Best Spanish restaurants in Chicago

From tapas, small plates and paella to gintonics and pintxos, these are Chicago's best Spanish restaurants.

Photograph: Martha Williams


Photograph: Kate Cole

Cafe Marbella

Photograph: Colin Beckett


Photograph: Erica Gannett

Vera Wine Bar

Chicago may not have an abundance of Spanish restaurants, but the ones we do have are very, very good. If you're in the mood for classic tapas like gambas al ajillo or patatas bravas, head to Cafe Marbella. Vera offers a terrific sherry program, Spanish-style gintonics and refined small plates, while Mercat a la Planxa specializes in Catalan cuisine. Here are the best Spanish restaurants in Chicago.

RECOMMENDED: Full list of the best Chicago restaurants

Best Spanish restaurants in Chicago

Café Iberico

It’s kind of like riding the El: The wait at this always-packed tapas joint can be long and annoying, but once you get inside, things go pretty quickly. Cheap plates of patatas bravas (soft, habit-forming cubes of potatoes immersed in a spicy tomato sauce) and croquetas de pollo (creamy chicken and ham fritters) arrive at the table almost immediately. A plate of Manchego and a pitcher of sangria to tide you over, and you won’t even notice the wait.

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River North

Café Marbella

Critics' pick

This standout tapas spot is a bit out of the way on a fairly desolate stretch, but offers a comfortable setting, hospitable staff and, most important, great food. The signature menu includes unbeatable paprika-rich garlic soup, plump mussels in parsley-flecked cream sauce, crispy potatoes that soak up flavorful chorizo grease and bacon-wrapped figs with brandy cream sauce so decadent it leans more toward dessert (but have both if you can).

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Jefferson Park

Mercat a la Planxa

Critics' pick

Under the helm of Jose Garces, Philly's famed Spanish chef, this colorful spot in the Blackstone Hotel offers a prime view of Michigan Avenue, but the cooks’ focus is on the grill. We’re not talking burgers and barbecue, but elevated Catalan cuisine. Flavorful charred octopus is tossed with green olives and confit potato while grilled flat-iron steak is marinated in a rich sauce of nora chilies, roasted garlic and honey. Signatures like the spicy housemade pork sausage make enough of an impact that you’ll believe Garces’s claim that Mercat is different from a “run-of-the-mill tapas bar.”

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South Loop


Mark and Liz Mendez, both formerly of Carnivale, seek to escape the trappings of their former employer with this quiet, plain-looking spot. The room is mostly set up like a proper restaurant, but with a focus on wine and small plates, it is better approached as a wine bar with food. Snacky items that will help you get through a bottle or two include the warm bread with a trio of butters; anything from the cheese station; and a hearty paella laced with luscious morsels of rabbit. Wait for a seat at the bar for maximum enjoyment.

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West Loop