Tapas, the art of dishing out small plates, has become a popular concept in the U.S., with bars and restaurants springing up in cities across the nation dishing out their own version of a sharing menu. However, most Americans don't know the history of tapas -- exactly how, and why, the tiny dishes originated.
Many historians believe tapas began as a way for Spanish farmers and field workers to stay nourished during the long work day, taking small meals accompanied by wine or drink every few hours. In modern Spain, tapas are seldom served without alcohol, and are not meant to be a meal in themselves. Likewise, there are no tapas restaurants -- only tapas bars, encouraging a culture of "tapeo" where people meet and mingle to enjoy drink and food in a lively atmosphere.
Although tapas can literally be any type of food, in Spain not all tapas are created equal. The way the food is served and presented, as well as the type of ingredients used, determine whether or not the fare is considered a tapa (snack), pintxo (food on a stick), racion (dish), plato (main plate) or montadito (food served on bread).
At City Place in West Palm Beach, a new tapas concept known as 100 Montaditos has opened its doors, a true Spanish-style tapas bar that specializes in the montadito, or tapas-style sandwich. Founded in 2000 near Spain's southern city of Huelva, the 100 Montaditos concept is meant to recreate the atmosphere of a traditional 19th century Spanish tavern. The restaurant focuses on -- you guessed it -- montaditos, here crunchy Spanish rolls baked to order and topped or filled with traditional Spanish and Mediterranean ingredients like Serrano ham, chorizo sausage and Manchego cheese.
Staying with the Spanish tradition of tapeo, 100 Montaditos is not only a place to enjoy the best Spanish flavors, but also drink and mingle with friends and family. The interior space offers seating for small and large groups, as well as several high-tops near the bar
serving beer, wine and sangria.
However, don't expect a traditional restaurant experience. Upon entering, you won't be seated or served. Instead, patrons are greeted by a friendly face who will assist them with navigating the menu and ordering their selections at the walk-up counter and bar.
As the name suggests, the menu offers 100 variations of montadito, with sections that focus on meats, cheese, or vegetable priced between $1.49 and $2.99 apiece. Options include many Spanish specialities, such as salchichon (a cured sausage from Spain), chistorra (basque-styel chorizo), and lomo (dry, cured pork loin). More familiar
-- and Americanized -- pairings can be found with BBQ pulled pork topped with crispy onion and chipotle aioli, or a Philly steak with brie and arugula. Each is served on a fragrant, doughy bread made in Spain; the dough shipped to each 100 Montaditos restaurant frozen, where it is baked fresh daily.
If the idea of scrolling through all 100 options seems overwhelming, a special section has been established for making the decision a little easier. Collections -- a choice of five select sandwiches -- present the best of each category in one plate. There's the meat lovers and veggie collection, as well as a Mediterranean-inspired or dessert-themed plate.
Desserts are bread-based, as well, served on a special chocolate bread with toppings like Nutella, or whipped cream and Oreos. Feeling hungry for more than a montadito? Larger servings, or raciones, offer paella and a Spanish "plate" that includes an assortment of dry-cured meats and cheeses, while appetizers like soup, olives and fries are available.
To celebrate the World Cup, through July 13th visit 100 Montaditos and order a five-beer bucket for $10.99, or pitcher of beer or sangria for $6.99.
100 Montaditos is located at 460 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 186, at City Place in West Palm Beach. Visit 100montaditos.com, or call 561-249-2444.
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