Small Plates, Big Bites

 

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Latin-inspired churros, tacos and tapas make for messy, shareable fun. The plates may be small, but these two popular weekend spots offer plenty of finger food to fill up on. Did we mention the wine and mezcal selection? Yes, you’ll need a second napkin.

 


 

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Duck livers, frisse, quail eggs, crispy serrano ham and pedro ximenez dressing.

 

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Photo by Espana / Facebook

Espana
1118 Denman
Vancouver, BC
(604) 604-558-4040

 

Espana is a trendy tapas-style restaurant featuring wines and shareable plates from Spain. It is located in the center of the Davie strip, a few blocks away from English Bay.

 

The décor is modern and intimate, with dark wood furniture and long narrow bar. It is a great spot for a date or for grabbing a bite with friends. The place is always packed, so expect to wait a while before being seated. They don’t take reservations, but if you come around 6:00 p.m. you’re more likely to get a table. If you come later, don’t worry, there is ample room at the bar.

 

If you are coming for dinner, I’d recommend ordering about five plates for two to share. Popular dishes include the crispy pork belly served with white beans and a romesco sauce ($12), ling cod ($12) and the crispy squid served with a minted chili jam ($10). There’s also a few unique salads, a range of cured meats, homemade cheeses, and a good selection of Spanish pates and croquettes.

 

Espana is open late—until 1:00 a.m. during the week and 2:00 a.m. on weekends—making it an ideal spot for a few tapas-style snacks and more than a few drinks.

 

Popular snacks are the crispy chickpeas ($5) served with paprika and mint, olives stuffed with anchovies ($5), and any of their cured meats ($6). I like to order the meat board ($21) so that I can sample all five of their cured meats, including smoked boar chorizo and serrano ham that has been aged for 14 months.

 

The dinner crowd is a bit more chilled out that the late night snackers, so if you are looking for quiet conversation, come early.

 

—Shannon Pidlubny

 


 

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Photo by Los Cuervos Seared Tuna Taco / Facebook

 

Los Cuervos_Open Kitchen_Facebook_webLos Cuervos Taqueria & Cantina
603 Kingsway
Vancouver, BC
(604) 604-558-1518

 

Los Cuervos is a hip taqueria in the ever-expanding Kingsway and Fraser neighborhood. It’s an inviting, laidback space, decorated with the bright colours found in Mexico cantinas. The 30-seat restaurant is stylish, featuring a round mosaic-tiled bar in the center.

 

I prefer sitting at the bar so I can watch the chefs in action, squeezing out dough for churros (a donut-like pastry that is formed in sticks and deep fried). They serve this traditional dessert with your choice of chocolate or caramel dipping sauce. Ask for both.

 

I come here just for those crispy churros, and for the cocktails they make with mezcal (made from roasted agave). My favorite is the sage suero, a sweet and zippy drink made with homemade sage tea, agave syrup, soda, lime and tequila. They serve a few local beers too.

 

Dinner options include a good range of vegetarian and meat tacos, a few tostadas and one daily quesadilla. All tacos are served on a single six-inch corn tortilla. You’ll need three or four of them for a meal, which can get a bit pricey at $4 a piece. But the tacos here are both a visual and a gourmet experience, featuring meats not ordinarily made in taco truck in Mexico City, such as: duck, bison, and seared tuna.

 

Don’t expect simple tacos here. They pride themselves in elevating the toppings while using both local and traditional ingredients such as huitlacoche sauce (made with a corn fungus that is a delicacy in Mexico).

 

—Shannon Pidlubny