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Comments on Cafe Iberico

Anyone been to Cafe Iberico lately? Good, bad, how was it? Suprised that no one mentioned this establishment when I inquired about top tapas. Thanks much.

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  1. I've been to Cafe Iberico several times lately, and I always have a nice time. Fun atmosphere, cheap pitchers of sangria, and really great food. I've only been to one other tapas place in Chicago (Nia's Mediterranean Tapas) so I can't really say if Iberico is one of the top tapas in the city, but it sure beats Nia's in terms of price, food, and atmosphere.
    I always order one or two item off their specials menu, and a couple of favorites from the regular menu (spicy potatoes -- yummy!).

    1. I agree. Cafe Iberico has always been good to me and whenever I bring people they love it as well. The sangria is amazing.

      1. I think Iberico has more or less been eclipsed by Mercat, but it's less expensive, more casual and pretty good. I've had good tapas there and some less-good tapas, but it has always been fun.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chicgail

          Well put. They're really two different kinds of places, in a way. Mercat is a place for serious attention to the food, the kind of place you want to go with friends who enjoy interesting, creative, unusual food. People don't go to Cafe Iberico because it has the best tapas in town; they go because the food is good, and it's more of a fun, "bar" type place where you watch other people and hang out. The lower price of Cafe Iberico is partly responsible for that, and the no-reservations policy is also a sign of the same thing; Cafe Iberico is the kind of place you (or I, anyway) might go on the spur of the moment, without making plans or reservations, when friends come over at the last minute, or when I feel like "just going out and having a good time". Mercat is for when I feel like making plans in advance - such as planning a get-together with friends, wanting a place with exciting food, combining it with a concert or theater plans, etc. Hope that makes sense.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I agree. Cafe Iberico has its place but i would not describe it as a top place for tapas but for what you pay it is pretty good. The wine is also extremely reasonable so it's a fabulous place to go with a group of people on a budget.

        2. I'm a huge Cafe Iberico fan! When I think of tapas, that's what I think of first. (Maybe I'll have to branch out one day?) My favorite dishes there are the steamed mussels in tomato sauce, the baked goat cheese, and the scallops with saffron sauce.

          1 Reply
          1. re: foodlover23

            mmm... the baked goat cheese is SO good!

          2. What about Cafe Iberico's upper level restaurant called Pinxtos bar? I read that it was Iberico's attempt to go back to the small restaurant feel/quality it used to have before the ever explanding caverns of sangria things started happening.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Eaterlover

              That just opened in the past week or two, so you won't find many people who have been there yet. (I haven't, either.)

              1. re: Eaterlover

                I asked about Pinxtos in the other tapas thread, and didn't hear anything, so I did some research. It has gotten lukewarm-to-poor reviews in Time Out, the Reader, Metromix, and Yelp. Perhaps it's too new to have hit its stride yet.

                http://chicago.timeout.com/restaurant...
                http://www.chicagoreader.com/features...
                http://chicago.metromix.com/restauran...
                http://www.yelp.com/biz/pintxos-bar-c...

                Me, I think I'll brave the wait at Cafe Iberico for my only tapas-in-Chicago meal this weekend...

                Anne

                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  My experiences with Iberico lead me to believe that you won't get much more than a 'lukewarm' meal...Everything's OK, but not 'great!'.
                  For your only 'tapas-in-Chicago' meal it seems that it would be worth it to head down to Mercat.

                  1. re: beanbreath

                    I've been to Mercat, and loved it, but I'm looking for a more casual experience this time - cheaper and less need to dress up. Mercat is fancy enough that I'd feel uncomfortable in my jeans and t-shirt (we're traveling light this time for our train trip). Besides, I want classic/old-style Spanish tapas, not gourmet Catalan food, yummy as it is.

                    Do you have another suggestion for second-only-to-Mercat tapas in Chicago?

                    Anne

                    1. re: AnneInMpls

                      Given those criteria, Iberico should fit the bill nicely.

                      1. re: AnneInMpls

                        Iberico is the place for you. I recommend getting the pulpa a plancha (grilled octopus and potatoes on a plank) and cold ham and cheese platter. The weekly specials (separate menu) are generally superior to the basic menu, but I've only had one bad dish in years of going there.

                        I also recommend sitting in the bar area. When the place is crowded, the service just evaporates in the big rooms. It only really gets slammed on Friday and Saturday nights, when waits can be two hours, although I was there on a Sunday night in April and for some reason it was mobbed.

                        I generally go early, about six, and am usually finishing up when the hordes descend.

                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Thanks for the reassurance! Mr. Tastebud and I went to Cafe Iberico on Friday for dinner, and liked it very much.

                          We enjoyed our dinner - nothing was mind-blowing, but all was good. Surprisingly, there was no wait for a table at 6:45 on Friday night. (Note: When we arrived, a greeter suggested we try Pintxos upstairs, but I declined.)

                          Here's what we had:

                          - Tortilla EspaƱola: Nice version; nothing stellar, but good and non-greasy. Mr. Tastebud loved it.

                          - Ensalada de pollo: Large green salad with grilled chicken, a hard-boiled egg, and three asparagus spears. The tomatoes weren't ripe, but otherwise this was very nice. The chicken was especially tasty.

                          - Salmon a la pimienta: Grilled salmon with green peppercorn sauce. Rather plain fish, but nicely cooked, with a delicious puddle of sauce underneath (though not enough of it). This dish came with cubed fried potatoes - yum!

                          - Patates a la Riojana: A soupy bowl of potatoes (and a few pieces of chorizo) in tomato sauce. I thought it was rather blah at first, but it grew on me - I loved my last few bites.

                          - Almejas en salsa verde: Clams with white wine and parsley. This one was my least favorite, because the sauce was gloppy and floury. But the clams themselves were excellent.

                          - Chorizo y morcilla: Three types of grilled sausages. The morcilla was amazingly good. This was my favorite dish, especially with the soupy potatoes above and a sip of red wine with every bite - transported me back to Spain!

                          - And four glasses of wine: two each of Albarino and (red) Rioja. We traded glasses back and forth with each dish and/or bite. (Oh, I love that Mr. Tastebud shares everything, including wine!)

                          By the way, the service was great; we had a speedy, efficient, and very attentive waiter. (I swear the guy was psychic - there when we needed him, and never when we didn't.) Our server at Mercat last year could have taken lessons from this guy!

                          Note: As an older cranky person, I thought the place was painfully noisy. But I wasn't hoarse when we left, so I guess it wasn't THAT bad... :-)

                          All in all, a very nice dinner.

                          Anne

                          -----
                          Cafe Iberico
                          737 N Lasalle Drive, Chicago, IL 60654

                  2. FWIW, we went there last night for an anniversary dinner. This was a first experience at Cafe Iberico. We arrived at about 6:30PM and were promptly seated at a table.

                    I was looking forward to some tapas, while my husband wanted to try the Paella. Since this wasn't a tapas only situation, I limited myself to 3 tapas plates. I ordered the garlic-y potato salad, potato and egg tortilla and the baked goat cheese (recommended in a previous post). My husband ordered the Paella Iberica.

                    The potato salad and the tortilla arrived first. The potato salad was OK, but not as good as I remember from Cafe Babareeba. It lacked some punch...maybe not enough garlic. Definitely needed some salt/pepper. The tortilla was good and we enjoyed the "salad" that was on the plate, featuring roasted peppers, a mix of greens and a light dressing. We also noshed on complimentary bread and olive oil. Our baked goat cheese arrived next. We were definitely not disappointed with this. A slice of warm goat cheese floating in a not-too-chunky tomato sauce, served with some toasted, herb bread. It would have been great if the bread was also rubbed with a clove of garlic. This was by far the best dish of the evening.

                    After some time, the paella arrived. It was pretty clear that the seafood wasn't the freshest. Also, there was no evidence of socarrat...the crusty, almost burnt rice that forms on the bottom of the pan. The paella was just OK, but nothing to brag about.

                    Perhaps Iberico isn't the place to go for paella and other tapas plates would have been better choices, but it was a disappointment.

                    Also, the service was pretty spotty. Our server was not as attentive as we like. My soda glass was never re-filled. My husband was not offered another glass of sangria, as examples. Also, come to think of it, she didn't even ask us the standard, "How is everything?"

                    Will we go back? Maybe if there is a group of friends going, too. But I won't go out of my way to make a return visit.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: iphonechica

                      That's pretty much the Iberico experience. Good, but not "good enough." We've been to Tapas Barcelona over the years and find it to be a touch above Iberico -- some dishes are great, others just so-so. There's a BYOB operation on Peterson up North, Cafe Marbella, that has some great dishes but is sorely lacking on ambience.

                      1. re: ferret

                        Hey Ferret -
                        I was wondering about Cafe Marbella. Too bad about the ambience, but glad to hear the food is good. Maybe a good place to go on a school night.
                        Cheers!

                      2. re: iphonechica

                        You ordered the wrong dishes, apart from the goat cheese. Their paella is not good, except the specials. They are bland and overcooked. And I love the place. One of the best things I have ever had was their noodle paella, with squid ink and scallops. It was a special and I haven't seen it since.

                        The strategy there is to order the pulpa a la plancha (octopus with fries) and then go to the specials menu. I had a special one time that was grilled oysters with some sort of green wilted vegetable and a delicious sauce. One of the best dishes ever.

                        I really recommend avoiding fish unless it is on the specials menu. I had some skate one time that was inedible.

                        There's great food there. You just ordered wrong. The cold plates are pretty nice, particularly the serrano ham and manchego cheese plate and the chilled artichoke and the chopped salad. On the main menu, I really like the pork skewers with a refreshing salad of onion and cuke and parsley.

                        I seriously recommend sticking to the specials menu, other than the dishes I have mentioned.

                        My daughter demanded a paella one night. I said, um, that is not good. But it was her party, not mine, so I ordered it. She said, I should have listened to you.