Spanish, Tapas, Latin Restaurant, Notable Chef
151 West Erie – River North
The decor at Tavernita is very NYC. It was the first place we really felt that vibe in Chicago. It was a bit more about being chic, which is neither an insult or a compliment. It was just different. Of course we felt at home there immediately! We’d spent the day chowing down at The Publican AND Avec, so Tavernita was up against just about the most serious competition in the city and we’d left Avec about an hour before! And I wonder how I gained 7 pounds after completing Chicago AND Boston food tours?
Chef Ryan Poli is a French Laundry alum and had serious training in Spain as well. The menu features tapas and a beverage program by Tippling Bros. We’ll start there. They’ve got a great selection of ‘kegged’ beverages including wine, cocktails, sangria, and vermouth. They’ve got a rotating selection of craft beers on draft, cider and cava. They’ve also got an interesting cocktail menu. I chose to try the dirty pig on fire for $13, which consists of giardiniera-infused belvedere vodka, olive brine, chile oil, and lomo. As we learned from trying Chicago Italian Beef sandwiches at Al’s and Mr. Beef, giardiniera is an Italian-American hot pepper sauce most commonly used on, yes, Italian beef sandwiches. When in Rome, right? Lomo, you ask? Dried pork tenderloin similar to prosciutto. Yep, hot pepper vodka, olive juice, chile oil and meat in a drink. Good stuff. Admittedly after a long day of gluttony and excessive drinking, this may have put me over the edge. But a drink like this is intriguing. And damned delicious too. Steve had kegged red sangria with tempranillo, Hennessy VS, orange, grapefruit, lemon, and mallorca melon tea syrup. Wow, now THAT is a sangria.
The food fest continued with the following list of tapas (and remember we’d already eaten TWICE). The lighting was very low and I just didn’t have it in me at that point to do a flash. So I had to toss most of the pics. Trust that it tasted better than it looks below! They made an odd selection of RED plates, which also don’t do much for the look of the food.
faroe island salmon $10
piquillo peppers, olives, charred onions, sherry vinaigrette, marcona almonds
mango, jicama, serrano chile , pickled radishes
En Pan (On Bread)
pan con burrata $8
tomato marmalade, burrata cheese
greg’s meatballs $14
wagyu beef, pork, hazelnut romesco sauce
The only item we did not absolutely love were the meatballs. They had a yellow cheese sauce which was a bit too reminiscent of American! But they were by no means bad! Based on our scale of eating that day, they just happened to fall into the bottom tier.
And, like everywhere in Chicago, we met lovely people. Next to us was a guy with his mom visiting from out of town. He clearly knew the staff and they made some great suggestions on what we should order. It turned out he worked at a nearby champagne bar, Cuvee Chicago. He gave us his contact info and invited us to stop by. Unfortunately, we were leaving the following afternoon, so we did not get to check it out. But you should! http://www.cuveechicago.com/