Tapas, or small plates, might be the key to have a fun-filled social life without the extra calories and bulging waist size that may afflict people who dine out often. Just look at the figure sported by the people in Spain, where the little delicacies come from, and the practice of meeting for tapas and small plates after work is the mainstay of socializing, and probably one of the reasons they call it happy hour.
Having a light dinner is one sure fire way to drop a size or two or maintain one’s already healthy weight, without having to split plates or worry about portion size. San Francisco, as it should be, has plenty to offer in the genre. While most restaurants will have appetizers in their menu, the art of the small plate is something a bit apart. Here is a list of the five best restaurants where tapas are in the spotlight:
Lolo (3234 22nd St): Lots of creative and original latino seafood options (try the Salmon in crunchy pistachio – it is like sushi inside) in the midst of the bohemian foodie hub at Valencia and 22nd. Fresh guacamole with homemade blue organic corn chips is to die for. The ceviches are fresh and served with innovative sauces. Stay away from the fried vegetable sides such as the Brussels Sprouts, though. The decoration is Gaudi meets farmers’ market, making you cozy and yet giddy.
Esperpento (3295 22nd St): The traditional tapas from Spain are found here. Popular dishes are the patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) and garlic shrimp. But if they have rabbit stew in their specials the night you happen to come, do yourself a favor and order it.
Andalu (3198 16th St): Their small plates offer a European tour in a menu, all interconnected by a California fusion flare. One can go from Italian polenta fries or Burrata cheese passing by France with the duck confit dumplings and going back to Spain on the traditional Basque country seafood al “Pil Pil”.
SPQR (1911 Fillmore St): This Roman-inspired restaurant calls its small plates Spuntini (Italian for snacks). Most options are seasonal like the summer squash fritto, but a treat often featured is the Chopped chicken liver, balsamic & strawberry with hibiscus jam (yes, I used treat and liver in the same sentence. And you might start using it too, after you try it). Reservations recommended, the walk in wait can be up to one hour.
Park Chalet (1000 Great Highway): Location, location, location. The Park Chalet is an expansion of the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant where one can enjoy the California fusion tapas immersed in the trees and greenery of the Golden Gate Park. Options range from safety in hummus or chicken wings to daring with Chipotle Pork Dumplings on Jicama Slaw.
So, how does one come around enjoying tapas a la Spaniard? Just order 2 or 3 options per each person in your party, and share everything!