Tapas are like an awesome, classier version of your favorite buffet dinner. You get to the restaurant and you’re pretty certain that you’re not that hungry.  You think to yourself, “great, a light meal, just a few bites here and there.” Before you know it, you’ve made your way up and down both sides of the aisle and are going back for thirds on the tapioca pudding. Yup, tapas are like that…only they’re Spanish and waayyyyy more delicious. Let me explain.

History

The story goes that tapas originated in Spain when bar patrons began covering their drinks with slices of bread to prevent flies from slipping into the glass. Soon, the bread started showing up with flavorful meat, cheese and olive toppings. Tapas have since evolved into their modern day form:small plates of food that are shared as an appetizer or meal.

Getting Started

One of the best things about tapas is the almost never-ending selection of delicious dishes to choose from. While the variety is great once you find your favorites, it can also make your first few tapas experiences a little overwhelming.  Enter Restauarant.com! You can use the following suggestions as a road map to tapas success.

1. You can eat as much or as little as you like in a tapas restaurant, but it’s best to start with fewer dishes than you think you’ll need. Tapas are meant to be enjoyed with great wine and conversation over the course of a couple of hours. Begin by ordering a couple of dishes and order more throughout the meal. Trust me, you don’t want everything to arrive at once.

2. Tapas are served as a series of small plates and are usually shared with a group, family style. This provides a great opportunity for everyone to try a little of everything; it also means that each person in your group will probably be able to order one of whatever looks best to them. With that in mind, don’t let one person run the show. Talk about what looks good to your party and decide what to order as a team. (Note: It’s best to start with a couple of cold options and add hot dishes a little later.)

3. Be a little adventurous. Take a chance and try something you haven’t had before, like squid or octopus. Spanish cuisine and tapas are well known for using the freshest ingredients that combine for incredible flavor. Something that you would normally pass over might become your new favorite if you give it a chance.

So Many Choices, So Little Time – Tasty Choices to Try

Tapas Frias (cold options)

Pan de Tomate – Toasted baguette rubbed with fresh tomato, garlic and olive oil purée, topped with Manchego cheese(think  Spanish bruschetta.)

Tortilla Española – One of the most popular dishes in Spain. It’s a pancake-shaped Spanish omelet with sautéed onions and potatoes.

Aceitunas Aliñadas  – Spanish olives marinated in olive oil, vinegar herbs and spices served with bread or crackers.

Plato de Jamon y Queso – Jamon is Spanish for ham, and in Spain, cured ham is a delicacy. This starter plate will feature thinly-sliced cured ham and assorted cheeses.

Tapas Calientes (hot options)

Queso de Cabra al Horno – Goat cheese baked in a tomato basil sauce, served with toasted baguettes.

Datiles con Tocino – Bacon wrapped dates in sweet red pepper butter. Proof that bacon really does make everything better!

Gambas al Ajillo  – Sautéed shrimp in garlic sauce.

Paella – Rice with saffron, tomatoes, onions, meat and seafood.

Albondigas – Spanish meatballs served in savory wine sauce.

As with all new dining experiences, the most important thing to keep in mind is to enjoy yourself. Tapas are meant to be an experience, so sit back and enjoy the dining ride. (While you’re at it, check out our FirstBites-Sushi101 post for another food adventure!)

What are you favorite tapas or small family style dishes? Tell us below!