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In Dining

Swig's small plate menu compliments standard lunch and dinner options.

In Dining

Pretzel bun sliders topped with onion rings are a rotating item on Hinterland's tapas menu.

A guide to restaurant and bar tapas




Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on May 18, 2009 at 8:32 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.


For most Americans, the concept of tapas is confusing and intimidating.

Largely unfamiliar with the trend, Americans are left wondering how the Spanish concept of tapas translates onto tables in the States. Here's the secret: tapas are simply small portions meant for sharing. Meat, seafood, vegetables, pastas, pizzas and even sweets make their way onto the tapas menu mixing traditional appetizers, main entrée concepts and dessert variations.

In addition to being perfect for rough economic times, the small-plate portions solidify their position on local restaurant and bar menus to keep you out and enjoying yourself.

Here are some local restaurants that feature tapas:

Bosley on Brady
815 E. Brady St.
(414) 727-7975
www.bosleyonbrady.com
If you could take a classic seafood and steak joint and throw in a southern twist, you'd find yourself at Bosley on Brady. But to add a conceptual twist to a culinary mix, Bosley mixes small plate tapas with main course entrees. Offering a set tapas menu, Bosley's list includes fried green tomatoes, smoked fish spread, pistachio scallops and island potato chips drizzled with gorgonzola.

Balzac Wine Bar
1716 N. Arlington Pl.
(414) 755-0099
www.balzacwinebar.com
Balzac's menu makes a statement. Literally, it says "sharing means caring." And that's the perfect pretense to a table full of tapas. The menu focuses on cheese plates, thin crust pizzas plus small plate seafood like mussels, tuna and scallops.

Generations Five Points
294 W. Main St., Waukesha
(262) 446-3300
www.gen-five.com

New to Waukesha in 2009, Generations Five Points takes the tapas trend out to the suburbs. There are no main courses here, Generations Five Points urges diners to sit, relax and share a sampling of the 15 or so items on the menu. Monthly menu changes reflect seasonal variability but examples include duck confit canapé, crab cakes and chicken potstickers.

Ginger
235 S. 2nd St.
(414) 220-9420
www.gingermilwaukee.com
Ginger opened in the space that formerly housed Barossa to serve combine the subtlety of small plates with the relaxation of a lounge. Ginger may have picked up on the Spanish tradition of tapas but they're making it very Milwaukee. Ginger manages to cater to them all; petit tenderloin filet or tater tots, asparagus risotto or mac n' cheese and cioppino or wings.

Heaven City
S91 W27850 National Ave., Mukwonago
(262) 363-5191
www.heavencity.com

Tapas take over Heaven City every Tuesday, but only Tuesday. Serving a full menu every night of the week, Heaven City takes a tip from Spain and grills smaller plates for sharing. The staff recently added a 6 oz. filet ($10.95) to a menu that changes weekly. Typical offerings include braised lamb, sea scallops, tiger shrimp and fresh cheeses.

Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub
222 E. Erie St.
(414) 727-9300
www.hinterlandbeer.com/restaurantmilwaukee
Hinterland's lounge menu recently took a tapas turn. In addition to a full dinner entrée menu, Hinterland carries its fusion of sustainable agriculture and natural food to small plates. Offering 20 items for less than $10, Hinterland's tapas menu changes every single day but always includes a healthy dose of meat, seafood and vegetarian options. Served every night, Hinterland shows a more casual side serving fish and pork tacos, flatbread pizzas and hangar steak skewers.

La Merenda
125 E. National Ave.
(414) 389-0125
www.lamerenda125.com
They serve tapas and only tapas, making La Merenda perhaps Milwaukee's most authentic tapas restaurant. A culinary trip around the world, La Merenda's menu picks up on traditional dishes from Argentina, Colombia, Italy, Thailand, Morroco and China. The nearly thirty items on the menu make for infinite combinations perfect for sharing between tables of two or ten.

Swig
217 N. Broadway
(414) 431-7944
www.swigmilwaukee.com

It's by no means the same restaurant, but Swig took over both the space and tapas concept of the old Sauce Restaurant. Swig's menu offers it all. Open for both lunch and dinner; diners can choose from salads, sandwiches, small plates or full entrees. It's a perfect choice for a group leery about whether the tapas concept will be a universal hit. Swig's tapas menu is classic -- small-plate portions of classic American appetizers like crab cakes, hummus with pita, spinach and artichoke dip, bruschetta and beef tenderloin crostini.

Talkbacks

Red_5 | May 18, 2009 at 5:31 p.m. (report)

I have been to La Merenda many times and love it. For it's price point it is the best value in the city. Peter has a wonderful restaurant that will last for years! My favorite restaurant in Milwaukee.

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ducknut | May 18, 2009 at 2:57 p.m. (report)

La Merenda is awesome! Favorite restaurant in Milwaukee. Never had anything I didn't like and cheap Miller bottles.

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zach01 | May 18, 2009 at 10:17 a.m. (report)

Whether they are "authentic" or not, I'll take the tapas at Balzac or La Merenda over the rest of the field any day.

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Chisox13 | May 18, 2009 at 10:15 a.m. (report)

I agree with RJ. While I enjoy the small plates of some the the restaurants listed (Ginger was superb), these aren't "authentic" tapas. Don Quixote had a small menu, but could quench my craving for tapas. I will be really excited if Milwaukee ever had a genuine Tapas bar like 1492 in Chicago. http://www.1492tapasbar.com/index.html

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RJ | May 18, 2009 at 9:29 a.m. (report)

La Merenda has good dishes, but not "authentic" tapas. Other places on the list, such as Balzac, are great as well, but don't have "authentic" tapas. Don Quixote had some real Spanish tapas, but it closed. When we finally get a restaurant serving tortilla espanola, pinchos morunos, chorizo a la riojana, patatas bravas, jamon serrano, croquetas de jamon, boquerones, and other Spanish treats, then we'll see authentic tapas in Milwaukee.

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