While in Chicago — Arlington Heights, really — my wife and I went out for tapas. And I just cannot get enough of it.

The choice of that phrase is actually kind of funny. The first time I went for tapas was with my best friends from our theatre. We had won first the state and then regional AACT contests and were up in Kalamazoo for the nationals. We decided to go to a tapas joint —I think it was called Fandango.

Our friend — we’ll call her “Sally” — was super excited to go because of the sangria. “Sally” is one of the most continually positive people I know. And not in an obnoxious way, either, which is difficult to pull off. She is deeply nice. She’s one of my best friends. So when she gets upset, it’s unusual, so it’s kind of funny. Sorry, “Sal.”

Anyway, we had big group, and the tapas started rolling in. But “Sally” had sat herself at sort of this apex of the seating horseshoe. So all the tapas started way down on her right, or way down on her left. I think by then of the end of the evening she had three sangrias and a single stuffed mushroom. She may have also had a Serrano-wrapped shrimp.

And though she be little, she is fierce, especially when she’s hungry. The rest of us were having so much fun trying everything that we didn’t even imagine she wasn’t getting anything to eat. And she is simply too nice to mention it. But she ended up fuming a bit. It was funny, not necessarily at the time, but it’s become a bit of a running joke/button for the group.

I was one of those gorillas gorging at the top of the table. And I fell in love with tapas.

There is something so ancient, so viscerally pleasing about eating tapas that it just pulls me to it. It forces communication and conviviality. At regular restaurants when you eat “your” meal, your focus can fall into your own plate. Sometimes, your partners may not even be there.

But tapas forces you to pass food, to discuss the samplings and compare, to look each other in the eye during the course of the meal. I love that.

And the sangria doesn’t hurt.

We ate at a great tapas place in Arlington Heights: La Tasca. It was packed, which usually turns me off. I’m not a crowd guy. But they gave us time to drink lovely sangria and plan our attack. I pulled out the menu and the little memo book and began writing down our order.

Tortilla Española: Spanish omelets with good stuff
Champions relents: mushrooms stuffed with pork pine nuts and brandy
Mejillones a la mallorquina: mussels in garlic and garlic with garlic

And two things off their specials menu, which I can’t remember.
A Spanish flatbread pizza with goat cheese
Some other egg concoction

And an all-all-you-can-eat bowl of the best olives I have ever had.

It was a wonderful meal. And we will be going back. But not just for the food. I think we may try to take “Sally” and cleanse her of the mala experiencia de los tapas. Because I believe good tapas with good friends can heal just about anything.

¡Viva tapas!