Tuesday, February 28, 2012


The recently opened Spanish/Modern Tapas restaurant by Ryan Poli and the folks behind Mercadito definitely understand the crowd and strengths of their location and cuisine. Tavernita played the part of a hip, trendy, loud and place to be seen new restaurant in River North perfectly. The tables are on top of each other, the noise level boisterous and the cocktails simply wonderful. And I don't mean of of that in a negative way because it works well so long as you don't expect a quiet, low key and simple dining experience. I imagine that the food was an honest after thought in the design of the concept. It was mostly good overall with a few really nice dishes but nothing that I would rush back to order again (and not unlike many similar properties in the area) - but the focus of making great cocktails and a lot of money should work out very well. Our service was very good, very informative and attentive of all aspects of our meal. And the last reason I won't likely return in the very near term is that you definitely pay a premium to be at the hot spot with the hot people and the long wait for a table and chic cocktails (read: value is not high here, an expensive meal with shared plates and small portions).

We were a table of four with our friends Barisa and Joel. As you can see from the pictures we were not shy about trying many things on the menu. We started with some pretty good sashimi crudo (or whatever they called it) and then moved right into traditional tapas fare. The menu is simple and not overwhelming with choices like other tapas spots in the city. We tried a veggie on toast dish (not my favorite - strong goat cheese), a really nice brussel sprouts dish (I see them on every menu these days), a version of patatas (good but needed more sauce with spice and the egg is a nice touch), lamb sausage, wagyu meatballs (delicious) and a round II selection of the house-made pappardelle (ironically the last thing we ordered but probably the tastiest thing we tried and funny because it's really an Italian dish, right?). I don't really know what the dessert was but it involved crazy good chocolate pudding (?) with salt on top of small toast squares - also a highlight of the meal.

Overall the food had some nice moments but the drinks (try the booty collins) over shadowed the plates throughout and it was hard to take it seriously when you felt like you were eating in a club. But it all worked and if that is the environment desired, Tavernita is a nice addition to that scene (in addition to any Rockit Ranch or LEYE property). I don't know that Tavernita was going for a Michelin star but I don't think they need to or care to because it's a great place to hang out and have an exciting night out with delicious drinks and good food (and bring your high limit plastic to pay).

Tavernita on Urbanspoon

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