Brittany Viola ’14 and Aesha Shah ’14
On Saturday night, after an unproductive day of trying to get ahead on the weekend’s workload we decided to get dinner at Tapas Restaurant in West Hartford on New Britain Avenue. Now, contrary to what you may be thinking because of its name, Tapas is a Greek and Mediterranean restaurant and does not serve mini Spanish food plates.
The restaurant is broken into two separate “dining facilities.” We decided on the larger one on the left and stood by the “wait to be seated” sign. After a few minutes of no acknowledgement from the staff, we decided to just walk in. The hostess placed us at one of the tables in the corner by the window, practically sitting on top of the people next to us. At 7 p.m. on Saturday nights, Tapas gets extremely crowded, especially because the restaurant is small. Inside, the setup is odd, we heard that it actually used to be a burger joint before Tapas took over 20 years ago.
The owners clearly haven’t done much since. The furnishings are a bit odd and outdated, creating a somewhat weak atmosphere with plain dark brown tables, an awkward painting scheme, and a floral tapestry that hangs on the windows and one of the walls. However, the kitchen is a cool part of the restaurant. It’s not hidden in a back room, but in a closed off area towards the back of the restaurant. Diners can see the cooks creating their meals right in front of them, which we thought was really cool. The atmosphere is very casual and the chefs talk to the customers while cooking.
After looking through the menu, we finally settled on our order. We started with the mini spanakopitas and greek salad. Brittany ordered the veggie chili burrito for her meal and Aesha ordered the chicken souvlaki. Everything we ordered came out at the same time, except the veggie chili burrito that our waiter dropped as he was bringing the food to the table. After watching a little fight between the chef/owner and our waiter over the spilled mess, we waited for a good amount of time for the chili burrito to finally come out again. The service was pretty poor throughout the entire experience from the faked apology after the spill, to the waiter’s constant disappearing act and our relentless requests for more water.
The two mini spanakopitas served with rice were phenomenal. They were deliciously greasy pastries filled with a creamy concoction of spinach, feta cheese, bechmal, and onions. Our only wish was that there were more than two. The yellow rice was pretty good too but nothing to rave about. The Greek salad is extraordinary and certainly a customer favorite. Almost every table in the restaurant had ordered it to start their meal. It’s a refreshing mix of iceberg lettuce, feta cheese, onions, kalamata olives, diced tomatoes, pepperoncini, topped with with spices and a heavenly dressing. It was definitely our favorite dish so be sure to try it when you go!
The chicken souvlaki was very messy but delicious as well. The marinated chicken was tender and grilled to perfection. A heaping portion of seasoned vegetables including peppers and onions was stuffed into a grilled pita with their classic “Madd Greek” Sauce, which is basically a spicy Greek ketchup. The chicken souvlaki’s mix of spices, flavors, and textures mesh together fantastically. If you’re not in the mood for chicken, it is also offered with pork or mixed vegetables.
And lastly, the veggie chili burrito. Our review may be a little influenced by it’s delayed arrival, but it’s made exactly as it sounds. veggie chili wrapped in a tortilla. The chili is made with beans, tomatoes, other veggies and apparently beer as well. It was served piping hot in a tightly wrapped tortilla. It was not too spicy and the lettuce, tomato, cheddar and jack cheeses complimented the bold flavor well. While it was very good, it definitely was not the best dish of the night.
Tapas has won many awards including “Best of Hartford and “Best Greek” by the Hartford Advocate. You can see the various accolades perched on the walls in the entrance and throughout the restaurant. We’d recommend Tapas for a casual, inexpensive dinner. The service may not be the greatest, but Aesha has had differing experiences in her times at Tapas, so we can’t universally say that the restaurant has poor service. We’ve heard great things about the hummus platter, “cheez” fries and gyros. They also have take out and an online ordering system.