Don’t be jealous, but I was in Spain in December so tapas are still pretty fresh in my mind. What a relief to find that I didn’t have to end my relationship with Patatas Bravas just because I’m now on the Missouri, not the Mediterranean.
Espana is located in a really cool old building in Benson. Tin ceilings and original wood floors set the mood and make the restaurant seem like it could be on La Rambla and not on La Maple Street. The restaurant is candlelit, and painted in cozy, lived-in, earthy greens. The night that we went, a guitarist was strumming away subtly in the background. Live music that isn’t annoying? Unbelievable but true. Comfy chairs and couches are scattered in the waiting area, so even if it’s packed you’ll have a comfy place to wait. We had reservations so we didn’t have to wait long.
The hostess was great, she fixed our table because it was a little wobbly. And she doubled as our waitress as well because the other servers were busy. We were sat by the wrap-around bar which is dead center in the room. People lounged about in their barstools talking and drinking gigantic mojitos with loads of fresh mint and lime.
On to the food…prepare for a carbfest! There aren’t a ton of vegan things but what we had was pretty great. The aforementioned Patatas Bravas, fried potatoes with a peppery tomato sauce, really hit the spot. What tastes better than fried potatoes on a cold night? The Pan Con Tomate — just what it sounds like, fresh tomato mashed up with olive oil and spread on a baguette — was great for sopping up any leftover sauce. And the house cured olives were fresh and succulent. The other vegan tapas will have to wait for next time: Espinacas Salteadas (sauteed spinach with pinenuts and raisins) and Champiñones Salteados (mushrooms sauteed with garlic and fresh herbs.) A few other items on the menu held promise, too, but we went straight for the Paella.
It took 45 minutes to prepare (the menu tells you that, though) and it’s worth the wait. In the meantime they bring out tangy dressed salads to hold you over. The paella arrives in a sizzling pan; luscious lemony saffron rice, studded with chickpea and veggies and topped with grilled asparagus and smoky charred eggplant. It’s entirely satisfying but a bit pricey. I would recommend ordering it to split between 4 people, since the entire pan costs 34 bucks and serves way more than 2 people will be able to handle. But if it’s a special occasion and you want to splurge, then go for it! The leftovers were pretty awesome reheated the next day.
All in all: We will totally be back for tapas and next time we’ll bring friends.
Grateful for: Lots of veggies in a romantic spot that we’ll gladly lace up our nicest vegan shoes for.
Vegan wish: We would melt if there were an option for fondue made without cream. It’s easy enough to melt chocolate and many places in Barcelona do it that way.