Monday, February 5, 2007

People: Spanish Tapas & World Music Lounge (Chicago, IL)

To preface this article, allow me to give the circumstances that led me from my humble hometown in Ohio to travel to Chicago.  It was Tuesday, August 2, 2006 – Amanda and I decided to take the five-hour drive to Illinois to see two of my favorite bands, The Rentals and Ozma, perform live.  It was an exhausting trip, to say the least, especially that irksome part where we got lost in the middle of the night on our way home, and, when I nearly wrecked the car, trying to speedily get off an exit so I could get on a toilet with a quickness that’d make The Flash humbled.

When we finally arrived in the historical Wicker Park district of Chicago, we had a couple hours to kill before the concert.  We were hungry from our trek, and while walking down North Milwaukee Avenue, spotted a quaint little restaurant.  Now, Amanda’s a big fan of Spanish culture; in fact, we’re planning a trip to Spain for this summer.  Thus, it was no surprise to me, that when we stumbled upon a place that specialized in Spanish cuisine, we’d be eating there.

The interior had a real atmosphere and ambiance that was unlike anything I’d experienced back home in Ohio during my many dining adventures.  Instead of trying to describe it, I’ll allow an excerpt from their website to do the honors, “blends oak, wrought iron and copper elements to create a rustic and cozy atmosphere. Large wrought iron chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The faux painted walls with several shades of brown tones create a warm vibe.”  We both ordered wine to get the festivities started, and soon after, came some of the best tasting food I’ve had the pleasure of eating.

Pollo Loco - $6 
chicken skewer with chimichurro marinade and roasted red pepper sauce

This was Amanda’s first choice – a skewer containing succulent pieces of chicken, accompanied by a delightfully feisty sauce.  I tried a bite, too; it was surprisingly spicy, but the texture and flavors were tremendous.  Good, but out of the four tapas we tried, I’d rank it last.

Gambas a la Plancha - $8 
shrimp skewer with a garlic and sherry glaze served on a bed of couscous

This was my first choice, and, a spirited one at that.  I’m a big seafood fan, and proud of it, and upon seeing this item on the menu, thought it’d be my perfect introduction to Spanish tapas.  The shrimp were big and bold, precisely grilled, and nearly orgasm inducing.  Plus, the couscous was the absolute perfect accompaniment – it’s so fun to eat!  Couscous is highly underrated and undervalued; I’d choose it over rice any day.

Here we are, the definition of giddy, from our strenuous trip, hunger, and alcohol consumption.  Quickly after devouring our first tapas choices, we immediately determined we were going to need more food.  We decided to order more tapas, but, from here on out, we’d be evenly splitting them instead of having our own.  We didn’t seem to mind our bill increasing, as we were too excited, seemingly wanting to try one of everything on the menu to pay much notice.

Citrus and Vodka cured Salmon - $7 
with herbs & peppercorns

If there’s a holy entity, he’s likely eating an order of this for lunch tomorrow.  Just… wow.  This was so incredibly good.  I know, at first, you’re probably thinking, “raw fish?”  But seriously, this salmon, with its positively delectable citrus flavor, was transcendent.  I literally felt like:

I was floating into the sky, like Wiley Wiggins in the brilliant film Waking Life.

People's Skirtsteak - $7 
in a sherry glaze with twelve month aged Manchego cheese and tomato

But, as amazed as I was by the tasty salmon, the winner of “best tapas” was the scrumptious skirtsteak tapas.  The meat was so tender, it literally melted into your mouth; coupled with the year-aged cheese, and the phenomenal juices surrounding it, this was eating excellence.  On the surface, it might not appear as much, and even in reality, besides the garnish, it didn’t look much unlike Grandma’s pot roast.  But, the flavor was just pure nirvana – I’d close my eyes, tilt my head back, and just enjoy each millisecond it was in my mouth.

 (These images courtesy of

I wasn’t able to take too many pictures inside the restaurant of its interior – so here’s two official shot from their website showcasing it.  It is magnificently decorated and designed, and from all accounts I’ve heard, a fantastic place to party and socialize on the weekends.

Flan - $5 
caramel custard with a berry sauce

It was around this point that we met Fabio.  He was working there, a manager, I believe, and we struck up a nice spontaneous conversation with him – about Rome, food, traveling, filmmaking, etc.  He recommended flan for dessert and we were more than happy to indulge ourselves.  I’d never had flan before, but it now easily ranks up there with pecan pie, cheesecake, and mint chocolate chip ice cream as my favorite dessert.  The consistency was very unique, almost kind of rubbery, and fun to play with.  The caramel taste was so sweet, and made this item go from moderately good to sweet perfection.

Turkish Coffee - $4

Amanda had some Turkish coffee afterwards – it had a strong, bold flavor, and was a pleasant finale to our meal.  And, I adore this picture, too.

The above is a random picture of North Milwaukee Avenue taken a little down the road, but still very indicative of its style.  In closing, we had a very memorable time eating at People: Spanish Tapas & World Music Lounge.  While it may have been a bit pricey, you certainly get what you pay for in terms of quality; plus, it’s nice to treat yourself out occasionally to a fancier dinner.  Everything we tasted was freshly prepared, and it was a truly unique eating experience in contrast to anything we’d ever had before.  In a city like Chicago, there’s hundreds upon hundreds of places to eat – I urge you to take a chance on something like this that has a lot of character and personality.  From here on, Chicago will always be closely associated to me with this particular restaurant and meal, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Overall Grade: A 

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