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January 3, 2010

The tapas menu: an innovative idea

TapasAdela1.jpgWhen we ate at the new Tapas Adela in Fells Point last week, my daughter had one of those brilliant ideas that could make us millionaires. Or not. 

She pointed out how awkward American tapas menus are. Even at this restaurant, where the menu is (probably deliberately) quite small. You want to keep it around because you aren't ordering everything at once. You have a few dishes, see how you feel, and then look at the menu to pick the next round. ...

By this point, however, your table is filled with little dishes so you haven't wanted to keep the menu on the table. (I wouldn't want to anyway. Anything besides the food, drinks and maybe flowers or a candle shouldn't be on the table.)

So you prop the menu up against the leg of your chair while you eat, and then it slips down and next thing you know you have to crawl under the table to retrieve it.

OK, worst case scenario. But you get what I mean.

If you let the waiter take the menus away, then when you want something more you have to flag him down and get a menu again. And you can't expect him to wait while you peruse it. No, you need the menu at the table.

Gailor suggested a little stand to hold the menu in the middle of the table. I don't think that would work well because it might block your view of the people across from you. But you have to give her credit for recognizing the problem in the first place.

I want to open a tapas restaurant where the server comes up to the table and says, "The chef is making shrimp, lamb and eggplant for the first round. Do you want some or all of those?" And then he keeps coming back and announcing stuff throughout the meal and you can decide whether you want them.

(Barbara Haddock Taylor/Sun photographer)


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 8:22 AM | | Comments (17)


The center menu is a good idea.. provided that instead of printing it "portrait" it should instead be printed "landscape". Menu in view, and dining companions too.

Do it like dim sum. Bring it around on trays. Of course, that wouldn't work for a small place.

I've read about restaurants (in Japan, of course) who have little digital menus built in to the table, which you use to order. I'm not sure how they work. Couldn't be touchscreen for sure.

Or just get a few big chalkboards.

Apparently, I got Trixie's captcha today. climaxed added

Good idea, Ms. L. But it could be an exercise in frustration. You have the shrimp. Then when the next course includes lobster, you wish you'd held out for that. But you order it, anyway. Having also sampled the braised leeks and polenta, you're full by now and along comes the duck confit which was what you'd really wanted in the first place. Can't resist trying it but you wish you knew that the desert list included a chocolate bombe. Which saps your will power, contributing to a tapas conundrum you've mentioned a few times -- the tendency to totally lose track of how much you've spent. As an alternative, how about small disposable paper menus which the restaurant prints daily and which diners can leave on the table, put in a pocket or even sit on too retrieve for handy reference?

Well, of course, it would be my tapas restaurant so I would want people to spend too much. :-) EL

What about a smaller, thicker menu? Something about the size of your average store-bought paper dinner napkin in surface area? The drawback is, of course, that that would require more pages. But then you could put it on a stand in the middle of the table and see over it. And it would take up less table space regardless.

How about a trifold checklist, a la IKEA shopping. Then you can see what you have already had as well as what you may want next, and it takes no room at all because you can slide it under your plate(s).

(Druid Hill Park is hopping? "Olmstead economy")

How about an electronic scroll, like the news crawl on some public buildings, only going around the upper wall continuously?
It should be easy to add or remove dishes from the list throughout the evening.

How about suspended a ring of stainless steel nozzles above every table with appropriate labels for the offerings printed on them. You just reach up, open your mouth and squeeze a trigger on the selected nozzle. Then the stuff goes down the hatch in metered amounts. No plates to shuffle around, no menus, no flowers, no candles. Just the food. Drinks could be dispensed this way, too. You swipt your credit card at the door when you come in, and an 18% gratuity is included, so there's no bill to fool with.

The place could be called "Tapas on Tap."

Education sturges (my deep-sea fishing instructor name)

City Redux, I think the Druid Park Conservatory is one of the forgotten gems of the city. Today would be a wonderful day for a visit, too.

I have never had a problem holding onto one menu for the table after we have ordered our first round.

I do love the idea of an electronic ordering device similar to WAWA and Sheetz that would eliminate the lost server problem. To be really efficient the device would have a slot where you could just slide your credit/debit card and out the door you go. No more sitting with an empty wine glass trying to get the attention of your server. No more waiting 30 minutes for your check. If something is wrong the device has a flashing red light you can activate to get the attention of a manager. I know I would eat more often if this was available.

What we need is an Tapas Automat restaurant. Walk up to the machine, put in some money and a garlic shrimp drops. Come back a few minutes later and a lollipop lamb chop falls down. Later in the evening perhaps a machine dispensed wedge of Manchego or a dixie cup of flan.

Captcha: Bad Bacall. Either Lauren's admonishment from the House Unamerican Activities Committee or some pillow talk from Humphrey Bogart.

RoCK: exactly. For dessert, you'd get a Berger cookie.

Let's patent my idea and yours. (Yours might be known as the "Tap-o-Mat.," BTW.)

Next to the little doors would be a hole in the wall with one of those big long rubber lab gloves for you to reach into and lightly touch the arm of the faceless worker drone who would be mindlessly re-filling the Tap-o-Mat vacuoles and dreaming of becoming a country western singer. The movie version would be directed by Terry Gilliam and star either Bruce Willis or Jude Law. Soundtrack by David Byrne. Catering by The Ace of Cakes.

Love the captcha.

Reflecting Whittles (my country western singer name)

I'm with Lissa - serve it like dim sum. On carts, but with some specials coming hot from the kitchen (like salt-and-pepper shrimp at dim sum).

Cleatus, Terry Gilliam would be the perfect director for that movie.

How about cutting a slit in the table top you can slide your menu into?

How about cutting a slit in the table top you can slide your menu into? On the side that is, not the top.

I'm so glad that lightly touching the waitron's arm has caught on. Unlike, say, the word waitron.

I would just be happy if the wait staff would remove the neatly bused and stacked plates on my table. While they are there, could they remove the two empty cocktail glasses as well. And to think of it, I'm eating tapas, do I need a sugar packet holder? And viola, I have room for the menu!

captcha: decision quads...the new tapas menu name.

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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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