I have a love-hate relationship with tapas. Love: I can order five different things off the menu and no one is allowed to look at me like I am a freak of nature. Hate: sometimes the thought of sharing my food causes me to spontaneously turn into a grizzly bear. At Twisted Tapas, though, the relationship was significantly more love than hate.
Located halfway between the Morse and Loyola Red Line stops, Twisted Tapas (1146 W. Pratt Blvd.) bends the norm of tapas by straying from only Spanish dishes and combining tastes and ingredients from across the globe.
Despite the big blue sign out front that reads “Tapas,” it wouldn’t be hard for students to rush past this restaurant every day while running to that 8:15 a.m. you’re never on time for anyway. Once inside though, Twisted Tapas has a unique, colorful charm.
While they’re only open for dinner (5 p.m. until 10 or 11 p.m. depending on the day), they make the best of it. The restaurant has large windows along one of the walls and on warm nights the staff opens them to give the space an even more summery feel.
With blue and yellow mosaic tiles on the walls and a majority of the tables being for two people, the restaurant has date night written all over it. And what’s cuter than sharing your food? (That’s what tapas are, by the way: small dishes meant for sharing.) No date? No worries — sharing with a friend is just as cute.
My friend and I arrived around 7 p.m. on a Tuesday and despite the close quarters of the two-top tables and a steady stream of customers coming and leaving during the night, the dining room never seemed over-crowded. The noise level was comfortable and everyone seemed to be relaxing, enjoying themselves and their food.
The menu doesn’t seem too big upon first glance — the tapas themselves only take up two pages (they also have an extensive wine and beer list) – but Twisted Tapas packs those two pages with two trips around the world. The dishes range from $5-$10 and are split into three categories: signature tapas, hot tapas and cold tapas.
Our waiter was extremely helpful with aiding in our selection of dishes, letting us know how long certain ones would take to cook and which tapas would be good to order together so that they would arrive at the same time.
If I could only give you one piece of advice, it would be to pace yourself. You will want to try everything and keep ordering food, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to go for it, but take a little break after each dish and enjoy the atmosphere and your company before ordering another one (or three).
We started with the grilled baby octopus ($7.95) with a roasted corn and cherry tomato salsa. Never having tried grilled octopus before, I was hesitant. The octopus was perfectly cooked, though, with a slight crisp on the outside and tender without being chewy inside. The corn salsa it was paired with was fresh and flavorful with just a bit of heat.
The spicy potatoes ($5.95) and baked goat cheese ($6.95) came out next. These were my two favorite dishes of the meal. Both were simple but had little touches that brought them over the top. The thick-cut potatoes had a coating of spice on the outside and were paired with a cumin-paprika aioli dipping sauce, while the goat cheese baked in tomato sauce was served with perfectly toasted garlic herb bread.
One of the specials that night was lamb meatballs ($8.25). The price seemed a bit high for three rather small meatballs, but with three different preparations (one fried and two baked), a tangy yogurt sauce and a sweet molasses to balance it out, the dish made for a great bite.
After the meatballs we were both comfortably full, but we ordered one last dish: jalapeno gnocchi ($8.95). Even being full, we ate nearly the whole plate (one gnocchi was sadly left behind). The heat from the pepper-stuffed pasta was perfect and I could have taken a bath in the roasted yellow pepper and romano cheese sauce.
The Twisted Tapas Facebook page always has a deal on it (spend $25 and get a special dish for only $5, half-price pitchers of sangria, etc.). The night we went, we spent just over $40 total, which earned us a free slice of chocolate pie. The pie was silky with a buttery crust and warm bananas and caramel drizzled over the top — a light dish that was the perfect end to a hearty meal.
Verdict: With portions big enough to keep the fear of sharing your delicious food at bay, the perfect date-night atmosphere and reasonable prices, Twisted Tapas should be every Loyola student’s go-to for a fun night out.