Traditional Tapas in downtown Seattle
We're coming up for business this week and extending through Thursday night and Friday. Have made reservations at Sitka and Spruce for lunch Friday and Poppy for dinner. Originally was looking at Pintxo for dinner Thursday based primarily on the Tortilla Espanola being more traditional than Tango. Other recommendations for tapas or must eats? Thanks in advance!
Pintxo is probably your best option for tapas specifically. Seattle is a long way from Spain, though, so set your expectations accordingly.
If you've never been, I do think Palace Kitchen is worthwhile. Get the chicken wings and at least one other small plate that interests you for the table, and someone in the party should have something from the grill. Unless you don't drink, have a classic cocktail. (I frequently fall into a manhattan there, or a Pimms cup in the summer. The house specialty cocktails on the menu run sweet.) I never once took a guest from out of town there that was disappointed - most ask to return on subsequent visits.
Harvest Vine in Madison Park executes tapas quite well. I took an acquaintance from Spain and she was suitably impressed. Ask for a table in the wine cellar rather than up above.
I would say that there is not a truly classic tapas or pintxos (toothpicks -- which name arose from common presentation of small bites skewered on a toothpick) place in Seattle.
There are Spanish restaurants that serve some classics but there are no places that have truly replicated the set up, feel of taste of Spanish tapas or pintxo bars. There is no place I know of that gives out small bites or snacks with each drink orders or where you sit at a counter and select from pre-made small plates or skewers stacked inside or on top of a bar case.
That being said Pintxo is a reasonable facsimile downtown. It feels a bit similar in atmosphere to the places you would find in Spain. As noted by some reviews the name suggests a Basque space (its predecessor was the chef of Basque Harvest Vine) but the dishes are from all over Spain from Asturias to Andalucia.
Still, they have some small plates "para picar" (to nibble or peck at) like patatas bravas, croquetas de jamon, tortilla, choricitos, etc. plus specials like gildas and diablos a caballo. There are also montaditos and raciones if you want a full dinner.
One caution: they get good but not great diner reviews. I am personally not a huge fan of diner ratings but collectively they probably provide some validity. Some of the reviews from people who seemed to have solid Spanish food background were critical.
For my part the restaurant is what it is but I have been to Spain seven times now in as many years and traveled pretty extensively around the northern half of the country. Pintxo is a small decent neighborhood restaurant but I wouldn't make it a destination with so many great places to eat in Seattle.
Tango looks pretty good. I have not been there. I thought it was neuvo Latino but the menu does look largely Spanish. Chico Madrid (on the Western part of Capitol Hill uphill from Eastlake) is getting decent reviews. However it is very small (there is outside seating for summer but obviously that is not going to be an option now) and there is nothing else walkable to it if you go there and it is full. Also when I was there for lunch my experience was mediocre.
Again unless you are really wanting to prioritize Spanish food I would take a pass on these places.
To ampllfy what Gizmo said if you are a fan of Spanish food and wine you should stop at Spanish Table below (West of) Pike Place Market on Western Ave. It's classic.
don't count out Tango because of one dish! the food is consistently good all around. small plates and entrees verry good and if you like dessert/chocolate you don't want to miss the EL DIABLO. imo best dessert in seattle.
Definitely Pintxo and Aragona. The view from the bar in Aragona is great. IF you should find yourself in Ballard, however, Ocho is your place.