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Any good TAPAS in Chicago?

mardisk Jun 25, 2009 05:37 AM

We're staying at the Millennium Knickerbocker for 4 nights and are interested in having tapas one evening. (Don't mind a cab ride to get the best food). Any suggestions? Thanks.

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  1. Caralien RE: mardisk Jun 25, 2009 06:42 AM

    this gets asked every few months:

    My vote is for Cafe Baba Reeba, but I haven't been since moving in 2004 (the Las Vegas version was good, but the original in Chicago better)

    1. chicgail RE: mardisk Jun 25, 2009 06:49 AM

      Mercat a la Planxa is rather new in the recently referbished Blackstone Hotel on South Michigan Avenue. The food is superb, the drinks excellent, good service and fun atmosphere. Highly recommended. Head and shoulders above the rest.

      Cafe Iberico is an old favorite; inexpensive, less creative, as is Baba Reeba mentioned here.and Emilios. There's also Barcelona in Evanston.

      check out the other links listed above.

      Mercat a la Planxa
      638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

      6 Replies
      1. re: chicgail
        mountsac RE: chicgail Jun 25, 2009 10:51 AM

        mercat a la planxa has smarter service and decor than other tapas restaurants in chicago. the presentation is also more refined. the cava we got was also quite good. but i still think that it's overpriced. although armed with all the good things i mentioned, the cooking and the actual food, while good, do not rise to level of "fine dining" and do not adequately justify the inflated price, which kind of defeats the purpose of eating tapas anyway.

        1. re: mountsac
          ceekskat RE: mountsac Jun 25, 2009 03:35 PM

          I agree, except for the "smarter service". Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we dined on a Tuesday night (last July, not busy) vs. a more popular night but our server was unable to enlighten us as to what was special about the Jamon Iberico vs. the Jamon Serrano. I knew enough that it had been illegal to import until recently, but not much more. Our server said he'll find out but never did. That's all the excuse DH needed to whip out it his then new iphone to give me a little culinary lesson :)

        2. re: chicgail
          lilaki RE: chicgail Jun 25, 2009 01:26 PM

          i'm curious ... how much does a tapas meal run for two people (on average) @ mercat?

          1. re: lilaki
            ms. chow RE: lilaki Jun 25, 2009 02:06 PM

            I can't say on average, but the last time i was there with DH, our bill was about $120 with alcohol and tip. It really depends on what you get. Their more traditional tapas are between $5-$15. The flatbreads (which i always get) are between $11-$15. The larger plates are between mid-high teens. The a la planxa menu is a whole different ballgame. If i remember right, the full order of Colorado lamb chop is $40+. That's 4 perfectly charred, tender juicy chops.

            1. re: lilaki
              mountsac RE: lilaki Jun 26, 2009 09:49 AM

              it was around $100 dollar for the two of us, including tax and service. but we only had one glass of cava each, and we didn't have enough food to eat. the paella was especially tiny. i don't remember all the details from that meal, but the unusually small portions did make an impression.

              i think cafe iberico is good. but i personally like "people" in wicker park better. the place looks humble, but the food and sangrila are quite solid there. i especially like the blue-cheese potato dish.

              i also think that avec could be a tapas restaurant, depending on the way you order. they have the best bacon-wrapped dates in town.

              1. re: lilaki
                lilaki RE: lilaki Jun 27, 2009 11:04 PM

                tks for the info re: prices ... i think we'll save that $$ for when we're actually in spain this fall! :)

            2. m
              ms. chow RE: mardisk Jun 25, 2009 07:11 AM

              I second chicgail on Mercat. It is my top choice for tapas these days.

              For old standbys, Cafe Iberico is best. If you want more peace and quiet, 1492 is my alternative to Iberico.

              There is a new crop of tapas places. Tapas Valencia is good (they are owned by Meson Sabika in Naperville). Eivissa and Pintxos i haven't been, but have read mixed writeups.

              1492 Tapas Bar
              42 E Superior St, Chicago, IL 60611

              Tapas Valencia
              1530 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605

              1 Reply
              1. re: ms. chow
                foodiechicago RE: ms. chow Jun 28, 2009 07:37 AM

                Cafe Valencia in the South Loop is great. Pricing is similar to Cafe Iberico, but the decor & menus are much more updated and the service is great. I didn't think Mercat was all that wonderful--too expensive for tapas....

              2. g
                gleam RE: mardisk Jun 28, 2009 11:32 AM

                FYI Mercat is closed until at least mid-July. Something about slippery floors.

                1. viafaenza37 RE: mardisk Jun 30, 2009 03:00 PM

                  Cafe Baba Reeba is definitely good. Mercat a la Planxa is about the same. Both are expensive for Tapas... Cafe Iberico is dirt cheap. But surprisingly good food if you don't care much about the dining atmosphere.

                  1. b
                    bourj RE: mardisk Jul 1, 2009 09:39 AM

                    Yeah, Cafe Ba Ba Reeba is always my first choice.

                    1. g
                      gls_junk RE: mardisk Jul 1, 2009 03:26 PM

                      A third vote for Mercat. By far the best tapas in Chicago although priced at a premium.

                      They also do the whole-roasted suckling pig (look at the website) which has to be pre-ordered. Loved it.

                      1. p
                        Pete Oldtown RE: mardisk Nov 12, 2009 10:15 PM

                        It depends on what you want to spend. I love Cafe Iberico, because I'm not rich and I get insulted at high prices for small plates. I always guess the price before I look at the check and it is always lower than I expect. And their sangria is exceptional.

                        Sangria, on Weed St. and North Ave., is pretty good but way overpriced. They have a happy hour, but their sangria is terrible and way expensive. Still, half-price tapas is a deal.

                        Iberico Cafe & Bar
                        737 N La Salle Dr, Chicago, IL 60654

                        Cafe Iberico
                        N Lasalle St Chicago IL, N Lasalle St Chicago, IL

                        1. s
                          Sharon S. RE: mardisk Dec 11, 2009 11:31 AM

                          I was in Chicago recently and had a wonderful meal at Mercat a la planxa. Some of the dishes are pricy, but I am from the SF Bay Area and it seemed like most diishes were well priced for what you got. Fo instance there were two of us and we ordered the Serrano Ham and Fig Salad and it was an enormous portion. I loved the Garlic Shrimp and the Butternut Squash Dumplings were tasty. Octopus and Potatoes were also a good size and delicious. The flatbread with saysage just okay.

                          1. jcmods RE: mardisk Feb 12, 2010 08:40 AM

                            I don't live in Chicago but we ate at Iberico about a year ago and I feel it more closely resembles what tapas in Spain is supposed to be (i.e. inexpensive, unpretentious, good food). The only thing you can't do in the U.S. is move from place to place because generally there is never a cluster of about five tapas bars together. At Iberico, I thought the portion sizes were even quite large for how relatively inexpensive it is. We had a lot of really good things (tortilla, croquettes, squid with fries being what I remember) with maybe the only miss being the patatas bravas which were not really bad, but not really bravas either (more like a curry sauce than the red sauce). I haven't been to Mercat, but I have been to Jose Garces other restaurant in Philadelphia, Amada. I am assuming they are probably similar. The food was tasty at Amada, but the portions tiny and expensive. Also the vibe was more upscale hipster. Therefore, I prefer Iberico which had more the ambiance of a beer hall with really good food.

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