Pilar Baron-Hidalgo, a native of Seville Spain, serves a variety of tapas, including with Empanada de Atun, Sardinas Asadas, Mejillones del Dia and Sabor de Espana. (John T. Greilick / The Detroit News)
We toss around the word “authentic” a little carelessly sometimes. Not so in the case of La Feria, a true tapas bar with offerings much as you would find in Seville or Madrid.
Open just since Halloween, it seems to be what the Midtown neighborhood needed, fitting into that thriving part of town seamlessly, another bright thread in the tapestry.
In the early going, the main problem seems to be finding room for all the people who want to check out what chef Pilar Baron-Hidalgo and her friends and business partners, Naomi Khalil and Elias Khalil, a brother/sister team, have created in the little storefront. It’s bright with ceramic tiles, one made by Baron-Hidalgo, as well as tiles, posters and artworks brought from a recent trip to Baron-Hidalgo’s native Seville, against brilliant white walls.
Tables made from reclaimed wood fill the center of the room, and they are left uncovered to show off the vintage planks. There’s also seating on comfortably backed chairs at the bar overlooking the kitchen. Every inch of the space has been used efficiently. It seats just 35, including some little perches along one wall.
Tapas are served on little clay plates or, in the case of the charcuterie assortment, Sabor de Espana, on boards. The array of tissue-thin slices of Serrano ham and cana de lomo (cured pork loin), Spanish chorizo, buttery Manchego cheese and Spanish blue cheese along with housemade pickles and pate is the most expensive dish on the menu at $15 and is designed for two.
While other tapas can also be shared, the portions are small and are designed to be ordered in multiples. After all, they originated as snacks simply meant to fill in before the traditionally late dinner time in Spain. The delicious little morsels include seared shrimp spicy with chilis and garlic, bacon-wrapped dates, chunks of grilled chicken and/or pork threaded on skewers, and some of the best steamed mussels I’ve encountered lately, served with slices of baguette from Matt Knio’s Golden Wheat bakery in Hamtramck.
Certainly plenty to eat, especially with a bowl of soup. Cocido, a soup made from the chef’s mother’s recipe, is thick with garbanzo beans, shredded pork and chicken, pork belly and a flourish of shredded cabbage, is as delicious as it is unusual.
The current tapas lineup will change frequently with items coming and going, but certain staples, such as the tortilla Española (sliced potato omelet) and pungent morcilla sausage made with pork, rice and cumin and certainly the charcuterie boards, will stay.
Beverages include housemade sangria, which teams well with the fare, as well as Spanish wines and a number of local beers. The proprietors have made a real effort to use what’s local when possible. Service couldn’t be friendlier or more welcoming.
La Feria (the fair), named for a festival in Seville, has been hatching since 1997, when the proprietors began celebrating La Feria every spring with a big party coinciding with the one in Spain, and the shell was cracked when their idea for a tapas bar won the 2012 Comerica Hatch Award of $50,000 seed money. Their accommodating landlord, artist/collector Adnan Charara of the next door Gallerie Camille, is working with them to let the overflow use his gallery space when it is available.
This Saturday night — Noel Night in the neighborhood — will certainly test the La Feria capacity. (Read more about Noel Night on Page 12M.)
4130 Cass, Detroit
Call: (313) 285-9081
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Mon.-Sat., dinner 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 5 p.m. -midnight Fri.-Sat. (Limited menu after 10 p.m. each night) Closed Sun.
Prices: Soups and salads $4-$5, tapas $4-$15
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar, emphasizing Michigan beers and Spanish wines
Noise level: Convivial
Wheelchair access: No barriers
Food and Beverage Events
Holiday Wine Tasting at Prime29: Sample vino from around the world while munching on cheese, meat and small plates created by chef Hai Ying. 1:30-4 p.m. Thurs. $25. 6545 Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield Township. (248) 737-7463.
Holiday Cheer at Wild Lights at Detroit Zoo: Enjoy the zoo’s light display with a glass of beer or wine. Tickets include three beverages, admission to “The Polar Express 4-D Experience,” parking and zoo admission. 6-10 p.m. Dec. 12. $40, $25 for designated drivers. 10 Mile at Woodward, Royal Oak. www.detroitzoo.org/wild-lights/holiday-cheer.
Motown Macdown at Royal Oak Music Theatre: Restaurants compete for the best mac and cheese in two categories: traditional with a twist or specialty. The event aims to raise funds for Justin’s Vision, a nonprofit that helps send local sick children on family vacations. High-energy rock group the Infatuations will entertain. 6 p.m. Dec. 12. $35. 318 W. Fourth, Royal Oak. (248) 399-3980.