If you know me well, you know me as clever, charismatic, and not even a little bit awkward. I’ll pause for the collective eye rolls from my dearest friends, co-workers, and boyfriend.
But every now and then, even I feel the need to turn off the charm and just allow myself to relax and be entertained while dining out. This leaves me to make a difficult decision – do I shell out the dollars for a beautiful meal while settling for the sounds of the couple at a neighboring table breaking up as my sole means of cultural stimulation? Do I huddle on an Old Market corner over my Nachos Bell Grande while taking in the talents of a troubadour?
I do not, my friends. Instead, I search the city for the holy grail of dining experiences, a meal worth writing to my darling readers about, an establishment clean and cozy enough to eat in, a staff that is friendly and attentive, and a talented musician serenading the room.
To find such a place, I journeyed to Benson.
Welcome to Spomaha
Upon entering Espana Tapas Bar, you are greeted by vibrant red and gold decor and the smell of a thousand spices you suddenly wish you knew how to cook with. Instantly at ease by the heavenly aromas, you are faced with the worst part of the evening: making the decision between the famous sangria and a glass of Spanish red.
Take your time pondering the menu, but know that if you’re interested in the paella (you are) you’ll need 2 diners to finish the dish, and you’ll be in for a bit of a wait. While you wait, order at least 2 tapas. I say at least 2 because you will not be able to rest until you’ve tried them all, but you really need to leave room for the paella. Just trust me, guys.
You have your choice of both hot and cold tapas ranging from a sizzling garlic shrimp and escargot to ceviche and tomato rubbed baguettes. As frequently as the menu changes, the staff is on the ball and ready to answer any questions you may have as someone who has never traveled to Spain. Watch for specials – for instance, on Tuesdays they offer a free tapas to each guest who orders 2!
Food & Music
For me, the steamed mussels and the Carpaccio were too beautiful to pass up. While we slowly, delicately, and not at all like starving children made our way through our delicious dishes, we realized how much time had passed since one of us had spoken. We were both taking in the beautiful swell of Spanish guitar played by a petite girl with an enormous talent. I learned later that our trobairitz (known also as Melissa Dundis) plays every Sunday from 6-9, and the Omaha treasure Hadley Heavin plays on Fridays and Saturdays. Occasionally, you’ll catch a guest appearance by the Omaha Guitar Trio. This isn’t Spanish Lite, or Flamenco for beginners. This is truly tested talent playing time honored classics.
When your perfectly seasoned paella arrives, you’ll begin to rack your brain wondering where you left your passport. Surely a trip to Spain can’t be too expensive, can it? And even though you’re full, you find yourself scraping the bottom of an empty dish, wondering where it all disappeared. Your waiter will come by and ask if you’re interested in any of their equally beautiful desserts, and we all know you want to at least try the Tres Leches. Don’t try to fool them. They’re a well trained staff. They know you want dessert.
Regrets are for another day, and you’re not ready to leave the ambiance anyway- so loosen your belt buckle, order a glass of dessert wine, and let the guitar quiet your heart for just a little longer.
Espana Tapas Bar
6064 Maple Street
Tues – Thurs: 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Fri – Sat: 5:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Sun: 5:00 – 9:00 PM