Tapa Bar, the Spanish tapas restaurant located in part of the former BlackFinn space in Bethesda, opened to the public for the first time Thursday night and will open for dinner service six days a week throughout August before an official opening in September.
Co-owner Alonso Roche said Friday he and his brother and co-owner Alvaro Roche will use August to train staff and finalize the restaurant’s unusual kitchen situation. Tapa Bar, at 4901 Fairmont Ave., will share kitchen space with Bold Bite, the popular next-door breakfast and lunch spot Alonso opened with his wife, Maria, in 2011.
“It is great to kind of do it this way, to just open the doors,” Roche said. “People [on Thursday night] were surprised by the prices, because they’re accessible. Some of the things you can get at these prices, you can eat two or three things and you’re good. It’s not going to break the bank.”
The menu offers traditional Spanish tapas dishes “with a little bit of my own twist,” Roche said. There’s also a drink menu heavy on Spanish wines and beers and with four gin and tonic variations that feature homemade tonic made with what Roche called his “secret recipe.”
Tapas selections run from a $2 tomato, garlic and olive oil montadito to the $10 La Ensalada del Mercadito with roasted peaches, fennel and homemade requeson toast. The menu also includes entrees, such as a Spanish seafood risotto for $25 and a pork porterhouse from a farm in Pennsylvania for $28.
The most popular items Thursday night were the Gambas Al Ajillo—shrimp with garlic, dried chili peppers and parsley for $9.50—and the Albondigas De Carne—meatballs with cucumber and Manchego cheese for $9.
The menu also includes cheese and meat plates with cured hams and sausages that Roche cured in-house and cheeses from Spain.
Roche first revealed plans for the restaurant in November. Alonso said he and Alvaro were heavily involved in coordinating and even implementing the buildout, which involved dividing the former BlackFinn space into two separate storefronts and punching through to Bold Bite. Alonso wired the restaurant’s speakers.
“It’s been an interesting entrepreneurial experience because it’s my brother and I working on this with pretty much my brother coordinating everything: electrical, plumbing, getting the permits,” Roche said. “So it’s completely new for us.”
The bar inside the space is made from reclaimed barn wood and the walls are adorned with giant photos of Spain taken by the Roche brothers’ sister, who lives in Madrid.
Roche said the plan is to introduce a limited happy hour menu and start opening on Sundays later in August and then start opening for lunch and brunch service in the fall.