Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tapas Teatro

For my first entry, I thought I would visit one of my favorite restaurants, Tapas Teatro. This tapas bar and restaurant next to Baltimore's Charles Theater (hence the "teatro" part of the name) serves up tasty tapas and alcohol until 12 midnight on the weekends, and then alcohol and dessert after that.

I got to Tapas Teatro about 11:30 PM, and was really hoping for something small to nosh on before going anywhere specializing just in alcohol. Usually, this place is packed to the gills, but by this time of the night, with no movies starting and all the moviegoers already in their seats, there was plenty of room (more than I had ever seen, in fact). If you go before, say, 10, expectto either wait for a seat or wait for a spot at the bar - yes, wait for a spot at the bar. It's that popular. I hear the sangria is good, though I don't drink much of it. But if you like it, it's good.

The waitress gave me a menu and some salad pickles (olives, pearl onions, baby gherkins), and I started looking at the menu. Now I usually expect to wait a while for service, again because it's such a busy place (relatively speaking, it's pretty quick). Service was, however, slower than I expected last night. But it gave me time to sink in the surroundings. The place is softly lit, and because it was such a balmy night, the doors were open. I should've asked to move to a table on the sidewalk, but I didn't feel like moving.

When the waiterss came back, I ordered a Guiness (a favorite beer of mine) and one of my favorite dishes, their battered fried vegetables. A little bit about these veggies: the chefs take onions, eggplant and asparagus and fry it in what seems like a tempura-like batter. The chefs at Tapas Teatro then serve it up hot with a spicy, smooth mango-jalapeño salsa (actually, it's more like a jelly), with pieces of red pepper on the sides. The presentation on a square white plate is also gorgeous.

After another wait, in which I was brought some Italian bread with olive oil mixed with softened baked garlic (mmmmm, garlic), the waitress brought out the veggies and my beer. I bit into the onion first. It was a little soggier than usual, but still tasty. Everything else was nice and crispy, not soggy at all (well, as not soggy as fried eggplant can be). And the sweet and spicy salsa was a perfect complement.

As for the Guiness? Well, I always drink Guiness. I just like it better than most beers.

The waitress took a little while to bring out my check, but things went pretty fast once I got my check. The greatest thing about Tapas Teatro isn't the atmosphere, or for that matter the quality of the food (which is high). It isn't even the relatively clean bathrooms (considering how many people pass through in one night, the bathrooms should be dirtier, but they're not). It's the fact that I can get something that satisfies me for only $5.95. It's not the hefty proportion that you'd get at Friday's or Ruby Tuesday's, and it doesn't need to be. With my beer at $3.50, my entire meal came out to $9.45. Mind you, many people would either order more food, more alcohol, or some type of dessert. I, on the other hand, usually eat light for dinner (I eat more for lunch). Butalso note that many people just order one tapa, something to drink (a pitcher of sangria, perhaps), and sit around chatting. It's a good place to do it, except for all the smoke inside, which will probably end with no-smoking-in-bars legislation sometime soon (I don't smoke so I won't be complaining). Add tax (5% in Maryland, bringing it to $9.92) and a 15% tip ($1.50), and I wound up paying only $11.52. How's that for a meal? I feel like Rachael Ray!

Coming up... I take a visit to Baltimore's Irish Festival for some of Baltimore's delicious Gaelic eatin'!