Kansas City has a lot going for it – A rich jazz and blues history, quaint neighborhoods, a thriving professional sports landscape, welcoming people, and of course, great barbecue!
And while the latter often steals most of the global recognition thunder on the culinary front, both denizens and visitors alike know—or soon come to know—that it’s no accident that in recent years Kansas City has earned honors such as “America’s Next Great Culinary Destination” and “America’s Next Great Cocktail City,” among other accolades, and consistently earns high marks from a variety of television food shows including The Travel Channel, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Ins and numerous others.
You can find literally any kind of outstanding gastronomic fare here, ranging from fresh farm-to-table creations, Italian, Soul Food, Japanese, Greek, Thai, Salvadorean, Middle Eastern, Viennese, German….the list is endless.
For those that desire a taste of “España” (Spain), they will find delicious bites, and a great deal more at La Bodega Tapas & Lounge.
With two locations—one on Southwest Blvd in Kansas City, MO just a stone’s throw from the popular Crossroads Art District, and another on the Kansas side of the state line in Leawood—La Bodega’s central theme is on the Spanish custom of Tapas—a savory offering of small Spanish dishes served primarily in bars, a social custom believed to be centuries old and designed to connect people through the love of food and celebrating life.
The menu offers a great deal for both Tapas-aficionados and newcomers to the small plates game, coupled with a variety of larger soup, salad, and main dish entrees.
Tapas Frias (Chilled Tapas) encompass mouthwatering options like Judías Verdes (Haricots verts, feta, red onion, peppadew peppers, tomato, basil and chunky green olive vinaigrette), Crudo de Atún Tuna tartare (red chile vinaigrette, lemon marmalade, sliced cucumber, red amaranth micros and lemon oil), Tortilla Española (potato and onion topped with red pepper aioli), and Pan Plano con Salmon Ahumado (a flat bread with goat cheese, smoked salmon, cucumbers, capers, balsamic glaze and chives).
Each are beautifully and artistically plated, loaded with a complex amalgamation of flavors, and bursting with color from the farm fresh ingredients and spices within.
To get the most out of your tapas sharing experience, it is suggested that each diner order two, as they are large enough to share, and once you see how beautiful they look you won’t want to miss out on what your table mates have selected!
The list of Hot Tapas (Tapas Calientes) is extensive, with outstanding dishes including the Albóndigas Caseras (meatballs in a spicy garlic cream sauce)—one of their most popular dishes—Mejillónes y Chorizo (PEI mussels, crumbled chorizo, fennel, onion, garlic, Yzaguirre Reserva dry vermouth and saffron), Brotxeta (grilled shrimp wrapped with pancetta and served with horseradish cream sauce), Champiñones a la Plancha (roasted mushrooms with garlic and white wine parsley sauce), Atún de Valencia (16-spice rubbed grilled tuna with a Valencia orange-mint relish, parsley oil and micro-greens), and the Datiles con Jamón y Chorizo (pancetta-wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo), just to name a few.
And don’t worry if you can’t quite pronounce these words from the Basque language, the servers are well versed in how to say them, and when all else fails pointing to the item on the menu is completely acceptable.
La Bodega’s salads are equally as delicious and make a nice palate cleanser between all of the tapa spice mélanges, from the Ensalada de Augustus (grilled split romaine, red peppers, red onions, Manchego, toasted almonds, white anchovies and roasted garlic vinaigrette), to the Ensalada de Amor Romaine hearts (artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes, shaved Manchego, crispy Serrano jamón and a chunky green olive-Champagne vinaigrette), and the Cabrales Ensalada de Pollo (spicy arugula tossed in a Spanish cabrales blue cheese dressing with heirloom cherry tomato, red onion and a crostini crumble tossed with pulled chicken and crispy Serrano ham).
But of course, one could not dine at La Bodega without enjoying one of their renditions of Spain's famous, traditional rice dish called Paella, which is as much of a culinary art form as it is an expression of authentic Spanish heritage.
Although some paella perfectionists contend that an authentic paella doesn't mix seafood and meat, you will find a wide variety of options—“mixed” or not—all over the Spanish countryside.
At La Bodega they serve three gorgeous varieties, served piping hot in the traditional style in a wide, shallow steel pan.
The Paella Valenciana is brimming with tender chunks of chicken, plump shrimp, tasty PEI mussels, semi-salty clams, spicy chorizo, sofrito (a fragrant blend of herbs and spices used extensively in cooking throughout the Caribbean)) and verdant green beans, while the Paella Huertana de Múrcia is a dramatic presentation of sofrito, piquillo peppers, eggplant, squash, zucchini, artichokes, peas, and goat cheese. Equally as dramatic is the Paella Abanda (shrimp, white fish, scallops, squid, PEI mussels, sofrito and little neck clams, and on Wednesday nights there is a specialty, Chef’s selection Paella de la Noche (Paella of the Evening).
Each of them are made with Calasparra rice, a distinctive, premium grade of Spanish rice grown in Murcia along the Mundo and Segura River valleys and known for its unique properties when cooked.
Spanish twists on Salmon, trout, chicken, beef and pork tenderloin are also on the menu.
The ambiance in both locations is energetic and colorful, the latter via vibrant color palettes on the walls and floors, and the carefully selected furnishings and Spanish décor, yet are as different as night and day. The Kansas City location is more young-hip, urban, and effervescent, while the Leawood location is a more relaxed, family-friendly environment that also works great for an intimate date or meal with folks of a “seasoned” age.
But it’s this divergent feel that gives both locations their own unique flavor and flair and keep them busy most every night of the week.
On the beverage front, Tapas were traditionally meant to be served with wine, and more specifically with Sangria—made with red or white wine with chopped fruit, brandy and a sweetener and served by the glass or in a pitcher.
La Bodega offers three different versions (the Pear Sangriatini with Blanco Sangria, Absolute pear vodka and Pama liqueur is amazing!), as well as a very large selection of bubbling, white and red wines, sherry, port, brandy, tequila, scotch, and creative and quenching specialty cocktails.
And whether you drink coffee or not, it is well worth the experience to order a Spanish coffee – their special blended coffee, with Bacardi 151, set ablaze with cinnamon and sugar table-side, then mixed with coffee, Kahluha and cream.
No passport needed, just an appetite for adventure and a willing spirit!