by Shannon Evins
Longing for warm nights when the sun sets at 9:00pm? Wishing summer break would hurry up already? Tapas may be the answer you need. Step into Barcelona Wine Bar in the South End to have a taste of vibrant Spanish culture. Your time there will surely give you a slice of Spain.
As I opened the door, wafts of truffles tingled my nostrils. An eclectically clad bookcase strewn with candlelight greeted me. I admired the warmly-lit surroundings and felt like I had stepped into a movie set. The restaurant was split into three sections, with a large square bar in the center and the kitchen visible from the doorway. A hostess greeted me and asked for my reservation name as the maître d’ returned to his post. He took over, found my name, and offered to store my backpack for me (the woes of having class until 5:00pm on a Friday), then politely suggested that I wait until more of my guests arrived. I was ten minutes early and had to stand awkwardly waiting in the entryway. There was no seating for waiting guests, which was surprising for a place that was chiming out 45-minute wait times for several parties of two. As I waited for my friends, I imagined the delightful meal we would share together. I had eaten here once before, but this time was different. Tonight was for celebration.
Once two others arrived, the maître d’ seated us at a table I had spotted early on. We waited to order drinks until the remaining two of our party of five arrived and then ordered the least expensive/most student-friendly bottle of cava (Spanish sparkling wine). “Are we celebrating something?” asked the waiter. We all murmured various versions of “Yes, actually.” There was a pregnant pause as he awaited an explanation of what we were celebrating. Carly explained that we all passed our exams to become registered dietitians. The waiter uttered his congratulations, and we playfully asked him to not judge us for whatever we would end up eating. A different waiter came and poured our glasses as we chattered excitedly and thanked him.
Shortly afterwards, the manager came over to congratulate and help us with the menu since “She was just in Spain last week.” She then asked about any dietary restrictions — a common inquiry I’m thankful for, so that those with restrictions can eat out with ease. We began to order a charcuterie plate, but the manager interrupted to say that she already had a plate in production for us and would ensure that our selections were included. Two large wooden boards of three vegetable appetizers, anchovies, three meats, and four cheeses arrived. We were overwhelmed with this wonderful surprise in honor of our accomplishments. Gouda, manchego, goat, and one I’ve plumb forgotten — we were in cheese heaven. The spicy chorizo, melt-in-your-mouth jamón serrano, and peppery speck were delightful, too. I didn’t try the anchovies, but the smoked eggplant, piquillo peppers, and pickled veggies were a perfect pairing for the heavier meats and cheeses.
Our waiter was attentive and patient with us as we took incredibly long to decide what to eat. The entire menu looked amazing. We finally decided to go with one of the “get-your-hands-dirty, authentic” finger foods the manager recommended as well as the wagyu beef tartare with truffles (that initial smell was too enticing), and not-your-average (nor French) gratin potatoes because we hadn’t had enough cheese (and more truffles, please!). The food arrived in no time, and every mouthful combined a different texture with a piece of happiness. When all the plates were practically licked clean, we looked at the dessert menu. Out came another wooden board with two desserts and a chocolate “congrats!” written along the bottom. Cool-to-the-touch dulce de leche crepes and a rich, dense chocolate cake balanced each other out nicely. We left no crumbs and asked for the check.
We were astonished by the total. The whole charcuterie plate and vegetable appetizers were free as well as one of the desserts. After doing the math, I realized the charcuterie plate alone should’ve cost $40 to $50! The waiter split the check five ways with ease, and we each made sure to tip well for the wonderful service and plethora of surprises. Both the manager and the waiter bid us farewell with smiles. I’ve never been so spoiled nor felt so congratulated at a restaurant before. Despite this fact and the delicious food, the prices are quite reasonable at an average of about $7.50 per tapa. Barcelona Wine Bar in the South End – GO!*
*Readers’ note: The location of my wonderful experience was 525 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02116. Barcelona Wine Bar is a chain restaurant with locations in Brookline as well as Connecticut, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. I don’t usually promote chain restaurants (if I’m going to pay money to eat out, it better be a delicious and unique experience), so that alone speaks to the awesomeness of Barcelona Wine Bar. I hear their weekend brunch is to die for. You know where to find me next Saturday morning.
Born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, Shannon Evins braved the New England cold to achieve her nutrition dreams. After attaining a B.S. in Nutrition/Dietetics (along with minors in both Spanish and Human Development & Family Life Education) at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, she moved to Boston to complete her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her thirst for knowledge didn’t stop there, and she started her Master’s degree in Nutrition Interventions, Communication & Behavior Change just a week and a half after finishing the MGH program. Now a registered and licensed dietitian, Shannon enjoys any opportunity to help people achieve their health and wellness goals (as well as any chance to try out a restaurant).