I visited Red Tapas earlier this year to cover the restaurant for Jupiter Magazine. I was super impressed by the beauty of the restaurant and the owner’s determination to stick with the “red” concept. When general manager Melissa Hartman and the rest of the team started their hiring process last year, they had a crucial question for the female server and bartender candidates: “Do you have a problem wearing red lipstick?” The team intended to tie the color red into every aspect of the restaurant, from the red liquid lava bar top (a must-see!) to the napkins, to yes, the MAC Viva Glam lipstick all female employees get upon hiring. “That’s a color that makes heads turn,” Hartman explains simply.
Red Tapas, which fills the Downtown at the Gardens space previously occupied by 51 Supper Club and Lounge, didn’t just seek out employees who look good in the color red. Their “American Idol”-like interview process, complete with a panel of judges, also looked for employees who could make a sale. The menus at Red Tapas are purposely missing descriptions of each of the dishes. Hartman trained her servers so that they would know every detail of the dishes. Before the restaurant opened, she even gave them a 30-question final. She still periodically quizzes them on menu items.
As for the food, Hartman, who was previously involved in Cabo Flats, worked tirelessly to prepare – 10 pounds later, she jokes – the perfect menu. Though the focus is on tapas, she stresses that her restaurant is not just a Spanish one. In fact, Red Tapas serves food from all over the world, including Asian, Greek, Italian and Spanish fare. Sangria is the speciality drink, with eight different types made fresh.
Though the restaurant is proud of its cocktails, Hartman would prefer the restaurant be known not just for its nightlife scene, but also its quality food, mentioning that the lamb chops served with “dirty” potatoes (brown sugar, onions, beef stock, marsala wine and potatoes) are one of the restaurant’s many “wows.” She concludes, “We wanted to be a restaurant with a bar, not a bar with a restaurant.”
Restaurant at a glance:
Opened: October 2012
Hours: Monday to Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Thursday to Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., and Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Price range: Tapas $4 to $18; Paella $17 to $28
More info: 561.333.7331; www.redtapasbar.com