What’s the best way to follow a late lunch that consists heavily of crabs? Why, eat more food of course! We got out of King Crab around 5:30 and our Tapas Gitana appointment was at 7:30, so we decided to just head over there. We wanted to make sure that we would make it there on time since we had no idea how far TG was from King Crab. Luckily, both places were on the same street so all we had to do was to hop on a bus and wait until the right stop came up.
3445 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL 60657
No picture of their storefront because it was already dark and honestly, we felt a little unsafe on that part of Halsted.
This restaurant was the third Groupon-influenced choice for us. We never really had any prior “tapa” experience so we didn’t know what to expect. Prior to the trip, we looked on their menu online and we found their prices to be affordable, so we figured why not try it.
As I mentioned earlier, we were still quite full from the previous meal so we skipped the appetizer. My paella took 45 minutes to cook anyway so we were just about hungry when we got our food.
Pictured above is my Valenciana Paella. It was served on a cast-iron plate that was about an inch deep and 5-6 inches in diameter. Temperature-wise, it was super hot, so I had to slowly pluck on its sides while waiting for it to cool down. It had 6 clams (or were they mussels?) that smelled quite strongly so I had Wade-o eat them quickly (and happily). The paella itself, sans mussels/clams, smelled very good and inviting.
Waiting for it to cool down was no longer an option once I took my first spoonful. The dish itself was already tasty but tasted even better with the zest of the freshly-squeezed lemon juice. The chicken chunks were very tender and moist, which went well with the pop-in-your-mouth, sweet green peas. The tomatoes and bell pepper added to the texture play in the background. The large shrimp pieces were plump and firm but tender to the bite. Every spoonful was better than the last, especially since I just blindly dug in with my spoon and just ate whatever I scooped with it.
Mr. Wade-o ordered Montaditas de cerdo after trying to decide for quite a bit. I suppose I could blame his indecisiveness that night on his stomach level; after all, we had just finished a meal a few hours ago and here we were, stuffing our faces again. His dish was basically grilled pork medallions on top of croutons and grilled onions, garnished with a sauce which I found out later to be lemon marjoram sauce. Here’s his take on his dish:
As soon as I got a little bit of everything (pork, onions, bread, sauce), an explosion of tastes instantly flowed into my mouth. I tasted sweet, tender, saucy, zesty… the list went on. This occurred with every bite I took. I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with this dish.
If you’re from out of town and you’re trying to find their entrance, it can get a little confusing. It’s just a small red door under an awning bearing their logo. As far as the interior was concerned, I honestly thought that the place was a little too dark. This wasn’t too much of a problem if you were seated near the front/bar area, but the darkness became more apparent towards the back area (past the cooking station). Fortunately, each table had tea light candles that the staff lit up for diners in order to provide more light.
There were four people working on the night of our visit, one of them doing the cooking and the other one manning the bar when needed. The first server who helped us was very friendly and helpful, patiently explaining to us what tapa-style dining was and how paellas took longer to cook. Too bad I forgot most of what he said, and to that I apologize.
The staff provided us with bread and butter to tide us over while we waited, which they tried to replenish whenever they noticed that it was empty. When we got our entrees, they stopped by every once in a while to check up on us. So far so good.
We got full eventually and I couldn’t finish my meal, so clearly I intended to ask for a to-go box. This was when the situation got a little sticky. The servers seemed to have forgotten about us at the back corner. They passed by several times but never really stopped by our table even though they clearly glanced at us. One of the staff members only stopped by to pick up our empty plates but never offered anything else (he offered us drink and bread refills earlier). It took them a while to finally box up my food and took them even longer to give it back to me, even though it was just sitting on their counter. At least they bagged it for me…
Aside from that post-meal hiccup, everything else went smoothly.
Any other thoughts
I would go ahead and say that we enjoyed our first tapa experience. Their dishes were very good and definitely gave us an idea of what to expect for our next tapa visit. I do hope that their staff get a little more coordination with each other, as some of them seemed to have no idea with what was going on. A pretty good experience overall, so I’m giving it a 4.