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Are there any good real spanish tapas bars in the SF area.

Heading to san fran next weekend and would die for some good tapas.
Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. Barlata.

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    Barlata
    4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

    1. Contigo

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      Contigo
      1320 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

      1 Reply
      1. re: ernie in berkeley

        I often find myself craving those little buttery tender octopus slices (on bread) tapas. Also have lots of love for the 1/2 roasted crab (it's what I hold all other dungeness against but only sold in winter) , and mussels with choriço (from the entrees part of the menu). If you're craving clams Aletejano, the mussels might satisfy.

      2. Bocadillos if you don't mind a little Basque influence.
        http://www.bocasf.com/

        1. Zarzuela

          3 Replies
          1. re: foodeye

            Haven't been to Contigo but Zarzuela is my favorite. Subtle and homemade quality...not over salted.

            1. re: ML8000

              Zarzuela
              2000 Hyde St, San Francisco,

              1. re: ML8000

                Zarzuela since list doesn't register is at
                2000 Hyde St, San Francisco,

            2. Also B44, Esperpento, Patio Español, and Thirsty Bear (eccentric combination, American brewpub with traditional tapas).

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              B44
              44 Belden Place, San Francisco, CA 94104

              Thirsty Bear Brewing Co
              661 Howard St., San Francisco, CA 94105

              Esperpento Restaurant
              3295 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

              Patio Espanol
              2850 Alemany Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94112

              21 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Picaro gets a lot of guff here, but it's the same owners/food as Esperpento. I personally think Picaro has gotten a bit better again lately.

                How about Fonda in Albany? I think it's kinda pricey for what it is, but people seem to like it...

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                Picaro Cafe
                3120 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                Esperpento Restaurant
                3295 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  Duck Tacos are a great example of what I'd call small plates and emphatically not tapas. And compared to Cesar shattuck - the only reason to go to Fonda is the noise level is lower.

                  1. re: bbulkow

                    Fonda is modeled after the fondas of Mexico, not the tapas bars of Spain.

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      I had some great Mexican food at Fonda recently. Definitely worth a visit, but not if you're looking for real tapas.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Can anyone weigh in on Alegrias on Lombard? I have a Groupon for them...

                    1. re: saffrongold

                      I haven't been to Barlata but none of my friends that live in Berkeley and Oakland have mentioned it so I don't hold much hope. La lola is not bad,is the only one I would go back,though is really overpriced. Alegrias is pretty bad.

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                      Barlata
                      4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                      1. re: rteamalc

                        Barlata is great. Chef-owner is from Spain as are often a high percentage of customers, especially later at night. He used to have real Spanish horchata made from chufa nuts, but the machine broke down too often so he gave up. Best price around on jamón ibérico. Be sure to try the arros negre.

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                        Barlata
                        4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                      2. re: saffrongold

                        The food is pretty good, but the atmosphere is like a morgue.

                      3. re: Robert Lauriston

                        I have generally been underwhelmed by Esperpento; If you are drunk or getting drunk, it is fine. But I wouldn't rate it as high quality or particularly interesting.

                        1. re: SFDude

                          Actually I find it about average quality overall -- but focused on classic tapas not particularly adventurous stuff. The noteworthy thing is that they have a larger number than usual of vegetable tapas. The grilled artichokes are absolutely a favorite and would be a standout anywhere, IMO.

                          1. re: SFDude

                            I think Esperpento's menu is hit and miss but fairly consistent as to which dishes are good (not that I can ever remember which they are except for the morcilla and tortilla). It's not Contigo but it's about half the price, I think both are good values.

                            http://www.esperpentorestaurant.com
                            http://www.contigosf.com

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            What do you like at B44 from the non-paella part of the menu?

                            1. re: Glencora

                              I've hardly gone to B44 since Barlata opened, but my longtime favorites besides the arros negra are the xato, mushrooms, morcilla, octopus, romescada, salt cod filets, and rabbit.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Thanks. Going tonight before ACT. The rabbit with grilled bread salad does look good. And the xato (Just have to figure out how to pronounce it)... Unfortunately just the two of us, so we won't be able to try as much as I'd like.

                                1. re: Glencora

                                  Xato is pronounced something like château.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    The Xato salad was very good and probably not something I'd have ordered on my own -- yay for Chowhound. No rabbit on the menu. Actually the menu we were given was quite different from the one online. Still, nice meal.

                                  2. re: Glencora

                                    the grilled lamb brochettes are always good, as are the boquerones. i second the octopus with fingerling potatoes. and Pa Amb Tomaquet Catalan Toast is always a simple pleasure.

                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                      The octopus was still on the menu -- and great, thanks. I think the brochettes are just for lunch. The place was pretty empty, but the prices seem good and everyone was friendly. I suppose they probably do better business at lunch. Hope so.

                                      1. re: Glencora

                                        Frequently when I'm on Belden either all the places are pretty busy or they're all pretty quiet.

                                        1. re: Glencora

                                          yeah, that whole alley is hopping on a nice weekday.

                                      2. re: Glencora

                                        http://www.forvo.com/word/xato/
                                        you can hear it here.
                                        basically, Chat O

                                2. To my money, Iberia is the only place really like spain (but pretty far out of town) - I'll admit to not trying Zarzuela and Contigo. There are lots of tapas-ish small plates places. Cesar berkeley hasn't been mentioned and is excellent - since you asked for SF, you've got SF proper. Most are spain with a california flair of one type or another - which isn't a bad thing. If you're down with that, you've got a pretty good list.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    Barlata seems pretty Spanish to me. I often see a fair number of actual Spaniards there.

                                    I hear the chef left Cesar.

                                    -----
                                    Barlata
                                    4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      2nd this (about Barlata). Same owner / chef as B44 in San Francisco. He is Catalan.

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                                      B44
                                      44 Belden Place, San Francisco, CA 94104

                                      Barlata
                                      4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Ditto - Barlata feels very authentic to me. It's also my current favorite.

                                        -----
                                        Barlata
                                        4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                      2. re: bbulkow

                                        bb, where is Iberia? (the bay area one, that is).

                                        1. re: PolarBear

                                          Menlo Park by the train station.

                                          Many posts about Ibera say "beware of owner". The last two times I've been there the experience has been pleasant and service excellent. I'm hoping they've turned around the service problems with that sample.

                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                            I've been to Iberia's deli and have great Spanish treats and imported products, but is very very expensive.But is the price I have to pay to eat and cook with products from home. I haven't been to restaurant though.

                                        2. re: bbulkow

                                          Agreed. Note that tapas are served at the bar (only) in Iberia. It's the only place in the area that comes close to a Spanish tapas bar (albeit a stuffy one that might have existed 30 years ago).

                                          That said, the dishes taste right (based on my recollection from a few visits to Spain). The barman is professional. The wine and drink menu is good. It's a quiet atmosphere; nice for a drink with your co-worker after a workday.

                                          Another difference is the price. Expect to pay more than you would at a similar place in Spain. I don't know the economics, but most of the bar food places are much pricier when transported to the US (true of tapas, meze, yakitori, etc). Expect to pay double what you would in Spain.

                                          Spaniards have called out Iberia as the closest to Spain in the area.

                                          I've been to many of the other places mentioned (especially the ones that have been around for 5 years of more). Most do not replicate the experience of a tapas bar in Spain. Biggest difference is that many are restaurants and serve something closer to a racion size than a tapa size.

                                          Some, like Esperpento, don't get the flavors right either. In SF, sitting at the bar in B44 might be your best bet. Or, perhaps, Bocadillo.

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                                          B44
                                          44 Belden Place, San Francisco, CA 94104

                                          Bocadillos
                                          710 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                          Esperpento Restaurant
                                          3295 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                        3. Neil,

                                          Are you more concerned with the food being authentically Spanish or rather with the experience being typical of a real tapas bar? For the latter, Thirsty Bear is a lot of fun and the food, though Californified, is still very good. I would say Contigo is the best in terms of the sheer quality of the food.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: the mess

                                            I agree, the show is awesome.

                                          2. Barcelona's Lizarran group has outposts in Manhattan, Southern California and here in GILROY.
                                            http://www.chow.com/restaurants/91490...

                                            Quite authentic, if that's what you're seeking. Here are some photos of the tapas I've had at Gilroy's Lizarran.
                                            http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                                            1. If you are willing to drive, Zuzu in Napa.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: 512window

                                                Zuzu has some traditional Spanish tapas on its menu but mostly not:

                                                http://www.zuzunapa.com/menus.htm

                                              2. zarzuela, esparpento, and ramblas are my favorites. as mentioned above-i enjoy thirsty bear, but acknowledge their straying from traditional tapas.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: alpine chef

                                                  Ramblas is closed.

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                                                  Ramblas Tapas
                                                  557 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                    Thanks god

                                                  2. re: alpine chef

                                                    Esperpento is definitely good for a very traditional experience, with more vegetable dishes than one usually sees (I recall the grilled artichokes being exceptionally good) and we really like Bocadillos for a more modern take.

                                                    -----
                                                    Bocadillos
                                                    710 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                                    Esperpento Restaurant
                                                    3295 22nd St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                                  3. Best restaurant experience I've had in ages was at Barlata. From the bread, which came with this ground black olive-anchovy-garlic olive oil dip, to the stuffed piquillo peppers, to the chard, to the mushrooms, to the shrimp--every flavor was spot-on and perfect.

                                                    -----
                                                    Barlata
                                                    4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: essvee

                                                      I just visited Spain for the first time (San Sebastian), and the tapas at Barlata are as good as the tapas I ate there (though in a different regional style). Different presentation, I'm not sure a real tapas bar would go over here, people like to sit down.

                                                      -----
                                                      Barlata
                                                      4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                      1. re: essvee

                                                        Went to Barlata for the first time since I visited Spain, and the jamon Iberico was better than most I had there. Also had tortilla Española, pig foot terrine, and mar i muntanya (pork meatballs with squid), after which we were too full to order the arroz negre we'd had in mind.

                                                        -----
                                                        Barlata
                                                        4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          What's the regional style of tapas at Barlata? I know the folks are from Catalan, but that region doesn't seem to have it's own, distinct tapas history. Assume you enjoyed Basque style in San Sebastian. Another treat is walking tour of the tapas bars in Seville.

                                                          Sounds like high praise for Barlata (especially ham)! Always enjoyed the tapas at the bar in B44.

                                                          1. re: jman1

                                                            Barlata doesn't claim any particular regional style, the Web site says the menu "covers the whole Iberia Peninsula."

                                                            http://www.barlata.com/dinner.html

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                                                            Barlata
                                                            4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                      2. i like zarzuela, although it can be inconsistent.

                                                        i agree that esperpento/picaro may not be the most delicious/authentic tapas, but they both still offer a great value (like the lobster tail) unlike other places where you leave having spent tons of money and not full.

                                                        one place i will emphatically NOT recommend is lalola in nob hill. don't really get the big deal about that place. everything was off.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: vulber

                                                          Tried Zarzuela on Wed. for the first time.. We were very impressed (which hasn't happened for tapas in the bay area yet). I am not qualified to comment on authenticity, but everything we had was fantastic... We had the patatas bravas (a good litmus test for tapas restaurants), the Madrid style Tripe, the pork medallions in a piquillo pepper & cabrales cheese sauce, the braised quail, and a mysterious off menu special of Spanish baby octopus served in a pine nut, saffron, and chocolate sauce.

                                                          The pork was cooked perfectly, the tripe was amazing (I would get this many times over), but our favorite was the mystery dish... the reason it is so mysterious is that the waiter only mentioned it to us (very late in the ordering process); he did not mention its existence to any of the surrounding tables. I don't know how we got so lucky because the combination of pine nut, saffron, chocolate, and octopus was like nothing I have ever had before and delicious... the baby octopus was so tender that we cut the 5th one in half with a fork, and I practically licked the plate of the sauce.
                                                          We also had the poached pear, some great reasonably priced sherries, and a glass of really fantastic Sangria (spiced and not too sweet).... all this for ~$80 with tax and tip. Very impressive and a great value too.

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                                                          Zarzuela
                                                          2000 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                                                        2. I enjoyed Lalola. It's not as good as Barlata or some of the other places mentioned, but the prices were pretty reasonable and there was no wait at 8:30 on a Friday. Seems like the place gets a lot of tourists, I heard French, German, and Spanish at other tables.

                                                          I'd order the tortilla, croquetas, mushrooms, and fried calamari again. Charcuterie plate was OK but we're pretty spoiled around here. The goat yogurt "cheesecake" (made with gelatin and no eggs, I'd call it a bavarian) was fabulous.

                                                          -----
                                                          Lalola Bar de Tapas
                                                          1358 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA

                                                          1. I don't know if I should put this review here or start another thread....Four of us went to Contigo last night. We tried the grilled pulpo pintxos with potato and piparra pepper (good smokiness on the octopus, and the pepper really gave it needed tang/salt); pork belly bocadillo (good but needed something to make it pop); anchovy with avocado cream on toast (i didn't get to try this); patatas bravas (their version, i have to say, is my least favorite of i've had anywhere - even esperpento/picaro's - the sauce was sweet and strange to me); a salad of chicories with a fantastic fried cheese (very good); the heavenly buttery jamon iberico de bellota (can now die happy, having self-actualized); and the other standout, the calamares over squid ink rice with spanish chorizo and artichokes. The rice was nutty and chewy and also crisped in bits, the smokey, salty chorizo went wonderfully with the artichoke and of course the squid. I'd go back for this dish alone. We had two bottles of a Vina Herminia Rioja - nice, very bright-berry-heavy. Dessert was a vanilla ice cream drizzled with a grassy-green extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with flaky sea salt - delicious, i love this combo, having had something similar at Coi once. We also ordered some other dessert, something flan-like, but it was unmemorable to me. Not a meal without its flaws, but again, i'd go back for that calamares dish, the jamon iberico (the couple we went with had been to Spain last year and they said the jamon at Contigo was better than what they had there), and a couple glasses of cava.