The tapas of Spain are the original small plates. And in the small restaurant in Midtown Detroit, La Feria, named for the festival in Seville, the home town of the proprietors, the tapas served are the real thing, authentic Spanish dishes.
Many are from the repertoire of Pilar Baron-Hidalgo, who created the restaurant as a slice of Seville along with friends and partners, Naomi and Elias Khalil.
Just 35 people may be seated at uncovered tables topped with sturdy wood reclaimed from three houses in Detroit (photos of the houses are memorialized on the wall). There are also some perches along the wall and a handful of seats at the small bar at the back of the room that has a rosy brick wall on one side and uncovered windows in front. The setting includes carefully chosen artwork, some of it ceramic tiles and colorful posters brought from Spain under an open ceiling with its works painted bright blue.
La Feria (The Fair) is charming in the way only a small restaurant can be, and its authenticity shines through the focused menu and the appropriate background music..
A blackboard over the bar lists the offerings, a changing array of sharable dishes served on small clay plates, or, in the case of the charcuterie assortment, on boards. The charcuterie come in three versions, the full array of imported meats that includes Serrano ham and the Spanish salami called fuet, chorizo, the paprika-sparked smoked pork sausage and cheeses such as Manchego and queso azul, the blue goat cheese, or just the cheeses or just the cured meats, and that’s a nice touch among many of them in the well-run restaurant.
Among the tapas are such classics as tortilla Espagnola, the original omelet, with fried potatoes and roasted red peppers; tostada de Almogrote, cured sheep’s cheese, with garlic, olive oil and a sprinkling of dried chilies; and sauteed spinach with garbanzo beans and garlic. Yes, garlic is a recurring theme. Seared shrimp with garlic and baby octopus are among seafood selections.
Paella is served just one evening a week, Tuesday, starting at 5 p.m., and its ingredients change with the availability of seafood and meats. Desserts include a satiny flan, the caramel glazed custard, and a lovely flourless almond cake.
Especially good for sharing with pre-dinner drinks is the mix of roasted almonds with salt and olive oil, anchovies with olive oil and parsley, or multicolored olives. And speaking of drinks, the La Feria happy hour, 4-6 week nights, offers a real bargain, $3 beverages ranging from wine and beer to cocktails.
Service by a staff that really knows the menu is a real plus.
La Feria opened on Halloween night in 2013, after preparations and remodeling that started the previous April. Baron-Hidalgo says they opened on Oct. 31 because she didn’t want to wait another day before opening.
In the three years since, La Feria has become well-known in its Midtown neighborhood, but really deserves wider recognition for its well-prepared and authentic Spanish fare and its low-key style.
4130 Cass, Detroit
Call: (313) 285-9081
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. (kitchen till 10 p.m.) and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Closed Sun.
Prices: Soups and salads $4-$6, cold tapas $4-$16 (the latter for the full charcuterie board), hot tapas $5-$12, desserts $5
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Moderate
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding