Alcalá de Henares’ gastronomy is famous due to its traditional dishes and its classical confectionery. But not everything is tradition in Alcalá nowadays, the city is alive and dynamic city and its inhabitants fancy to live every moment surrounded by his friends and family.

This street culture is perfectly reflected in one of the most famous and popular events that Alcalá’s population daily carries out en masse: Ir de tapas (to go out for tapas).

What does “Ir de tapas” means?

[quote align=”right”] If you do not know Tapas in Alcalá, then you do not know Alcalá or its inhabitants. Ir de tapas in Alcalá is much more than gastronomy, it is a social action, a proper life style. [/quote]

It just takes to go to some of the many city’s bars and restaurants to taste “a Tapa” in company. A Tapa is not more than a little portion of food served with some drink (with or without alcohol), though the most frequent combination is to take it with a beer. The concept is simple, but leads to one of the most important social action of our culture. In our region, it is quite an affair regularly practiced, as frequently as possible: going out from work, Sunday mornings, Friday nights, any festivity… any occasion at all is good to go out in good company to eat some Tapas .

If weather allows and the company is pleasant, Ir de tapas  is frequently called Ir de Tapeo (to go out for Tapeo). Basically, it means that you repeat the ritual time and again in different bars of the same area. It is ideal to spend a Saturday evening or Sunday midday, and it can be a good alternative to traditional food.

Curiosity
In many places of Spain, especially in Madrid, it is common to find bars and cafeterias where free food, like olives or chips—the two most typical sides—, are offered with the drinks you order. However, in Alcalá, the concept of Tapa is much more important, as taking one or two drinks with its sides is equivalent to take a light meal.

Tapa ClásicaThe etymological origin of the word “Tapa” comes from the old costume of taverns and inns, of covering wine glasses with a portion of bread—with or without a ham slice—in order to avoid flies or mosquitos to get into the glass or to prevent dust to fall inside. Fortunately, the situation has changed…

Nowadays, Tapas are authentic expressions of creativity, small and exquisite bites. In several occasions, the Tapa upstages the drink itself, so it is not a side anymore, but the real star.

Tapas have come to be a true Spanish identity sign and are offered in reception feasts for the highest dignitaries (in the so-called Tapas meeting).

How a tapas bar is supposed to be?

Find a real Tapas bar in Alcalá in the first video showed here (upper right corner). In general terms, it is a nice and casual place, highly informal, as the main aim of that place is to get is to have a nice chat while sharing experiences with your friends. In many of them, you may see an exposition of selected Tapas for you to taste on the counter. In some places you can choose the Tapa you want to eat from a selection list. In others—with lower prices—the waiter simply gives you a standard Tapa chosen by him and served with your drink.

Following, several kinds of Tapas can be appreciated in the Gallery. There are countless types, from the simplest ones to the most refined. Many of them are for free while others, you have to pay for them separately.

Notwithstanding, all of them will achieve that you have a nice time in an animated environment.

Recommended places to go out for Tapas in Alcalá:

 

The tourist says:

Tapas
Becca Fogel, New Jersey, USA

The word “tapas” excites most people who travel to Spain, especially foodies. These delectable mini-meals traditionally come in small portions (so you can try many of them in one sitting), are acceptable to eat any time of day, are served at almost every Spanish bar, and depending on the area come free when you order a drink! In fact, most bars in Alcala offer a free tapa with every drink you order. Can’t beat that deal.

So, whether you are a student on a tight budget and want a small beer with a fried calamari sandwich for only 3-4 Euro, or a gastro-lover looking to explore Spain’s cuisine (or both) – tapas are for you.

Some traditional tapas include croquetas (small bread-crumbed rolls often containing ham or shrimp with mashed potatoes), the tortilla española (Spanish omelette), and patatas bravas (potatoes with aioli). In addition, many tapas come in the style of a piece of bread with any variety of meats, vegetables and/or cheeses on top, for convenient eating. At most tapas bars, you will also notice the large number of red meats on the menu, such as lomo (pork loin), chorizo, and jamon (ham).

Ok, quick history break: while tapas now have international fame and range from simple bar food to fancy gourmet drool-worthy bites (depending where you go), it is interesting to note tapas have a very modest roots in health concerns. The word tapa itself (which means lid/cover) comes from the old tradition of covering a drink with a single piece of meat or bread to keep the flies out.

So, let’s take a moment to thank the flies for contributing to tapa culture!

One last thing to remember: though tapas are delicious, they are more than just food. In Alcala, one of the best activities for a sunny afternoon is to sit outside with friends and share tapas and cold drinks. In Spain, and specifically Alcalá (home to several excellent tapas bars), tapas are practically synonymous with good food, good friends, and long hours of laughter.

So…

….A tapear! (“let’s tapa!”)