Saturday night the Reverend Mother and I found ourselves kid-free so we decided to go let it all hang out at our favorite tapas bar. Trust me, we usually get funny looks when we actually say that as opposed to typing it out.
Tapas are small plates of hot or cold Spanish appetizers that you typically order in a series. We like Solera in downtown Minneapolis because the tapas are a creative treat both in flavor and in presentation. While portions are small they are packed with flavor and interesting combinations of meats, vegetables and spices. Generally you choose several from the menu and they are delivered one or two at a time so you can fully appreciate each plate. One time when my wife and I went there we played a little game: she took the cold menu and I took the hot and then we’d each order something without telling the other what was coming. We went three or four rounds like that, sharing each dish as it came and deciding who had made the best choice (believe me, there were no losers).
We didn’t get the inspiration to go to Solera this time until late in the day so when we called there was no way to get a table in the restaurant. But, we were told, there was plenty of non-reserved seating on the rooftop patio. Since it was a very pleasant evening we decided to leave our cozy little suburb to go downtown and dine al fresco. Of course, you’ve first got to change clothes to go downtown, especially on Saturday night. I don’t have much that will pass for urban cool, but I put on some khakis, a blue silk camp shirt (untucked, natch) and my Margaritaville loafers — sans socks! The Mall Diva had given me some “Joe” pomade for the new ‘do but I already had a stylish head of hat-hair going on from mowing the lawn earlier in the day and I didn’t want to become too irresistible since the restaurant is directly across the street from The Amsterdam Hotel, the mecca of gay hospitality in Minneapolis (perhaps “Mecca” and “gay” shouldn’t be linked like that). The Reverend Mother did her part to save some souls, wearing those snug jeans I like that could make Elton John look twice. Also, since it was less than 85 degrees, she wore a jacket.
When we got up to the patio there were only a few tables already occupied so we had no trouble finding a place to sit. Despite being on the roof the view isn’t much to write about, but I will anyway. The four or five foot wall blocks any sight-lines to the street if you’re sitting down, but you can see the top of the Target Center, a parking ramp, some duct-work for the restaurant and the big white screen on the patio where Solera shows movies after dark. You also can’t see the two-story billboard for the Amsterdam that features four cute guys cuddling; I guess it’s up to you whether that’s a positive or a negative. Regardless, it ain’t Applebee’s.
We decided on the $25 “Tapas for Two” combination from the menu; six different appetizers thoughtfully portioned into even numbers so that you don’t have that awkward, “No, dear, you take the last shrimp” moment. The first plate was some barbequed potatoes, very tasty and tangy. Then our black-clad waitress brought us some small grilled sausages and grilled chicken strips in a green chipotle sauce, all on skewers and served on a bed of rice with raisins and mint. The chicken was especially delicious; I told my wife that the chicken was too spicy for her and she wouldn’t like it, but somehow she was onto me and didn’t fall for it. Next up was a plate of lightly-battered, skewered shrimp the size of small bananas and a bowl of what I think was either acini or risoni pasta and cucumber in a minty sauce. I’m not much of a cucumber fan, but I surprised my wife by eating and enjoying this as well.
I looked around right about then and saw a waitress bringing a plate of what looked like miniature hamburgers to another table. “Oooh, those look good,” I remarked to my wife, so I was delighted when our waitress appeared with a similar plate as part of our course. These were actually chorizo sausage patties with a nice cut of roasted red pepper on top, served on mini-buns. Very tasty indeed, and my puppy-eyes prevailed on my wife to give up half of her sandwich, for which I ceded the remainder of the cous-cous and cucumber dish. The finale was a plate of seared tuna slices. They looked rather raw in the middle, but smelled and tasted great and we’ve since had no ill effects.
We were too full for dessert, but still had a fun evening of great food and better companionship. If you’re looking for something to spice up your dining out experience, go “tapas”!