Fandango Tapas Bistro
Like I mentioned last night in post about Fletcher’s Pub, May 15 is an anniversary for J and I. It marks the one year anniversary of our engagement. I’m not usually one that gets wrapped up in every little anniversary, but I wanted to do something special for J. So much has changed since last May. We’re married. Obviously, but we’ve moved to yet another new city and started another exciting step in our lives.
I had a few ideas for dinner, but the menu at Fandango Tapas Bistro on the Kalamazoo Mall actually jumped out at me. I had never looked at it before because I never thought I liked tapas. That opinion was based on ignorance. I didn’t really know what tapas was. Being a hamburger and pizza guy, tapas bars always sounded scary to me
We made our way downtown and found a parking spot about two blocks from the corner of Kalamazoo Mall and South Street where Fandango takes up the bottom floor of a corner building. The Mall was hopping. I was really excited to see so many people walking around. There was a show at the State Theater, but every restaurant we walked by had a waiting list. Sucks to wait, but it’s nice to see a healthy restaurant scene.
Fandandgo was no different than any other place on the Mall. There was a wait. The hostess told us 45 minutes which didn’t seem that bad. I was looking past her at the bar to see if there were any seats while J was putting our name in. There wasn’t, so I assumed we were going to be stuck in the doorway since there’s really no room for any sort of a waiting area. Instead, the hostess asked for a phone number and said she would call when out table was ready. I’ve had to wait at a lot of restaurants and I’ve never had a place offer to call me when a table was ready. I thought that was a nice touch.
While we waited, we decided to walk around the Mall. It was a nice night out and sitting around and waiting didn’t sound very fun. We eventually did end up at a table right in front of Fandango to finish out the wait which was a little over 35 minutes. J’s phone rang and we headed in just before 8:00.
Fandango makes use of every available space of the small dining room. There are tables packed everywhere. There is a pretty large bar taking up a good portion of the space, but the rest of the small room is packed with tables. I saw the dreaded shared bench seating for couples when we walked in and I was very, very happy when the hostess led us past this area and to a pub table along with window near the back of the space. I know it’s good use of space, but I hate when we get stuck at a table inches from strangers. J confided in me later that she was also relieved we didn’t get one of those tables.
The atmosphere is pretty loud. There’s Spanish music playing on the speakers and conversation echoes in the small room. Some of the reviews I read said the smoke was quite horrendous, but since we waited until after the smoking ban took effect, that’s no longer a problem. I can’t imagine eating in a place like Fandango where smoking was allowed. It’s too small and intimate. I was quite surprised to see kids. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just surprising. I actually think it’s great when people introduce their kids to something other than McDonalds or Applebees.
We started with drinks. I got an Oberon which came in a bottle. I was offered a glass, but didn’t take it. I’m alright drinking out a bottle. J went with the red wine sangria which is another thing I read a lot of bad reviews about. I warned her of what I read, but she went with it anyway and said it was delicious. She had no complaints with the amount of liquor or the way the drink was mixed. In fact, she ordered a second which she wouldn’t have done had she thought the drink was weak.
Having never been to a tapas bar before, we had no idea what to expect when it came to entree size. The waitress told us most people order 2-3 things off the menu. We had initially planned on three total and started with those three. The menus were left at the table the whole time so we could continue to put in orders throughout the meal. The thing I really liked about this atmosphere is that each item is brought out as it’s ready. They don’t wait until your entire order is ready before bringing out. It was actually spaced out pretty well so as we were finishing up one thing, the next was being delivered to our table.
Our first choice ended up being the only protein we ordered. It wasn’t planned that way and we didn’t even realize it until the end of the meal. The meat of choice was the Habanero Glazed Chicken. The individual bites of chicken are sauteed and covered in a fiery sweet glaze. The chicken is served in the cast iron skillet it was cooked in with about half an inch of the glaze in the bottom. Each bite of chicken was actually about two bites. This was kind of ordered as “my dish,” but I shared with J. The chicken was delicious. It was tender and had a good sear. The glaze was delicious. The heat sort of hit much later than either of us thought it would. J’s somewhat sensitive to heat and she said it was delicious. I loved it. I could have eaten just the chicken as my entire meal and been happy. The heat was there, but it didn’t linger.
The next plate that came out was “J’s dish.” She ordered the Artichoke, Roasted Pepper, and Goat Cheese Flat Bread. Neither one of us are sure when it happened, but J has really taken a liking to goat cheese. Artichoke’s are something I’ve never attempted to make at home, so she jumped at the opportunity to have a veggie she doesn’t get often with a veggie she likes plus a cheese she loves in the form of a pizza. The flat bread had a very crispy, well done crust and it was covered with a thick layer of goat cheese. There were big chunks of the artichoke and the roasted red pepper. She loved it, but still offered me a slice. I’m not really a veggie person, so I slid the artichoke off and ended up with a roasted red pepper in my front shirt pocket (seriously…don’t know how it happened), but still enjoyed the bread and the cheese. They had a couple other flat breads that I would have liked to try and may on our next visit.
Our third dish was the Spanish Mac & Cheese. No way the two of us could pass up a mac and cheese. The dish is actually pretty big and the perfect size to split. It’s made with shell pasta, Manchego and Mahon cheese. The top is broiled to a golden brown and the cheese was still bubbling when it was delivered to our table. We both agreed it was incredibly creamy. I liked the burnt cheese on top and even went as far as scrapping it off the dish just so I could get the maximum amount of cheese. J liked it, but would have preferred a bread crumb type topping to give it more crunch. She said that was only thing from preventing it from being one of the best mac and cheese dishes she’s had.
Our final choice was also cheese. We finished our meal with Bleu Cheese Croquets. Another case of not sure what we were expecting, but we were surprised to see Bleu Cheese sticks. The cheese was shaped into logs then breaded and flash fried. There were five sticks on the plate that looked like Mozzarella sticks, but were very obviously bleu cheese. J bit into one expecting it to be stringy because that’s what your brain is telling you it should be. It’s actually very creamy and almost easier to eat with a fork. She thought it may have been too much bleu cheese, but I don’t know if there is such a thing. I ate four of the five croquets to finish off our meal. There was red pepper sauce that came with it, but I didn’t even try it. J didn’t realize it was red pepper until I said something about it. She thought it was a lot like a marinara with a hint of red pepper.
As I was polishing off the last piece of bleu cheese, our waitress stopped by to see if we wanted anything else. I told her we were good and she came back with the check. J was surprised to see our check came in right at $50. She thought we had eaten a lot more and was expecting something higher. We ended up with four dishes and three drinks…two of which were Sangria.
After going to Fandango, I love the tapas idea. I can’t believe everyone doesn’t do it this way. We don’t go to a lot of fancy places because I’m not big on sides and ordering a $35 steak and only eating steak seems like a waste. At Fandango, they have 44 small plates on the menu plus flat breads, salads, paella and soup. If you go with group, you have a really good opportunity to try a lot of different things. Even with just the two of us, we had more variety than if we had just ordered an entree somewhere else.
Our experience at Fandango was fantastic. There was a wait, but it was also a busy Saturday night. Once we were seated, the meal went very smoothly. The service was fantastic and dinner took less than 45 minutes. When we walked outside and it was still light, we started looking for something else to do. It was too early to go home. I’m already looking forward to a return trip. There’s still so much more on the menu that we want to explore. I think we have another anniversary coming up soon……