Best Tapas - 2009
While Solera has positioned itself as the Twin Cities' tapas powerhouse, it's not always practical—economically or geographically—to hit the downtown hotspot for tapas the way they're meant to be enjoyed: as a casual late-afternoon snack, eaten with friends over a glass of wine. That's where El Meson comes in. During the south Minneapolis restaurant's Sunday through Thursday happy hour (which just so happens to occur at prime time for traditional tapas, from 4 to 6 p.m.), you and three of your friends can fill up on their entire menu of little tastes for only $47. A boon for carnivores and vegetarians alike, the menu features refreshingly adventurous snacks such as smoked pork tenderloin, sherry-glazed chorizo, and seared saffron scallops, alongside roasted mushrooms, tangy olives, and baked brie served with an apple-cider apricot sauce. The vibe is also a plus: In the winter, the covered booths are so cozy and colorful they'll almost make you forget it's cold and gray outside, and in the summer, the popular outdoor seating is a reminder of why we tolerate our winters. Plus, parking is never a problem (eat that, Solera). It's perfect for tasty, affordable snacking before a 7 o'clock movie at the Lagoon. And after all, isn't Thursday the new Friday?