Santiago’s Bodega, the Key West tapas restaurant that had a faltering opening in Orlando in 2013 then found its footing to the delight of hundreds of regulars, has now opened in the suburbs of Altamonte Springs.
The new restaurant, in the Springs Centre, improves on some shortcomings that the Orlando shop had to overcome — or continues to live with. It’s a larger space, including the lounge area, which has a nice, long bar. More notable, there is ample parking in the ready lot surrounding the Springs Centre, although on the evening that I visited the lot was being resurfaced and was roped off, so it was just like going to the SantiBo on Virginia Drive and having to circle around looking for a spot.
The concept is the same, though there may be a menu item or two unique to the ‘burbs. It’s a tapas concept, with myriad small plates meant for sharing.
My guest and I both started with decidedly non-tapas options, two soups, a French Onion and a Spicy Lentil. Both were good, though I gave a deeper nod to the lentil soup. Still, the onion had a meaty stock and lots of melted cheese, if that’s what you look for in your onion soups.
My friend ordered the Puff Pastry, which, in full defense of the kitchen, is a most accurate description. Chewable air would also work. The promise that the flaky squares would also have portobello mushrooms and onions was unverifiable on my part.
The Spanakopita were just as light and fluffy but also had some substance in the tangy spinach and feta cheese filling. A dilly hollandaise sauce was an unusual but not unappreciated dressing.
I was disappointed in the Beef Short Ribs only because I was not expecting the kind of ribs found in your basic Chinese restaurant. You know, the flat, too chewy type with too much soy flavoring. I must say the orange-miso slaw that accompanied it was quite good, however.
I liked the Pinchos Morunos best of all, and frankly they were a better fit for a Mediterranean style tapas bar. It featured meaty chunks of tender pork on skewers, deftly grilled, and served with a delicious apple chutney.
Most items are $12 or under, but as with all tapas bars the total can shoot up in an ordering frenzy.
Our server had a terrific attitude and easygoing demeanor. She gamely brought us wine samples we requested from the well-thought-out list.
One caution: the restaurant is very noisy. Can’t ding them for that; it’s to be expected. But just so you know. If you want a bit of quiet you can opt for one of the outdoor dining tables. The patio isn’t as pleasant as the one in Orlando, but as long as the parking lot is closed you have a good view.
Santiago’s Bodega is at 11 85 Spring Centre South Blvd., Altamonte Springs. At the time of publication the website was not functional, and the person who answered the phone did not seem concerned about that. Hours are not listed on the restaurant’s Facebook page, but the Orlando location is open for lunch and dinner daily, so let’s go with that. The phone number is 407-960-2605.