Small Plates, Huge Flavor: Tapas Restaurants of Southeast Michigan

By: Amber Ogden | May 29, 2015

Going out to eat is marvelous, but do you ever get so indecisive you can’t decide between three different entrees, only to be left to make your final decision at the very last second when the waiter or waitress makes his/her way to you?

It’s a dreadful scenario, and one that can be easily avoided: head to a tapas or small plates restaurant! Grab a group of hungry friends, order a variety of tasty (and small) dishes, and you get to sample a little bit of everything. If only all of life’s problems could be solved so easily! If you’re looking for a tasty tapas or succulent small plates restaurant in Metro Detroit, start with one of the following:

La Feria, 4130 Cass Ave., Detroit, is a Spanish-style tapas restaurant that also happens to be the 2012 Hatch Detroit contest winner. The food menu includes soups and salads, along with hot and cold tapas.

Cold tapas include Tostada de Almogrote (cured goat and sheep cheese spread served with baguette), Aceitunas Mixtas (a mix of Mediterranean olives) and Almendras Tostadas (roasted almonds with sea salt and olive oil). If you want to mix it up with a hot dish, try Berenjenas Fritas (fried eggplant with honey), Patatas Bravas (fried potato with spicy tomato salsa and aioli) or Gambas al Ajillo (seared shrimp with garlic and dried chilies).

Drinks include beer from Motor City Brewing Works, a vast wine selection, bebidas especiales (or specialty cocktails) and sangria. Don’t forget the dessert, like Flan al Caramelo or Tarta de Santiago (flourless almond cake topped with powdered sugar).

Aventura, 216 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, is another Spanish tapas restaurant, and winner of Opentable Diner’s Choice Award 2014, as well as Best New Restaurant in the Midwest 2014 by Conde Nast. With those credentials, you know you’re in for a treat!

The dinner menu includes nearly a dozen different quesos, which I didn’t even know was possible. Tapas choices include Patatas Bravas (triple-fried potatoes and sunny-side up egg served with honey aioli and brava sauce), Croqeta de Pollo (roasted chicken with herbs and honey aioli) and Albondigas (lamb meatballs with manchego and almond picada). The menu goes on and on!

Brunch is also served at Aventura, and you can choose from plates like Churros con Chocolate (served with salted caramel, chili chocolate and crème anglaise), Frijoles y Huevo (baked eggs, cannellini beans, kale, sofrito and grilled bread) and Panqueques de Pedro (corn meal pancakes topped with mascarpone, figs, blackberries, grapes and maple syrup).

The Sardine Room, 340 S. Main St., Plymouth, offers small plates, snacks and a raw bar with oysters, lobster, peel and eat shrimp and more. If you prefer your food cooked, consider sharing a plate of Stacked Naan (with lamb tenderloin, mint labne, tomato and cucumber salad), Fish Tacos (piled with grilled snapper, cabbage, corn salsa, jalapeno slaw and tequila lime crème) or Vegan Crispy Brown Rice Bowl (kale sprouts, avocado, cucumber, scallion, mint, cilantro and ginger).

The menu also includes plenty of snack items like Hand Cut Fries, Grilled Baby Artichokes and Fried Shishito Peppers. A pickle board, cheese board or house smoked salmon board are also great to share amongst the table.

The Twisted Tavern, 22901 Woodward Ave., Ferndale, is connected to Twist Night Club, and the menu offers an array of sophisticated small plates.

Small plates here include Shrimp Fettuccine (tossed with spinach, tomato and Spanish romesco sauce), Mussels (in a white wine, ouzo and garlic butter sauce) and Roasted Wild Mushrooms (with Spanish chorizo, sherry cream and flatbread crisps).

The Twisted Mac and Cheese, which includes three cheeses, Italian meats and panko breadcrumbs, is the restaurant’s signature dish, and is not to be missed. The Risotto Balls, stuffed with prosciutto and served with tomato jam and truffle aioli, are another great small plate choice!

Mezzevino, 120 E. Liberty St., Ann Arbor, is a Mediterranean style restaurant that highlights small plates and the tradition of sharing a family meal. Start off with a pairing of two or more items from the mezze bar, like spicy Capicola and feta, which are then served with crostini, olives and seasonal fruit compote.

Small plates include Mezze Meatballs (made of pork and veal), Gyros “Slider” (your choice of spit roasted pork or chicken), Eggplant Chips (served with toasted cumin yogurt) and Herbed Tuna (served with lentil-bean salad, avocado puree, chili oil and sea salt).

Happy hour is held Monday through Friday in the bar area only, where you’ll get half off all drinks from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and 25 percent off drinks from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saving money on your drinks just means you can order one more small plate and break even!

Tapas restaurants are great for big groups, because they allow you to sample a number of dishes instead of ordering one entrée. That way, you get many tastes of a particular culture or cuisine, which your palate will thank you for. Enjoy!