Tasty Pieces of Spain in Puerto Rico

Ever gone to a restaurant, ordered a ‘sampler’ as an appetizer and wanted to eat more plates of it? (I sure hope this isn’t just me or else this introduction would be awkwardly squeezed in). Well, you might love tapas. Tapas (from the Spanish verb tapar which means 'to cover') is a part of Spanish cuisine that consists of small dishes, often seen as appetizers or snacks. And yes, they count as actual food and not a pre-food food (that made sense, right?).

The food can be either hot or cold; fried, boiled or raw, the point is to be able to have it fit in a small plate that’s easy to hold and even easier to eat instead of a formal, sit-down meal. Of course, through history, new places where any cultural plate has expanded to equal new added ingredients and influences, and, while tapas can be found in most places in the world with different variations by now, I want to bring light to tapas with Puerto Rican influence, or simply more sazón.

In Puerto Rico, we already have our selection of common, local appetizers, such as smaller mofongos, sorullitos (corn fritters) and bacalaítos (cod fritters). Add to that finger foods from Europe and Central America like arepas and empanadillas or classic cold cuts of ham and cheese and you can have yourself what good o’l Puerto Rican tapas are like. The format in which tapas are often served as here is in a big platter with small plates on the side. This way, one can serve themselves what they wish as much as they wish. There’s a difference between 12 mozzarella sticks split in a table for 3 or 4 people and a platter of all the foods mentioned before in large quantities for you to eat as many fritters your heart and stomach desire.

In Spain, it is a common practice to “go for tapas”, similar to bar hopping but with these small dishes in every corner. Similar to this, Puerto Ricans tend to chinchorrear, which is a way to go to many kiosks that serve finger foods. Either way, the purpose is to enjoy what will eventually add up to a full meal and have loads of fun in the laid-back ambiance that tends to accompany tapas bars or restaurants. This relaxed and different way of dining adds a lot to the tropical, vacay-mode feel the island tends to have and makes road tripping around the island more fun and tasty than usual.

Tapas bars and restaurants are easy to stop when going through common road trip routes or as a one-time direct stop for a day’s meal. Be it going to a chinchorreo or having tapas be your lunch, they are sure to cater to all foodies of varied taste. Tapas in Puerto Rico might not be exactly like authentic Spanish tapas, but they do the name justice. What a treat! (And possible meal!)