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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Beverly Ridge: Over the Tapas

Photo of Over the Tapas on Bozeman's South Willson Avenue.

Central Avenue and Main Street, could a restaurateur ask for a better location in Bozeman? If you’re scratching your head, Central Avenue was long ago renamed Willson Avenue in honor of the General, not the architect. Waiting just three doors down from the corner for my friends to arrive at Over the Tapas, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine Bozeman in its younger years of muddy streets and horse-drawn carriages. Back when this building, the Downtowner, still had wet mortar between the bricks.

Then the door swung open, my friends came bowling in out of the February chill, and I was shaken from this nativist daydream.

Over the Tapas is all about the New Bozeman, befitting the center-of-the-action hopes projected by those 19th-century town planners. Even on a midwinter weekday evening, the cozy space was hopping, and the sound dampeners weaved high above the floor seemed nearly overmatched. We’d called ahead on account of a wounded member in our party – a skiing accident, as it happens. A good thing (the reservation, not the injury) since late-comers are occasionally relegated to tables in “the hallway.”

Over the Tapas logo.Ranga stepped forward as our serving for the evening. Honestly, I don’t recall a visit to Over the Tapas when Ranga wasn’t my server. There are others, naturally, and I’m sure they’re all wonderful people; but for me, there really needn’t be anyone other than Ranga. He’s been there for years, knows the menu backwards and forwards, and anticipates his guests’ needs, all with an unflaggingly upbeat demeanor. Ranga’s one of Bozeman’s best, hands down.

“I know,” he said, noting my friend’s surprise, “a Spanish restaurant without Spanish beer.” What’s this? A problem? Ranga alluded to an importing issue, a regulatory matter. “But we’re offering an Italian beer, Moretti, that I think you’ll enjoy as much.” See what I mean? Ranga’s got the bases covered.

I ordered the wine, leaving the choice to him, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least by the Este he brought. As for the stemless glass, ahem, I may not have been quite as appreciative.

If you don’t already know, tapas refer to smaller portions, snacks and finger foods that are often enjoyed communally. Though the style was revitalized by Spanish culture, tapas can include myriad options from salad to dessert, for seafarers and land-lubbers, world travelers and homebodies. By the way, if sharing isn’t in your genetic makeup bag, maybe an area steakhouse would be a better fit.

The first course arrived promptly. Our group started with a palate-cleansing huerta salad, which I savored for the petite pine nuts, goat cheese, and just the right amount of whImage of Over the Tapas huerta salad.ite vinaigrette. Next, the spinach and cheese croquette arrived as a dish in need of love, aesthetically speaking. Truthfully, they were tasty and complemented well by the truffle aioli, but the croquettes appear on a plate like seven loose golf balls, each so perfectly spherical that I wanted to look for “Sysco” stamped on their underside. That’s not a good impression to have, I should say.

For proteins, we ordered the carne special – a beef short rib – and the crab cakes. While both dishes benefit from attentive preparation, at $32 for the pairing I expected to see more than one rib of Bessie and feel a breeze off the Chesapeake when trying the crab for the first time. We had a born-and-bred Tarheel in our group who argues that Over the Tapas offers Bozeman’s best crab cakes – but she also stresses that they don’t actually compare with the bonafides “back home.” The bottom line: these two dishes are significantly over-priced.

Our group also included a couple big eaters, quantity-oriented fellas, the kind who grumble about tapas and sushi restaurants being “a jip.” With their half-empty bellies still giving the green light, we opted for a second course. We ordered heavier fare, too, the arrugada patatas (potatoes rolled in sea salt and served with two mojo sauces) and the Spanish meatballs. Of the latter, awash in a marinara-like sauce, I had some trouble differentiating the flavor from meatballs claiming origin on another Mediterranean peninsula. But the flavor had zip, the prices were easy to swallow, and as the boys pushed back from the table, I sensed satisfaction.

Too satisfied, it seems, to order dessert. A shame, really, I’d noticed the caramel flan the moment I’d arrived, since a showcase cooler of the available desserts waits just inside the front door. I can’t yet speak from experience, but it looked positively scrumptious. Oh well, next time. Wouldn’t want Ranga to miss me.

I’m a gossip by nature, and the hush-hush at Over the Tapas is “expansion.” A rumor is about that the Artshoppe to the restaurant’s south will be vacating the space when their lease comes up. Tapas already has their big plans ready: a central bar, more tables abound, and an overdue farewell to the hallway seating.

Which leads me to one last bit of advice. Considering we spent over $30 a head for our evening, allow me a slightly adapted quote from Dirty Dancing’s Johnny Castle, “Nobody puts Baby in a hallway.” If that’s the only seating available on your visit to Over the Tapas, urge your sweetie to decline (or speak up yourself; it is 2011). Just steps off the corner of Central and Main, it’s not like you’ll have to go far. -BM

Beverly Ridge, Food Critic - Poster Image.
Beverly Ridge, Food Critic for The Bozeman Magpie, is the area's first regularly featured restaurant reviewer.  A native of the valley and a veteran of the food service industry, she's a virtuoso on all things epicurean.  She's also made it a personal mission to protect Montana diners from the fleecing imposters, the lazy sourpusses, and the just plain rotten.  Here are the links to some recent Beverly Ridge Restaurant Reviews: Damasco's Pizzeria and Spaghetteria,The Bay Bar & Grille, and Livingston's The 2nd Street Bistro.

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