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Spanish Tapas: What Are They? Where Did They Come From and Why Do People Love Them

May 23, 20244 min read

“Not only are bloggers suckers for the remarkable, so are the people who read blogs.” - Seth Godin


Spanish cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors and vibrant dishes, and at the heart of this culinary tradition lies the beloved tapas. These small, flavorful plates are more than just appetizers; they are a way of life in Spain, embodying the essence of social dining. Join us as we explore what tapas are, their fascinating origins, and why they continue to captivate food lovers around the world.

Spanish Pavillion Tapas

What Are Tapas?

Tapas are a variety of small dishes, typically served with drinks, designed for sharing. They can range from simple snacks like olives and almonds to more elaborate preparations such as marinated meats, seafood, and vegetables. Tapas can be served hot or cold and often highlight the freshest local ingredients. The beauty of tapas lies in their diversity; they offer something for everyone and can be combined to create a satisfying meal.

The Origins of Tapas

The history of tapas is as rich and varied as the dishes themselves. There are several theories about their origins, each adding a layer of intrigue to this culinary tradition:

  1. Royal Origins: One popular legend suggests that King Alfonso X of Castile decreed that taverns should serve small bites of food with drinks to prevent intoxication. This practice soon became a widespread custom.

  2. Practical Beginnings: Another theory is that tapas originated as a practical measure to keep flies out of one's drink. A slice of bread or meat would be placed over the glass, which eventually evolved into a variety of small dishes.

  3. Sailor's Tradition: It is also believed that tapas began as a way for sailors to enjoy a variety of flavors without spoiling their appetite for a main meal. The small portions allowed them to sample different foods without overeating.

Why People Love Tapas

Tapas have transcended their humble beginnings to become a beloved culinary experience around the world. Here are a few reasons why people adore tapas:

  1. Social Dining: Tapas are inherently social. They are designed for sharing, making them perfect for gatherings with friends and family. This communal aspect of dining encourages conversation and connection.

  2. Variety: The wide range of tapas means there is something to suit every palate. Whether you prefer seafood, meat, or vegetarian options, tapas offer a diverse selection that keeps the dining experience exciting.

  3. Creativity: Tapas allow chefs to showcase their creativity and culinary skills. The small portions mean that each dish can be crafted with care and attention to detail, resulting in bold and innovative flavors.

  4. Flexibility: Tapas can be enjoyed at any time of day, from a light snack with a glass of wine to a full meal made up of multiple dishes. This flexibility makes tapas a versatile option for any dining occasion.

Special Tapas at Spanish Pavillion

At Spanish Pavillion Restaurant in Harrison, NJ, we take pride in offering a wide array of authentic Spanish tapas. Here are some of our special tapas among many other choices:

  • Bacon Wrapped Dates: A perfect blend of sweet and savory, these dates are wrapped in crispy bacon, creating a delightful contrast of flavors and textures.

  • Spanish Chorizo: Our spicy Spanish chorizo is packed with robust flavors, making it a favorite among our patrons.

  • Shrimp and Garlic: Succulent shrimp sautéed with garlic and olive oil, offering a burst of Mediterranean flavors in every bite.

  • Pulpo a la Feira: Tender octopus seasoned with paprika and olive oil, served Galician style for an authentic taste of Spain.


Tapas are more than just a meal; they are a celebration of Spanish culture and culinary tradition. Their origins may be diverse, but the enjoyment they bring is universal. Whether you're a seasoned tapas enthusiast or new to this delightful way of dining, there's always something new to discover and savor.

At Spanish Pavillion Restaurant, we've been serving authentic dishes from Spain since 1976. Conveniently located near the Prudential Center, NJPAC, and Red Bull's Stadium, our restaurant has become a staple in the Newark and Harrison/Kearny areas of NJ. Featured on national television and offering plenty of parking, we invite you to join us and experience the true taste of Spain with our exceptional tapas and more.

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Michael Fernandez

Michael has grown up at the Spanish Pavillion and worked with the family owned business in Harrison, NJ for over 28 years.

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31 Harrison Ave, Harrison, NJ 07029

Everyday 11am - 10pm