In Good Taste

Tapas in the City Pop-Ups Allow Diners to Try Almost Everything

A trio of Instagram food bloggers host multi-course, small plate dinners at city restaurants.

Decisions, decisions. When it comes to food and drink, some are easy. Cheese on a burger. Regular over decaf. Sure, go ahead and make that Jack and ginger a double—why not?

Others, not so much. We’ve all experienced the agony. You sit down at a restaurant you’ve been dying to try, peruse the menu, and narrow your choice down to the braised pork belly, the grilled lamb chops, the cornmeal-fried chicken, and the seared scallops. Or the porterhouse, medium-rare of course. Come to think of it, the roasted butternut squash ravioli sounds good, too.

Rachel Lipton, Andrea Samlin, and Jordan Zelesnick feel your pain. Every time the trio of Instagram food bloggers get together for dinner, they want to order . . . everything.

It was while sharing a particularly delicious bowl of fish ceviche at Puerto 511 that their new company, Tapas in the City, was born. It’s dedicated to bringing more of restaurants’ menus to the masses. They host multi-course dinners at city restaurants, during which diners shed the shackles of ordering just one dish, and instead, indulge in several. The women try to pick places that are relatively new, and they work with the chefs to choose the set menu, which always includes a vegetarian option.

“We think of tapas more of like a small plate for yourself,” rather than a shareable dish, says Samlin (@Bmore_Hungry). “A young professional couldn’t afford to order everything off the menu, nor could they eat it all, so we thought picking signature items would be more appealing.”

That was clear on Wednesday, when the trio of city-dwelling 26 year olds hosted their third dinner at Sammy’s Enoteca. Like the first two (and the next one, on August 25 at Cava Mezze), it was sold out.

“It makes it more affordable because you can try a little bit of everything and not have to worry about spending 20 bucks on this, and 20 bucks on that,” said Austin Rose, of Mt. Vernon. “Rachel has been posting these amazing pictures of food on her Instagram (@LiketheteaEATS), so we had no choice but to come.”

He’s glad he did. For a flat fee of around $50 (which included three drinks and gratuity—non-drinkers pay less), he and the other 30 or so guests each enjoyed their own six-course small plate meal. Sausage and rapini, risotto with wild mushroom, watermelon salad with feta and mint, gnocchi in Bolognese sauce, and duck ravioli were among the dishes chef Sam Curreri served at his new Fells Point restaurant, which opened three months ago.

“We’re not typically a small plates restaurant—being Italian, it’s almost like an oxymoron,” Curreri says. “This gives us more exposure.”

As the night progressed, conversation flowed at the large communal table and a few other smaller ones. The women take great care to make all their guests, most of whom are millennials, feel welcome.

“With all the young people who are going on dates on apps like Tinder and Bumble, this is a great activity,” says Zelesnick (@jzeats) “Or for people who just moved here and don’t know anybody, this is a great way to meet people.”

And get to know some new food.