People Tapas Lounge, a Spanish restaurant and world music lounge, is located in the heart of the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago. People Lounge uses oak, wrought iron and copper elements to create a rustic and cozy atmosphere. Large wrought iron chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The faux painted walls with several shades of brown tones create a warm vibe. It's a long, narrow space, but feels roomy due to the high ceilings. A thirty foot long oak bar offers twenty plus different beers, with an emphasis on Belgian breweries (just as the Spaniards know their tapas, the Belgians know their beer). Along with cocktails, there is a varied wine list with an emphasis on Spanish wineries and those from other Latin countries, such as Argentina and Chile.
As we perused the menu, I sipped on the Segura Viudas NV Cava(Spain), while Laima started on the Latin Trio Wine Flight of red wines: Tapena Garnacha (Spain), Trivento Malbec (Argentina), and Ventisquero Carmenere. Once the plates started arriving, I ordered the World Whites wine flight: Casa LaPostolle Chardonnay (Chile), Nimbu Sauvignon Blanc ((Chile), and Basa Blanco Rueda Verdejo/Viura (Spain). Both flights were a great way to explore the variety of wine flavors, along with a multitude of food and wine pairing options.
We ordered 4 of the vegetarian plates.
- Up first was the Coca – house-made flatbread, roasted eggplant and red pepper tapenade, charred vidalia onions, and grilled zucchini. Everything tasted fresh, was well-made, and stood on its own or combined with the other options.
- The Caramelized Brussels Sprouts made with smoked paprika and topped with crispy shallots were perfectly done, slightly softened for easy eating, yet remaining firm enough to avoid mushiness. Spicy!
- The Mushroom and Goat Cheese Empanadas may have been my favorite dish of the night - a delicious blend of oyster, porcini, portobello, and button mushrooms tasted heavenly on its own, but also was complemented by the chive aioli served alongside.
- Patatas Bravas – crispy russet potatoes, spicy red pepper aioli.
Laima was on omnivore duty again, enjoying both the veggie plates but also delving into meat and seafood options.
- The Sweet Chili Pork Empanadas were equal to the veggie option, ably supported by a belgian beer aioli and apple salsa.
- The Tostada de Salmon was a surprise, a sort of Spanish bruschetta. Citrus vodka house-cured salmon, chive cream cheese, pickled onions were stacked on toast, and Laima really appreciated the citrus aspect.
- Nothing remained of the People’s Skirt Steak – braised Wagyu, tomatoes, cornichons, capers, and molten aged manchego were a great way to end the dinner portion on the meal for her.
Dessert is always exciting, as there is an opportunity to discuss the food, wines, and general impressions, while enjoying coffee, sweets, and a post-prandial drink. Espresso for me, cappucino for Laima, and a port-like Hijos de Anto Barcelo Spanish dessert wine were a great way to end the meal. But there was also chocolate!
- The spiced chocolate brownie with marcona almonds, house-made mint chocolate chip ice cream and espresso powder was tasty, but unusual, in that it was molten and not firm. I prefer my brownies chewy, but can't deny the flavors were really good.
- The Pastel de Chocolate (molten chocolate cake) was more in line with what I expected and paired beautifully with another house made sweet cream ice cream. A nice touch is that the ice creams are made with organic milk, something Laima and I both appreciated.
People Lounge offers a $5 tapas menu at the bar from 5-7 p.m. Sunday-Thursday evenings, and people were definitely taking advantage of it while we dined tableside. A late night tapas menu is available on Friday and Saturday nights from 12-1 a.m. People also offers daily dining and drink specials, such as half-priced bottles of wine, artisan tequilas, sangria night and more. Weekend brunch is served Saturday and Sunday.
There was not a single misstep during our dinner. Food was outstanding and varied, wines far-ranging and tasty, service and decor spot-on. For a casual dinner, especially in a larger group, you can't go wrong with tapas, and People Lounge is a great option in Chicago -- I could definitely see us dropping in with friends if we lived in the neighborhood!
More information can be found on the People Lounge website, by liking on Facebook, and following on Twitter.
Disclaimer: This meal was comped for me for review purposes, courtesy of People Lounge. I was not compensated in any other way for the review, was not obligated to give the restaurant a positive review, and all opinions are my own. Some information in this review was taken from the company website.
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