Quality tapas are not free happy hour munchies like pigs in blankets or Swedish meatballs you’ll find in a chafing dish at a local bar. Originating in Spain, tapas are small plates of a variety of hot and cold foods originally intended to shift the focus from eating an entire meal to enjoying conversation. In countries where dinner is often served as late as 9 or 10 p.m., tapas, which may range from baby potatoes to calamari, are enjoyed with a glass of beer or wine. Here in the United States, the trend is to order a variety of tapas to comprise a small meal. Tapas have caught on in Baltimore, where you can choose a variety of delicious small plates – no longer limited to just Spanish cuisine.

Photo Credit: Meredith Bower

Tapas Teatro
1711 N Charles St
Baltimore, Md. 21201
(410) 332-0110

One of the first tapas restaurants in the Baltimore area, Tapas Teatro takes its name from its location adjacent to the historic Charles Theater. It’s the perfect place to drop in, before or after a movie, to enjoy a variety of small plates. The ever-changing menu takes advantage of the available/seasonal fresh foods ensuring there is something for everyone. With an eye toward a healthy selection, the tapas at this restaurant include plenty of salad, vegetarian, cheese, seafood and meat options. Choose a cold tapas option like the huevos sortidas (cooked egg, shrimp, smoked salmon, anchovy, cornichon and guindilla peppers) or a hot tapas option like the bacalao frito (fried Spanish cod with a tomato-olive vinaigrette). The wine and beer list is equally comprehensive and the house sangria is almost legendary.

Related: Best Pre-Show Dining In Baltimore

Photo Credit: Red Maple

Red Maple
930 N Charles St
Baltimore, Md. 21201
(410) 547-0149

Despite its location in a 1920s Mount Vernon townhouse, Red Maple has a thoroughly modern vibe. Not only has the concept of feng shui been applied to the décor, it is also apparent in the cuisine. This self-proclaimed “retro-forward cool oasis” may have to grow on some people, but the small plates are worth it. The global fusion selection at Red Maple is the result of using locally grown foods and preparing them with a variety of spices, marinades and cooking techniques. Because you’ll want to try everything from the pumpkin dumplings and roasted beet hummus, to lamb burgers and lemon brussels sprouts, you’ll be glad they are served on small plates.

Photo Credit: La Tasca Baltimore via Facebook

La Tasca
201 E Pratt St
Baltimore, Md. 21202
(410) 209-2562

Located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the views from this waterfront tapas restaurant are as varied as the small plates on the menu. Providing both traditional and contemporary dishes, La Tasca offers diners the chance to sample a wide variety of unique flavors such as datiles con tocino, or dates stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in bacon. For those who cannot decide on which tapas to order, but do know they will be sharing the plates, tasting menus are the perfect solution. Each menu is designed around a food such as meat or seafood, and includes eight or nine tapas. Between the views and flavors at La Tasca, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported to another country.

Photo Credit: Sam’s Kid

Sam’s Kid
811 S Broadway
Baltimore, Md. 21231
(410) 522-3663

The name doesn’t suggest tapas, nor does the menu of edamame, spring rolls and tempura, but Sam’s Kid bills itself as “Pan-Asian Tapas” and no one said tapas had to be Spanish. The small-plates menu offers perfect portions of Asian items with roots in Indonesia and Thailand. The summer rolls are perfect for the warming season with chilled shrimp, lettuce, rice noodles and hoisin sauce. Located in Fells Point, this restaurant has earned a reputation for good food at reasonable prices. And, who is Sam’s Kid? She is the owner Andrea Rani, who learned her trade from her late father and spiced it up by offering it as tapas.

Photo Credit: Tapas Adela

Tapas Adela
814 S Broadway
Baltimore, Md. 21231
(410) 534-6262

Authentically Spanish, Tapas Adela not only captures the flavor of Spain, it also captures its spirit – one in which guests are encouraged to share the variety of offerings. Located in the heart of historic Fells Point, this comfortable restaurant features outdoor dining in a courtyard and a white-marble, communal table, as well as a cozy dining room. Guests begin their meal with savory snacks to stimulate the palate, followed by small plates comprised of vegetables, seafood or meat. A group menu featuring 11 different items plus dessert is also offered. Among these items are slow braised pork cheeks, croquetas de queso and garlic shrimp.

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A Baltimore native, Meredith Bower served as Director of Communications at an area private school for 11 years. Her professional knowledge and personal experience as a parent of four children who attend/attended private schools offers a unique perspective on the schools and the students who attend them. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.