stuff at goes with sherry or beer on the go. Certain fried fish and veggies, omelettes with potatoes, Spanish cheeses, Serrano ham, stuffed dates, olives and lots of fruity Spanish olive oil. Some of the local places that fill that bill were mentioned above: Mercat, Iberico, Cafe BaBaReBa, Emilios.