Upon arriving home from a semester in Granada, Spain, I found a new love. No, it was not a tall, dark, Spanish man (a huge relief to my parents.) It was the discovery of tapas. The most amazing little accompaniment to a glass of Rioja.
In Granada, every drink comes with a free tapa; in my opinion, the best idea ever. When I came home, I missed the language, I missed the adorable side streets, I missed the wine, I missed my friends; but above all, I missed tapas. So when my dad told me about Orillas Tapas Bar in downtown Wilmington, I was ecstatic. I was a little annoyed that I hadn’t found out about this place sooner, but who can be angry when you’re about to eat Spanish food?
Orilla literally means “shore” or “bank,” but I liked how our waitress described it better; “where something ends and something else begins.” It’s a small and friendly restaurant, exactly like a typical Spanish tapas bar. You feel like you just stumbled onto a gem while taking a paseo through an Andalucian city, with the sleek wood bar and the brick wall adorned with beautiful paintings and pictures. Not to mention the Spanish guitar streaming through the speakers.
Per the recommendation of the waitress, we decided to start slowly, only ordering four tapas and a jar of sangria. The first and my favorite were the croquetas de jamon, or ham croquettes. They tasted exactly like a Spanish croqueta; crispy with a fluffy inside and absolutely amazing. And with the white bean puree surrounding them, it was definitely my favorite. The next tapa was another authentic Spanish dish; pan con tomate (bread with tomato) and a slice of Serrano ham. The ham was perfectly sliced, making me feel like I was back in the ham museum in Madrid (they love their ham!). We also ordered vieras al azafran (scallops with saffron sauce) and gambas al ajillo (prawns with garlic). In typical Spanish fashion, the gambas are served whole, head and all! My younger sister’s reaction was priceless; “I’m not touching those things!” Her loss though; they were incredible.
The great thing about tapas restaurants is that they stagger the dishes; the first four tapas arrived over a span of 20-30 minutes. It’s fantastic because you feel fuller with less food. But I wasn’t about to leave that tapas bar having only tried four dishes! So we settled on ordering five more. The first of the second round was the berenjena frita (eggplant tempura), a specialty that is one of their more popular dishes, the waitress informed us. It’s easy to see why! Even if you don’t like eggplant, you will like this. The eggplant is sliced so thinly you wouldn’t even know you’re eating eggplant. And it’s topped of with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and truffle honey, making for a crispy and sweet combination. Pretty awesome. The berenjena was followed by patatas bravas (potatoes) and a tortilla espanola (a potato, egg and onion omelet), two typical, authentic Spanish dishes that didn’t disappoint.
At this point, it was difficult to move and all of us could barely breathe, but there were two more still coming and some sangria to finish off! So we put our discomfort aside, all for the sake of you readers. At the request of my dad, we ordered piquillo relleno, which are crab stuffed peppers. I had never had those or encountered them in Spain, but I plan on actively seeking them out when I return! And to finish off our marathon tapas tasting, we wrapped up with a coca Iberica, which is basically a flatbread pizza. The Iberica contained Serrano ham (claro!), manchego cheese fondu, chorizo, and figs. We couldn’t have picked a better note to end on. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the table next to us staring at us with jealousy, hoping that their coca would arrive any minute. Can’t say I blame them!
Now, I’m not a food critic. I’m not very picky, to the point that I will pretty much eat anything. But I like to think that I spent enough time in Spain to know what authentic Spanish food is, and Orillas tapas is authentic in all ways. The long bar, the loud and happy atmosphere, the Spanish music in the background, the sangria, and especially the food all are reminiscent of Spain. So if you are craving some delicious sangria and amazing tapas, look no farther than Orillas!