Traveling to the Mediterranean may be out of your plans for this year, but don’t let that limit your chances to enjoy sweet sangria and robust tapas. La Taberna del Alabardero can bring Spain to you, and you won’t even leave the comforts of Belltown. One server highlighted the goal of the restaurant as being Spaniards serving food from home. You have to visit it to believe it.
Upon crossing the threshold, you are instantly transported to Madrid. From the decorations to the menu, authenticity is not lost. The restaurant works hard to maintain its roots, and several of the staff are from Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville, Spain. The servers maintain an ongoing, friendly competition among themselves about the best Spanish city. There are only two La Taberna restaurants in the U.S.; Washington, D.C. hosts the other.
Seattle’s La Taberna del Alabardero opened in 2008, and it is the youngest of a family of restaurants that originally opened in Madrid, Spain, in 1974. A priest in Madrid sought to help children living on the streets, and the home he founded for them needed a funding source. The tavern was founded as a way to teach the children a trade and to fund their way through training as bull fighters. One of the original servers did become a professional bull fighter, and the poster can be found hanging prominently over the bar. The children learned to serve and cook traditional Spanish food and tapas. The restaurants became well-known in Spain, and some of them have even served Spanish royalty.
Two types of sangria are served, and I enjoyed the Red Sangria, made with a dry, red wine, Spanish brandy, triple sec, sweet vermouth, and just a touch of Sprite. When the bartender made my drink, bright citrusy perfume wafted across the bar to my seat. The sangria was fruit-sweet, trangy, and bright. It became a great foil for the full-bodied tapas – small plates – that we ordered.
We enjoyed Ilberico Ham and Chicken Croquettes, Fried Squid with Squid Ink Sauce, Sauteed Shrimp with Peppers, and Roasted Piquillo Peppers. Each bite was exquisite. The croquettes were creamy and smooth surrounded by a crisp, crunchy crust. The squid in the ink sauce was firm, yet tender. The chewiness of the squid was reassuringly fresh, because it indicated a freshness that cannot be mistaken. The shrimp were firey but creamy sweet. They were cooked to perfection, not a bit tough. The Piquillo peppers were sweet, juicy, and satisfying. It was impossible to choose a favorite, because each was so unique.
Because I was dining with another food writer and Examiner, the serving staff also gifted us with a stuffed squid with more black ink sauce, because I had mentioned that I hadn’t tasted it before. The black ink sauce tasted like the sea; breezy, sweet, and fresh. You might cringe at the thought, but if you have ever stood on the dock and inhaled the breeze, then you have already tasted fresh squid ink. For dessert we shared a mint-lime chocolate mousse, which was unique and herbal. The mint and lime almost clashed with the chocolate, which my table-mate suggested, but it was refreshing and complemented the sangria.
Be sure to enjoy tapas at La Taberna del Alabardero, and eat dinner, and enjoy some amazing drinks. If you long to be on the Mediterranean, look no further than Belltown.