You can go big at Mercat a la Planxa and have a fine time. Jose Garces' Spanish restaurant in the South Loop has loads of stunning tapas-inspired dishes and more than one kind of paella. But I tend to stick to the smaller menu items. The cheeses and charcuterie are always worth a look, but I usually can't get away from the traditional tapas portion of the menu, where almost everything is fried.
On my last visit I was particularly smitten with an order of the mixto croquetas ($8), six fried balls stuffed with Serrano ham and chorizo. The crisp exterior of each gives way to a creamy center of the molten Spanish meats. It's almost too savory and salty. Luckily, the croquetas are perched on a dollop of romesco—a slightly sweet, if still very savory, red pepper and nut sauce. And if that doesn't help, a sip of one of the restaurant's excellent glasses of Rioja helps to wash it all down.
Mercat a la Planxa
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