Wednesday, January 20

The Spanish Square

The Spanish Square
Step inside Lakeview's The Spanish Square, and you're sure to forget about the cold Chicago temps, or that you're even in Chicago at all. The Spanish Square is a tapas bar, wine bodega, and Spanish Market modeled after the Plaza del Cabildo, a marketplace located in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the Cádiz province of Andalucía in southern Spain. The space is designed to give guests a taste of the atmosphere in an authentic Spanish plaza.

The Spanish Square, owned by husband and wife team Manuel Moreno and Mara Baer, is decked out in beautiful imported Spanish tiles you can't help but admire. The dining room also features large chandeliers, curved entryways, and bright, open windows.

Imported Tile
Imported Tile
Dining Room
Dining Room
Dining Room
Upon entering, you'll notice a Spanish market set up along one side of the dining room. Here you can pick up pottery, cooking supplies and ingredients, and even Spanish language children's books.

Market
Salt & Pepper Shakers
Market
The wine cellar in the back offers a selection of Spanish wines, and The Spanish Square offers wine tastings (there's actually one today from 5:30-7:30pm!).

Wine Cellar
The cheese and meat case near the front of the store offers a selection of imported cured meats and cheeses, including jamon iberico, and my personal favorite cheese, Manchego.

Cheese & Meat Case
Jamon Iberico
Seating options for the tapas bar include standing seating near the meat and cheese case, a wine bar, and traditional tables scattered throughout the dining room.

Standing Drinking/Eating Area
The Spanish Square's dining menu features cocktails and Spanish wines, as well as hot and cold tapas, mini sandwiches, meats and cheeses, toasts, and desserts. While the cocktails do pack a punch, I might stick to a glass of wine next time. Besides, what pairs better with a little cured meat and cheese?

Sparkling Pomelo, La Espanola & Mara Collins
Mara Collins & Sparkling Pomelo
I tried a few cold tapas including the gilda, which is essentially a giant Spanish olive wrapped with a brown anchovy and a guindilla pepper, as well as the pimiento de piquillo relleno, a roasted red pepper stuffed with Spanish tuna, and topped with egg and shrimp.

Gilda & Pimiento de Piquillo Relleno
Gilda & Pimiento de Piquillo Relleno
I also sampled a variety of cured meats including chorizo and jamon iberico. Each is sold in tasting portions, but trust me, you're going to want more (especially after a few glasses of Rioja)!

Tapas
Cheese options include Manchego, as well as other goat and sheep's milk cheeses. I liked being able to sample a little bit of everything (along with some quince jelly on the side).

Assorted Cheese
Hot tapas include a personal favorite, croquetas, made from owner Manuel's family recipe. These croquetas are stuffed with jamon, beef, and chicken, and served with aioli on the side. These were one of my favorite bites.

Croquetas de Puchero
Other hot tapas I sampled included the carne al toro, which is essentially short rib stewed in a wine sauce and served over fries. While the meat was tender, I thought it could have used more flavor and seasoning. The fries were a great tool for soaking up that rich wine sauce though.

Carne al Toro
The atun encebollado is chunks of tuna stewed with sherry wine and onions, and also is served atop a bed of fries. I enjoyed the flavor of this dish because you could really taste the sherry, which added a nice depth of flavor.

Atun Encebollado
The Spanish Square also offers montaditos, or tiny sandwiches. We tried the serranito with pork filet, fried green pepper, tomato and jamon. The montaditos also are served with, you guessed it, fries. While it was tasty, I wasn't a fan of the bread. It almost seemed underbaked and lacked any sort of flakiness or crispiness.

Serranito Montadito
If you save room for dessert, there are currently four options: tarta de chocolate (flourless chocolate cake), egg flan, arroz con leche (rice pudding), and torrijas (soaked bread fried and drizzled with a caramelized sauce). If you're a chocolate lover, you'll enjoy the incredibly rich chocolate cake. My favorite was the torrijas, which is basically French toast (you really can't go wrong). I'm not a huge fan of flan or rice pudding, but I did try them and they were very light and not overly sweet.

Tarrijas, Tarta de Chocolate, Flan de Huevo, Arroz con Leche
There's certainly no other place like The Spanish Square in Chicago, and with only a few authentic Spanish restaurants, it's worth a try. The space is beautiful and relaxed, and a nice spot for enjoying a glass of wine and some tapas. I thought some of the food was hit or miss, so I'd probably stick to meats and cheeses, and maybe a hot tapa or two. However, don't be afraid to try something new. The menu explains what each dish is in detail, and servers are knowledgeable and more than willing to help.

Note: my meal at The Spanish Square was complimentary; however all opinions expressed are my own.

The Spanish Square
1358 W. Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
773.717.7900

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