There are lots of things we can learn from the Spanish. Football, afternoon naps, and of course tapas. Bom Bolla, the cava and tapas bar in Wicker Park is a great place to start your education. Don’t make reservation, don’t even put your name in with the hostess when you arrive, merely smile and waive on your way up to the massive bar. This is your new home for delicious cured meats and Spanish bubbles.
Let’s start with the cava. They’re all on the dry side, so you can’t go very wrong, but if you’re looking for something especially crisp, stick to the ones highlighted in blue. The Mestres 2009 Gran Reserva Brut was a perfect compliment to the 12 year aged manchego with membrillo (quince). You can watch them expertly carve the Jamon Iberico just mere feet away, it’s impossible to resist. Nor should you, I could have polished off a dozen plates of it.
Other menu highlights include the eggplant baked in charcoal with sherry vinegar, the baby chorizo, and the octopus with olives. Dishes here are kept simple, strong Spanish flavors stand out and the quality and freshness of ingredients is apparent.
Aside from traditional cavas, Bom Bolla embraces the gin tonica revolution currently invading bars all over Spain and Portugal. They offer 11 different gins with housemade Indian (standard) and Verano (green cardamom and hibiscus) tonics served with all the aromatic accoutrement like thyme leaves and star anis. There are also 5 vermouths on offer and a cocktail list that plays on traditional favorites like the Kalimotxo made with red wine, cassis, coca-cola, and Fernet Branca.
The convivial atmosphere and massive central bar makes this place ideal for casual dates or small groups, and it’s one of the rare places I’d set up shop all alone and be perfectly happy for hours. Watch out for next summer when their rooftop is open. Until then, Salud!