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August 21, 2009

Appetizers becoming tapas



How did appetizers suddenly become tapas?

I know how tapas became tapas. People liked the idea of little tidbits while they had a glass of wine in a bar, so they embraced the Spanish tradition. It's easier to have a conversation when you're nibbling rather than focusing on a full meal.

Then as tapas caught on here, they evolved into a full meal with a lot of small dishes. ...

Pretty soon you could spend as much on a tapas meal as you could on a traditional one -- or more because they seem relatively inexpensive, but you just keep ordering and ordering.

Nowadays "tapas" doesn't have to refer to anything even vaguely Spanish. I've seen hummus labeled "tapas." Or how about the Asian tapas at Red Maple in Mount Vernon?

But guest poster John's description of the tavern he went to that had shifted some of its appetizers into the tapas category amused me. He didn't tell us what they were, but I have a mental picture of the owner saying to the cook, "Can we call the Buffalo wings tapas? Probably not. Better leave those in the appetizer category. How about the fried oysters? Yeah, those'll do."

Maybe tonight when I serve leftovers to my family, I'll arrange them on little plates and tell them we're having tapas for dinner.

(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:49 AM | | Comments (27)


E. W. Beck's in Sykesville has recently modified their menu to list tapas in addition to appetizers. I am certain that it is Beck's that the post is about.

Buffalo wings - Appetizer
Buffalo Calamari - Tapa
Crab Dip - Appetizer
Chili - Tapa
Steamed Shrimp - Appetizer
Seared Scallops - Tapa
Steamed Mussels - Tapa

Seems to be no pattern.

Nice try, EEL, but since jl has already declined to name the place in response to various readers' guesses (including your prior post), something tells me that he won't take the bait with your new post, either.

If this becomes a trend, there might be a silver lining.

More often than not, whenever my entree arrives, I either think to myself or say outloud to my long suffering regular dinner companion, "I would pay twice as much for half the food." I have the clean-plate-club complex. So I welcome lots of small plate options, no matter what they are called.

I am not trying to get jl to name the place. I knew immedialtely that he was talking about Beck's. I used travel out to Sykesville to eat there a couple of times a month but with the changes I will probably not go back. Both the food and the service have gone downhill. That said the last time I was there a couple of weeks ago the place was packed on a Thursday night with people waiting for tables.

And the picture is .....?

aside from delicious looking?

EEL and chw, if you drag your cursor over the above photo, you'll see that it's Mezze.

Chili as a tapa? Is it just regular beef and bean chili, or is it something special?

the pic looks like fried sardines. waving the pointer over it reveals it's mezze

Bingo. EL


The menu page on Mezze's website only offers a sampling of its offerings, and Mezze was reviewed by the Sun in 2005. It's unclear what dish is depicted in that photo, and if the photo dates back to the 2005 review, that dish may no longer be available by now.

Regular old chili.

Fried sardines may be my favorite food.

Definitely Becks! This restaurant used to be reliable. Nothing fancy but decent food. Went a few months ago..(laughed at the new tapas menu-this is Carroll County folks :)..we went with the old reliable/shrimp salad sandwich, a pasta dish, and hot turkey over mashed potatoes. We had to send everything back...manager was apologetic, said they had a new "chef". There are not too many options in Eldersburg/Sykesville but Becks is now below Bob Evans and Chilis. Tapas should be somewhat Spanish/Med etc not smaller portions of bar food/app's. They need to decide what they want to be and stick with it. Specialty and/or ethnic restaurants don't seem to make it here. (thai excluded) Doesn't mean we don't like tapas but I go out of county for better/ethnic food.

If you are jumping on the tapas bandwagon or attempting to you are way to late! By the way tapas is free in Spain, that is something that would go over well in Bawlmer.

I don't mind Tapas, in fact, I like it, but I agree that it's irritating when restaurants arbitrarily rename their appetizers as such. Seems like a sort of pathetic attempt to say "LOOK HOW HIP WE ARE!!!!!" Tapas is one of those things that shouldn't be done if you can't do it right.

I maintain that the final nail in the coffin for College Park's only independent coffee house (other than those pesky unpaid licenses and failed inspections) was when they switched the menu from excellent sandwiches and salads to dreadfully sub-par tapas. Gack.

billy butterbean, you may be interested in learning that back in May 2007, EL and others were already speculating that the tapas craze might have run its course in Baltimore.

Hmpstd, that post takes me back to when I was just plain Robert. Of course somethings don't change. I was complaining about La Tasca two years ago, and I was complaining about La Tasca two days ago.

You are conservative that way, RoCK.

RoCK, I'm only too happy to give credit where credit is due. I thought that was your post about tapas jumping the shark, since it lacked RtSO's British spelling preferences, but it was always hard to tell the Roberts apart in the days of yore.

i'm glad i'm not the only one who realizes tapas is just a way of having more appetizers (which are generally way overpriced) on the menu.

$9 for three "thai shrimp"? no thanks.

and yes...they are free in spain...america's bastardized version of tapas are a joke.

I'll take some credit for urging the Roberts to please distinguish themselves. It was obvious that we had more than one Robert commenting!

Dahlink, I'm aware that EL raised the issue in December 2007, when she was trying to figure out which Robert was the second funniest person on the blog, and that you (in your pre-Dahlink phase) heartily agreed with EL. Did you put the idea into EL's head at that time, and/or had you made a previous post to that effect? As with RoCK, I just want to give proper credit.

hmpstd, to be honest, I really don't remember whether I made the suggestion before EL did or not--there may have been an off-blog email on the subject. I do remember encouraging our friend Retired in Elkridge to retire his original name ("Mr. Old Fart" just didn't do him justice.)

Thanks, Dahlink. I do believe you were the one who created the "Mr. OF" acronym in his pre-RiE days. (And we can all be thankful that Robert from Cross Keys, or RfCK, morphed into Robert of Cross Keys, or RoCK.)

And I thank you very much for the suggestion, Dahlink.

You're a class act, by any name, RiE!

The picture is Mezze's sardines and I'm pretty sure they've been off the menu for a while.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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