Tag Archives: spanish cuisine

Solera – Minneapolis {Closed}


Sometimes, the only way to get my husband to try a restaurant is to buy a Groupon. We have to use it, right? There truly is Power in the Groupon!

Solera is a Spanish tapas bar in the Theater District of Minneapolis. I’d been there a few times with girlfriends. I love the concept of small plates and getting to try a bunch of different flavors. It was something my friend Jen and I loved when we were in Barcelona back in 2000.

I just feared that Rob would hate it. I feared that there would be little for him to eat {a lot of seafood on the menu} and that the plates would be too small. I feared he would go away hungry. I had even considered using the Groupon with a friend instead of Rob.

Then I thought, “No! I want him to try it!” And I knew that having the Groupon was the only way to get him there.

As a backup plan to quell both of our fears, I told him that if he was still hungry, we’d stop at the Scottish Pub next door afterward.

I’m so glad we went.

Because he loved it!

Rob hates downtown Minneapolis. I can’t stress this enough. While he loves dining there and going to concerts and sporting events, he detests navigating the city. He hates parking, construction, traffic and when there are so many people that you just can’t get a seat where you want to or arrive on time if reservations are made.

So I made sure to go at an off-time – on a Sunday afternoon, right when Solera opened. It was a beautiful day and we sat at the bar.

We started off by ordering a Spanish specialty and one that you know I like:

Sangria Menu!

Our choice:

St.Germaine, sugar • 7

I’d never had a sangria made with hard cider before! It was actually made with Crispin, which is probably the only good thing that particular cider is good for. I just may be actioning my own Cider Sangria next summer!

Pre-meal crusty bread with oil for dunking

When you order tapas, the plates come out as they are ready. You are not served in courses or all at once. I like this concept because whatever you get will be hot and freshly prepared. In addition, if you are still hungry, you can order more. The bartender recommended 3 to 5 tapas for two people, because the size of them really depends on each dish.

First to come out:

Patatas Bravas
spicy harissa, aioli • 8

These potatoes were more than delightful. The spice of the harissa gave them a nice kick. Talk about flavor! As you will come to see, this is certainly not a place where we will be screaming Season It Already!

And why was I worried about these plates being too “small” for dear hubby? With the four plates of tapas we ordered, we couldn’t even finish these, despite how good they were!

You may not know this yet from my blog, but I have a not-so-secret love affair with scallops. I was introduced to them later in life {read: after college} and I almost always order them anytime they are offered {read: when not served with bacon}.

Despite the fact that tapas are plates meant to share, Rob knew that I would need to order the scallops. {He approves of the love affair.} But he also knew we’d be ordering other meat items for his culinary pleasure.

The Scallops

These scallops are different from those on the current menu. I imagine that the flavors change with the season. And while the flavors of these scallops are indescribable {the bartender and server went into intricate detail on how they were prepared!}, let’s just say that I was fully satisfied and smiling ear-to-ear. My plate was cleaned.

Next up:

Bistec al Guacho
seared sirloin, smoked paprika, chimichurri • 9

While Rob said that the meat was just a bit chewy, it didn’t stop him from eating it! And flavor? How could there not be with a fresh chimichurri sauce covering it?

And finally:

Pork Ribs
brandy glaze, pimenton rub • 14

For being an American girl constantly in search of flavor, you may be surprised to learn that I don’t particularly like ribs nor barbecue sauces. {Gasp!} There is something about the smoky and sweet flavors that everyone loves that I’m just not into so much. That being said, I gave these pork ribs a try and was pleasantly surprised. Rob licked his fingers clean.

And you can’t stop in Spain without having a little Sherry, right?

Solera Sherry Menu

Being the girl that cannot make a decision, knows nothing about sherry, and is still in search of her inner Frasier Crane, I finally just had the bartender choose one for us:

Our after-dinner sherry

The perfect end to a meal! I sometimes taste Bit-O-Honey when I drink Sherry or other sweet Spanish wines. Is this just  me?

What are your favorite small plates to eat, make or order?



El Meson – Minneapolis {Closed}


I had been here once before years back with my friends Jen and Kari. I think it was before Kari’s kids were even born yet. {Let’s just say that they aren’t toddlers anymore.} I remember loving the ambiance, the booths that felt like private cubby holes and the Spanish-style décor.

I also remember loving the sangria.

Sometimes I find that the reason we dine somewhere that isn’t in a 5-mile radius from our house is that we have a Groupon. And it is for that reason that I was able to get Rob to dine here on beautiful afternoon in May. 😉

We went early. The Groupon required a reservation and since we had planned to be in the area for something else, I made it really early – 4pm. We often eat early, but not this early!  Of course, without anyone else there at 4pm, the restaurant didn’t have quite the same liveliness as I had first experienced.

Our Groupon included two glasses of wine or beer and two entrees.

However, we decided to start with an app from their tapas menu:

Grilled mini Chorizo sausages served with sautéed artichoke hearts & sweet onions in a warm vinaigrette. 7.95

With it, they served some bread:

buttered bread

This pre-buttered bread was way too easy to eat. I try to limit myself to one piece if I do eat any bread while out, but I did have at least one more. I think this bread basket went away from our table empty. Whoops.

But I did think that ordering a lower calorie dish like scallops could make up for it:

Conchas – Pan Seared Curry Dusted Sea Scallops served with coconut, mango, spinach risotto, in a lemon butter sauce, topped with a pineapple salsa. 19.95

This was a great dish and I loved the risotto. I’m sure the sauces made up for the low-calorie scallops, though. Would I get it again? It wasn’t one of those scallop dishes I have to have again. There are just too many other things on the menu that I’d like to try!

Rob ordered:

Carne a la Brava – Piementon crusted beef medallions served with a Valencia saffron rice, braised fingerling potatoes, sauteed artichokes hearts and chorizo, in a tempranillo demi glaze, topped with a Serrano crisp. 18.95

The server did not ask how he’d like it done. And in a place like this, I just assume that means they only serve it one way because that is the way it was supposed  to be cooked. And it was cooked to perfection – medium rare. The only thing was that it needed more seasoning. Season it already!  Still, I was curious about the Serrano crisp sticking out of the saffron rice. So I snapped off a piece before Rob could slap my hand away. It tasted like really crunchy bacon. It was very cool-looking garnish – like a whale tail was sticking out the rice.

And the Sangria?

El Meson Sangria

Delicious! While the Sangria at Burger Jones still tops my list, this one is still lovely. I can’t say that I’ve ever had bad Sangria though…

Overall, El Meson is a great little neighborhood restaurant that we’d probably frequent if we lived in the area to check out more of their menu. Oh, and they call themselves a Spanish-Caribbean Bistro. Have you been to one of those lately?

What’s the most interesting garnish you’ve had served on a plate or in a cocktail?