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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Casually Elegant Spanish Dining

Come to Racine’s Olde Madrid

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Stepping into Olde Madrid in Downtown Racine on a busy Saturday evening, you’re met by a hospitable staff and some enticing aromas. The dining room seats just 60, but it features a bar where you can sample the eclectic wine list while awaiting your table. The bistro’s positive attitude is palpable immediately; it’s all about sharing diverse dishes family-style while talking enthusiastically—and perhaps enjoying a potent beverage. The restaurant’s soothing mango-colored walls and earth-toned Mediterranean decor offset the din of noisy weekend diners.

Olde Madrid’s array of tapas (appetizer-sized portions)—cold and hot, meat as well as seafood and vegetable—is impressive. The menu offers everything from tangerine olives ($7.99)—a mound of firm green and soft black olives marinated in tangerine juice, stacked among garlic cloves and drenched in olive oil—to delicately battered fried calamari ($7.99), served with marinara dipping sauce. A spicier alternative to the almond meatballs (in cream sauce with mushrooms, $8.49), the Spanish meatballs ($7.49) are served with ground chili tomato sauce topped with almonds, parmesan cheese and parsley.

Another piquant little dish is the grilled solo chorizo ($6.99), presented like a cutlet and topped with shaved manchego cheese. Roasted chicken and cherries ($7.99) is a delicious blend of sautéed bite-sized chunks of chicken marinated in sherry sauce then simmered with pine nuts, green olives and dried cherries. Surprisingly, Olde Madrid’s signature dish is not a paellasaffron rice simmered in meat or seafood and veggies—but rather the okra-free seafood gumbo ($14.99), a complex blend of grilled chicken, scallops, shrimp, saffron rice and chorizo with lemon juice, onions and cilantro, cooked in lobster stock and garnished with avocado slices.

There are several vegetarian offerings—tapas vegetales—such as the goat cheese and spinach salad ($7.99) and a warm sandwich called el canario (lunch only, $7.49), a grilled portabella mushroom cap with roasted red peppers, spinach and melted mozzarella, served with pesto mayo. The most popular cold tapa, according to Co-owner Natalie Salinas, is a mixed salad called The Olde Madrid ($5.99), while the best-selling hot tapa is Maria’s beef stew ($8.99). The regulars’ top seafood tapa is garlic chili shrimp ($8.99).

Skip the optional bread course and the seafood bisque. But do save room for dessert; the orange zest flan ($4.99), a delightfully textured baked custard, has a hint of rum amidst the caramel. Gazpacho returns to the menu as a cold soup come summer. The lunch menu offers several appealing wraps, including the Valencia, a tortilla stuffed with pork, avocado, saffron rice, mixed greens, tomato and chorizo ($7.99). Sandwiches and steaks are also available for lunch, all served with papas fritas (homemade potato chips) and Spanish olives.

Olde Madrid’s Chef and Co-owner Manny Salinas is a Chicago native with a culinary-arts degree. He cites his Spanish mother as the main inspiration for (and sometime source of) his best recipes. His wife, Manager Natalie Salinas, is a cheerful Racine native. Their restaurant has been a reliable fixture in the Belle City since 2007 and they also offer catering services for groups or special events. Olde Madrid recently started hosting quarterly Sunday afternoon wine-tasting dinners.

 

Olde Madrid

418 Sixth St., Racine

262-619-0940

$$

oldemadrid.com

Handicapped access: Yes

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