The word tapa comes from the act of covering (tapar). Eateries long displayed delectable Spanish meats like chorizo, lomo, and jamon Serrano beside their cheesy sidekicks, manchego and tetilla. It was something for wine drinkers to pick at. Because flies enjoy wine as much as much as we do, restaurateurs used tapas to cover the glasses. The more people drank, the more tapas they ate, and vice versa. And tapas culture was born.
Tapas were one of the most annoying food trends of last year. Not because we don't love them. We do. But because too many places label and serve appetizers as tapas, while, hiking up the price.
It's because of this that we can appreciate the places that want to carry on the culture. And so we share with you our list of the 10 best tapas places in Miami.
You wouldn't expect to find a genuine Spanish place next to a Domino's pizza in an 8th street strip mall. Well, expect the unexpected, along with very decent prices. Owner Rosa, or Rosita, as loyal clients refer to her, is as lovable and exciting as the food she puts out. The tortilla de patata screams of Spain, as its hollow, gooey middle leaves the everyday omelet behind.
The best thing about tapas is the endless surplus of bread that accompanies them. This place has exceptional pan that qualifies it as a best tapas destination. And dipping it into the garlic residue from gambas al ajillo will transport you from their Coral Way location to a courtyard in Spain. Lunch specials on weekdays include three courses for only $10. Try finding a three course meal for that much in the Iberian Peninsula.
Tapas & Tintos has the perfect location for what it claims to be, which is authentic Spanish. Situated on the lively Espanola Way, this place feeds off surrounding area and businesses that bring about constant foot traffic. During the World Cup, in which Spain came out as world champions, this was the place to be. Locals looking to get sedated from one too many glasses of sangria accompanied by classic Spanish staples can count on Tapas y Tintos to do the trick. It doesn't hurt that they have daily events such as happy hour, flamenco, and live music. There are even paella brunches, although we personally love their queso de cabra.
photo by Laine Doss
7. Happy Wine
Happy Wine makes our cut for a number of reasons. As the name suggests, it's a contented place. And it's filled with wine — over 500 labels at a very reasonable cost. You can also have the wine here accompanied by complimentary pan con tomate and inexpensive selections of hot and cold tapas. Paella at $12.99 that's enough for two people is another reason to get you happy and keep you coming back here, for wining and dining.
Sugarcane is fun and pretty. That alone makes it a trendy place where one goes to see and be seen. But it also has a great menu, with a section dedicated to tapas. Everything on the menu, not limited to the tapas, can easily be shared — offerings include snacks, sushi, and large plates that come out as they are prepared. The dishes here, like the bacon-wrapped dates (filled with manchego), embody the union of cultures and traditions in our melting pot of a city. More than just the food, Sugarcane makes our cut because of its location, ambiance, and overall concept, which is reminiscent of Barcelona.
Xixon has paid a tribute to Spain for over 10 years now. Tables made out of barrels and a tapas bar are just one of the many charming qualities of this grand locale. Spanish delicacies are offeredas well as fairly priced and nicely flavored wine bottles out of the cellar. All are perfect for having your own tapas party... at home. Or you can choose to make Xixon your home for the night, as many Spaniards who come here do. But the most charming and authentic in this establishment are the people who run it, who are husband and wife. With daily specials and hot and cold tapas starting at only $2, Spain has never been so close and attainable.
Who knew Asian gastropub-inspired street food by three guys and a little pig would turn a location once doomed to fail into a local tavern and Miami Beach favorite? Pubbelly revolutionized the small plates concept in Miami, paving the way for non-Spanish places to stand a chance. Their fare consists of small plates of homemade sausages, specialty terrines, and dates avec chorizo complimented by the original tapas counterpart: wine. Or in the case of Pubbelly, which has undoubtedly created a demand for Asian tapas, sake. Pubbelly is changing the world of tapas one restaurant at a time, and we can't get enough.
Being from Spain, I'm somewhat biased. Spanish places that manage to stand out and make me want to go back are a dime a dozen. With the Pubbelly boys behind this concept, it's no wonder that it would follow their Asian alternative. What's most surprising about this place is that there's no similarity to the food presented at Pubbelly. One is completely Asian, and the other completely Spanish. Its dishes speak Castillian through a different dialect of flavors. It's also refreshing to find a place on the beach, and with a small plates concept that doesn't charge you for their monthly rent, although they do charge for pan con tomate, or toasted baguette bread with garlic, olive oil, and tomato. It's probably the first time you won't mind paying for bread however. You'll order more to dab into their modern interpretation of pulpo a la gallega. Their octopus, amongst other reasons, is why Barceloneta takes the number three spot. We won'tsay more. You just have to try it for yourself.
2. The Bazaar
It's about time that Miami is introduced to tapas from the viewpoint and execution of chef, TV personality, and restaurateur Jose Andres. With a menu that's been thoughtfully and beautifully divided into intricate sections, Jose Andres's the Bazaar has done admirable things since opening last year at the SLS Hotel. Here exist all the traditional and old-fashioned flair of what Spanish tapas once were — but now they are infused with flavors and influences from other parts of the world. Jose Andres has created a place that is a close second. It doesn't hurt that he's thought up of 60 dishes that look and taste like a million bucks, but cost under $60.
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It's not Spanish, but Yakko-San was really the first attempt at a small plates joint in Miami that broke away from Spanish orthodoxy. It was only after the Japanese tapas bar opened for dinner-only service that other places began to try and do the same. Owner Hiro got his start with a simple hole-in-the-wall location where a picture of his kids accompanied you at the bar. Styrofoam boxes were brought out with the day's fresh catch and seafood selection. And if you ventured in at two or three in the morning, chefs were the main customers. Although it's now moved into a shopping plaza and has lost that grunge factor, a few things haven't changed. It's still open till late - 3 a.m. on the weekends — the prices are more than reasonable, and the food, ah the food. Be it quick starters (crispy bok choy,) veggies (mixed mushroom foil-yaki), noodles (yuko-udon), rice (Yakiniku Don), or items from the sushi bar (tuna & beef tataki), Hiro offers the largest and most authentic selection of tapas in Miami.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha