Spanish Accent

by Virginia Chamlee  //  photos by Agnes Lopez
The Spanish totally get it—why order one meal when you could sample several, all in one sitting? If you, like me, prefer to share your dining experiences, tapas (a variety of appetizers or snacks in Spanish cuisine) are always a good choice. Plus, they’re traditionally served with wine, which, let’s be honest, makes every meal that much better. At Tapa That in Five Points, diners are able to choose from cold snacks (like the chef’s cheese plate or the antipasti platter) or heartier delights, including crepes, sliders and tacos. You can always select one dish for yourself but do like the Spanish do and order a few tapas for everyone at the table to try.
Though the restaurant serves numerous daily specials (posted on a large chalkboard menu near the bar), there are a few staple items on which diners can rely. The “Shii-L-T” quesadilla is one such menu favorite and offers a playful take on the traditional BLT, which subs shiitake “bacon” for real bacon. Surprisingly, it actually tastes like the real thing—and the spicy chipotle yogurt served alongside offers a creamy counterpart to the warm quesadilla.
A recent visit proved that the daily specials can stand up to their own, too—if they’re available, try the chorizo tacos. Though two tacos might not be enough for a hearty dinner, it makes for a satisfying lunch. Other favorites include stuffed spinach and crab mushrooms, baked chorizo in red wine (served with crostini) and Cubano cakes (Cuban-style black bean cakes served warm with salsa and sour cream).
The restaurant itself is shabby chic and intimate, with local art on the walls and some locally made jewelry for sale near the front counter. Tapa That does serve vegetarian options (and even a small selection of vegan “cheeses” for those that don’t eat dairy).
Of course, as I may have already mentioned, tapas are best when served with beer or wine. Not only does Tapa That offer a variety of local brews, the happy hour wines are only $1. Can’t say no to that.
If your big appetite isn’t sated by small plates, order dessert. The beignets come in a different flavor, depending on the night (usually strawberry or banana) and are a real treat.
The fact that the restaurant prides itself on made-to-order dishes is both a good and a bad thing. No walk-in fridge means you can expect the freshest of ingredients. If you come after the dinner rush, you can expect to see a few items crossed off the large chalkboard menu (a fact that might annoy some first-time diners). If there are only a small selection of items remaining, throw caution to the wind. The prices are reasonable, so it won’t set you back too much (most dishes cost between $5 and $8), and isn’t it everyone’s dream to order one of everything?
Tapa That
820 Lomax St., Riverside • 376-9911,
Hours: 11 AM-2:30 PM, 5-8PM, Tuesday-Friday; 10 AM-2:30 PM, 5 PM-8 PM, Saturday; 10 AM-2:30 PM, Sunday
Hungry For More: Diners can make any dish an “over the tapa” meal by adding Cuban-style rice and beans, as well as a side of tostones, for an $8 up-charge.
Veggie Lovers: Though the menu offers several vegan selections, some items (including the quesadillas) can be made vegan for an additional $1.
Brunch Bunch: Tapa That serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, 11 AM-2:30 PM. Bottomless mimosas are available for $10.
Remember When: Longtime Jax diners may recall Heartworks, the small restaurant that used to occupy this space. Tapa That has a similar artsy vibe.