Goat cheese fritters, potato omelet (aka Spanish tortilla), grilled squid rings and asparagus with sweet piquillo peppers -- the hit parade of enticing dishes sampled at the recently opened Macarena Tapas, 1890 W. Main St., St. Charles, goes on.
There's something about Spanish tapas that can turn a disciplined diner into the proverbial kid given free rein in a candy store.
Macarena Tapas1890 W. Main St., St. Charles, (630) 945-3458, macarenatapasstcharles.com
Cuisine: Spanish tapas
Setting: A hidden gem in a strip mall
Small plates: $8-$14
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; dinner 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to 10 p.m. Friday; 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday; 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday
Maybe it's the size of the plates: small. Or the concept: sharing each order as it comes to the table. Or the appealing variety: nine cold and 24 hot choices. In any case, it can be hard to hit the brakes in the midst of such bounty.
My favorite bite from co-owner-chef John Borras's kitchen? It's hard to pin down, because it changed more than once during the course of a leisurely dinner.
Vieiras Envueltas en Tocino (bacon-wrapped scallops) probably gets the edge, due to its creative preparation. The five large scallops were served in a creamy avocado sauce and topped with roasted coconut and chipotle aioli.
I would go back for that alone or the Croquetas de Queso de Cabra, goat cheese fritters in a balsamic-honey sauce. Calamares a la Plancha, the aforementioned squid dish with Andalusian roots, once again proved the cooking truism regarding preparation: simple is better. In this case all the squid required was a little exposure on a hot griddle, a hint of garlic and a spritz of lemon.
Among other selections were marinated fresh white anchovies with piquillo peppers, a smoked salmon platter, chicken croquettes, semi-cured Spanish petite sausages, white bean stew with pork and beef sausage and beef turnovers with cilantro and manchego cheese.
Macarena Tapas also serves a handful of shareable desserts. The chocolate-covered cream-filled profiteroles were easy to eat. Meanwhile, flan, chocolate mousse and crema catalana, the Spanish answer to the French crème brûlée, are probably worth exploring.
The bar makes its own sangria and stocks a selection of Spanish wines. In addition, beers from Spain are available as well as specialty cocktails, including the Calimocho that our waiter swears by although he claims never to have taken an order for it. The drink, served in a tall glass with ice, consists of equal parts red wine and cola.
The decor is understated and colors muted. Diners sit at tables crafted from reclaimed barn wood. A long bar runs along the back wall and is adorned with two volume-muted flat-screen TVs tuned to sporting events. Pleasant Spanish music playing in the background adds a nice touch.
It's good to see this space in active use once again after a period of dormancy. Two previous establishments, Fahrenheit and Fat Rosie's Taco & Tequila Bar, each had short runs there.
Macarena Tapas accepts reservations, particularly helpful on busy weekends. It seats about 70, and there's a seasonal patio that bumps up capacity by 100. There's also a Macarena Tapas at 618 Route 59, Naperville.
• Reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.