Barcelona, Spain is a beautifully vivacious city that should top any globetrotter’s “to visit” list, especially those who appreciate fine food and even better wine. There is a certain gastronomic ethos that endears visitors to the culture. Numerous culinary underpinnings exemplify this ethos, from paella to vermút to jamón ibérico to the ubiquitous tapas.
Ah, tapas, those small bites that look so inviting, you end up trying to sample each one — an impossible undertaking. You can make them a first course, or you can go all out and elevate them to a full meal.
The Catalonian capital is not unique in offering these small bites; they are indigenous throughout the Iberian Peninsula. In the Basque country (another small, wannabe-autonomous region sandwiched between Spain and France) they call them pintxos — formidable quality astonishingly packed into morsels averaging three-bites in size.
Furthering the allure of this iconic piece of culture is the noble tradition of gathering the toothpicks holding each pintxos together and tallying them up at the end of the meal to determine your tab. (Six toothpicks multiplied by 2€ equals one 12€ tab.) If only Americans were as honest.
Our time living and traveling throughout this region pummeled us with many epiphanies. For one: Gaudí’s Basílica de la Sagrada Família is perhaps the most astounding creation of the modern era (its true grandeur is appreciated only via a full tour). Second: Spanish wine is the most underrated in all Western Europe. Third: eating first with one’s eyes is always the start of an excellent experience. Fourth: leisurely sitting through a multi-course meal, sampling a diverse array of all that the local region so proudly produces, is dinning’s zenith. (This is why restaurants such as Noma in Copenhagen have won all the top awards and drastically altered the trajectory of fine dining.) The Springs’ own tapas bar checks most of these boxes.
For years we’ve been aware of Tapateria’s glowing ambiance pouring out its windows and open door every time we stroll by. Actually, the mind behind Tapateria (Jay Gust of Pizzeria Rustica and Smørbrød) did a fine job of replicating the feel of a Barcelonian bar, even if an enlarged photo of the city’s bustling pedestrian walk, La Rambla, had to be pasted upon an entire wall to prove the point.
Unfortunately, there is far too little traffic coming through a Colorado tapas bar’s doors to justify the traditional presentation of tapas (or pintxos). Already prepared and presented in the buffet fashion, tapas in Spain allow a feasting of the eyes prior to selection; this also sidesteps language barriers when one can simply point to what looks good. Yet, at Tapateria you might have to ask the server what “gambas y semolina” is, because there’s nothing but ink on the menu to decipher. And when the “pan con tomate” arrives, you might be disappointed you’d not seen it before ordering (Where’s the freshly grated tomato? What’s with the marinara sauce?).
Mild foibles aside, Tapateria impresses with their “Colorado tapas” (riffs that hold loosely to traditional concepts) such as the bison carpaccio of truffle oil-bathed slices of bison and manchego with a kicky accoutrement of crispy fried capers all drizzled in wasabi aioli — spot on. More classic were the jamón-wrapped dates and patatas bravas.
The fenced-in back patio may be a far cry from airy and festive patios along La Rambla but the wine and tapas stole the focus. Notable was the tortilla Española, a well-executed interpretation of what is essentially a Spanish frittata. Tapateria chose to accentuate with a draping of spicy yogurt — nontraditional but enjoyable.
Tapateria ticks almost all the boxes of our Barcelona epiphanies. While there is no view of Sagrada Família, they do serve uncommonly found Spanish wines as well as their housemade sangria that’s boozy enough to balance its sweetness. And while you can’t feast with your eyes prior to ordering, you can leisure through as many courses as you’d like, with a majority reflecting well the culinary icon that is tapas.