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Restaurants & Bars 2

Omaha Report: Espana

SmallCap | May 21, 200409:39 AM

With tapas now officially my favorite way of dining, I recently tried out Espana in Omaha.

Having found their name online but without a website or any actual recommendations, I was a little hesitant -- especially based on the location (on the fringe of a section of Omaha which used to be just run-down & is only now making the transition to trendy) & the rather unassuming exterior. But this is definitely an upper-class spot, reasonably-priced for tapas & with an extensive Spanish-only wine list that ranges from low-end $20 up to over $50. It is focused (naturally) on Rioja, & our server was decently-educated with her range of recommendations.

Much of the crowd seemed to be regulars in their 30's, although the staff was also very welcoming to us as newcomers.

As is usually the case with tapas bars, Espana is long & dark & crowded & noisy & a little hot. It was perhaps a bit less "festive" than some tapas places I've tried, but you order in what I assume is traditional fashion -- write down your choices on a long, numbered list that corresponds with menu item #'s. The write-on list is strictly in Spanish. Then you erase your choices & go again!

The menu has a nice selection -- more hot than cold choices, as I usually find, but a nice mixture of traditional Spanish choices as well as Mediterranean influences, etc. Some of them seemed more like regular entree-selections served in tapas portion & style, but everything was still excellent, no complaints. I later regretted not trying the house-marinated olives, which I noticed sitting on the edge of the bar in a large glass barrel.

(Espana also offered a traditional menu, although I must confess I barely glanced at it -- from what I saw, it seemed reasonably-priced.)

Overall, it was a fun & interesting experience, as I believe tapas should be. One of their more-clever ideas (which I've never seen before) is to serve each course of tapas on a metal stand that holds up to three small plates. That solved a problem I've had frequently -- take two people, throw in a bottle of wine & some glasses & a bunch of small plates, you're half-likely to knock something off the table!

Overall, Espana is a great addition to the Omaha dining scene, which is extensive but not necessarily in this area. Fortunately, they seemed busy enough for a Wednesday evening.

P.S., including a $35 bottle of Rioja, my companion & I ate for roughly $80 & left feeling very satisfied.

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