I remember back in the early 90s, when I'd mention to people that I really liked the now-landmark Emilio's Tapas bar in Hillside, they'd look at me confused and ask, "Did you say topless bar?!"
Now, everyone knows what tapas are, and restaurants selling tapas seem about as common as those selling hamburgers. Tapas is a culinary trend that shows no sign of letting up.
One can usually guess what's going to be on most tapas menus: patatas bravas (garlicky potatoes, usually in mayo), queso de cabra al horno (goat cheese in tomato sauce), ham with cheese, etc.
I usually prefer to seek out less familiar items, so at La Espanola we ordered:
- Croquetas de Bacalao: these potato puffs stuffed with whipped cod were darned tasty, a balance of crunchiness and creaminess, earthy potato and fish.
- Aquacate Frito La Espanola: when I read "fried avocado," I imagined the fruit would be cut in strips like a fried potato, but this dish turned out to be two full halves of avocado, fried, served with a mango-apricot vinaigrette: rich, tasty, and good drinking food (note: we liked the sangria here; it was light, fruity, and a good match for fish or meat).
- Ravioles de Langosta: these lobster-stuffed ravioli sounded intriguing, but they turned out to be the only miss of the night: kind of floppy pasta with indistinguishable seafood mixed in a gloppy, marginally flavorful sauce.
There were some unusual aspects to dining at La Espanola – such as the small four-top tables, which are too tiny for the likely number of plates four diners would probably order, and the rainbow-colored laser lights that played across the faces of my three tablemates throughout dinner.
Overall, though, dining at La Espanola was a pleasant experience, and good places to eat in the immediate area are always welcome even if they're of a type one can find all over Chicagoland.
6543 Cermak, Berwyn
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