After a long week, the weekend is definitely something to look forward to. Hanging out with friends instantly perks you up, and it’s nice to take a break from the dining hall, get dressed up and enjoy dinner out. Big group dinners are always fun, and for this reason, tapas restaurants should be the go-to spot for weekends out with friends: you get to try a bit of everything and really get a sense of the quality of each dish. At a tapas restaurant it’s easy to experiment with different foods and order things you never thought you’d eat (my friend recently tried snails, and it was actually pretty good).

So head over to Tapas Barcelona, right here in Evanston.The atmosphere of the restaurant is festive and welcoming. Spanish tapestries and paintings surround the room, and the bar area is fully stocked with seating areas for smaller parties meeting up for drinks. The crowd is young (predominately undergrads and grads); yet, it can also be a hot family spot on a weekday evening. The deep red walls create a cozy, warm feeling, and the music resonating throughout the restaurant transports you straight to Spain.

Photo by Ellen Barry

Photo by Ellen Barry

Without a doubt, the food is fantastic. Two standouts from the menu are the salmon ahumado (smoked salmon, toast points, eggs, onions, capers, horseradish) and the avocado con cangrejo (avocado with crabmeat). The crab has a smooth, creamy texture, and the egg and onion accompaniments on the salmon are chopped finely, making it easy to place them on a toast point. The grilled vegetables drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette taste fresh and complement any dish, so definitely order the parrillada de vegetales for the table. And if you are a sucker for cheese, you must try the queso de cabra con tomate (baked goat cheese in tomato sauce), served with crispy garlic bread.

Also, feel free to order a couple of dishes at a time; the waiters are very attentive and will visit your table frequently to ask if you need a refill on sangria (which is delicious!), crostini, or would like to order more food.  However, make sure to reserve a table, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. The restaurant fills quickly, and many people love to sit with the menu and spend a couple of hours relaxing and enjoying the meal.

Rating: ★★★
Price Range: $$
Address: 1615 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201
Hours: Open for dinner only. Mon-Thurs 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Fri-Sat 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sun 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.