When travelers return from Spain, some miss authentic tapas. Here’s where to find them in the U.S.

Quick notes:

  • Tapas is more than just a small plate of food

  • Authentic tapas are prepared with specifically-sourced ingredients

  • Tapas is as much an experience as it is a type of dining

Tapas restaurants remain one of the most delightful and memorable parts of a trip to Spain. Once you’ve lingered at the table late at night, enjoying tapas and drinking wine with other traveling companions, the small bites of authentic flavor stay on your palate and in your memory.

When you get back to the United States, you may be hoping to recreate some of these moments from your trip. Sadly, while you may find lots of restaurants that advertise tapas, what they offer may not be the same as what you enjoyed while away.

Small plates of marinated squid, sauced meatballs, oiled flatbreads, or warmed cured meats and beans aren’t going to be the same as the dishes you enjoyed if they’re getting too creative or following European recipes. And depending on the restaurant, you may also feel rushed and pressured, rather than allowed to enjoy your evening.

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Luckily, some U.S. restaurants are serving tapas as authentically as possible, along with other Spanish delicacies and beautiful wines from the region. 

Buceo 95, New York City

Located on the Upper West Side of New York City, Buceo 95 opened in 2008 and has been receiving solid reviews ever since. Their small plates include garlic shrimp, bacon-wrapped dates, and bacalao croquettes. They also maintain top-notch service and an extensive wine list to complement your food. Sure, there are other options for tapas in Manhattan, but this one generally has been highly rated across multiple online forums.

Coqueta, San Francisco

San Francisco is known for its extraordinary food and wine scene. With a city’s residents and visitors having so many refined tastes, it is not surprising that they would have at least one authentic tapas restaurant. In this case, it is possible to find many great tapas experiences here, but one stands out above others in numerous online reviews. Coqueta, on Pier 5 near Broadway, has traditional tapas, a well-curated wine selection, a great view, and courteous service.

Tapas is as much of an attitude as it is a specific kind of food

Chef Jose Andres’ The Bazaar, Los Angeles and Jaleo, Las Vegas

In cities that are ruled by celebrities, it comes as no surprise the top tapas restaurants are owned by celebrity Spanish chef Jose Andres. As with San Francisco, you can find other authentic tapas restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but these are considered to have the best experience. Menus here include both traditional tapas and the chef’s original versions. They also include an extensive list of authentic Spanish wines, including multiple kinds of sherries.

mfk. restaurant, Chicago

mfk focuses on all things related to Spanish cuisine, and its tapas are as authentic as you’d have likely found on your trip. The food here is inspired by the Catalonian and Basque countries and are prepared simply so that flavors from the carefully sourced ingredients are allowed to shine on their own. There’s also an excellent complement of wine options and a “can’t miss” dessert of Basque cake.

If an authentic tapas restaurant isn’t near you, all is not lost

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if you can’t make it to one of these restaurants, take heart. Tapas is as much of an attitude as it is a specific kind of food. If you are spending time in conversation with friends and good food while enjoying a late evening, you are embracing the spirit of the tapas tradition. If you have brought that spirit back with you from vacation, you’ve brought home something worthwhile.

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