A new tapas spot and coffee shop recently opened in Andersonville giving the neighborhood its only Spanish restaurant. Tucked in a nondescript space that formerly housed a Mexican restaurant, Little Madrid, 5661 N. Clark Street, features items like jamón pata negra sliced paper-thin on the spot, pincho de patata, and cafe con leche.
Little Madrid is Spanish native Francisco Bolanos’s first restaurant. A former human rights lawyer, he grew up cooking with his grandmother and said the food at Little Madrid reflects what she taught him. The menu includes sandwiches named for Spanish artists, like the “Picasso” (toasted ciabatta, olive oil, tomato, jamón serrano, Ibérian cheese) and the “Miró” (toasted ciabatta, Salamanca cream cheese, smoked salmon, arugula, cherry tomato, vinaigrette).
Diners can also choose from a selection of sweet and savory pastries and small bites, salads, desserts, and a few tapas items such as “Eurobacon” (bacon-wrapped dates, roasted almonds, blue cheese, wine sauce). Espresso options include Americanos, lattes, cappuccinos, and more, and customers are welcome to bring their own bottle of wine for no corkage fee.
The space seats 14 at several round cafe tables. A few of the owner’s own colorful paintings dot the walls. For Bolanos, Little Madrid is an opportunity to share the beauty and complexity of European cultures. He hopes to feature a rotating art gallery with pieces from around the world. He’s also collaborating with non-profit Instituto Cervantes of Chicago to host free weekly Spanish language classes. It’s a chance for him to challenge stereotypes about fussy European restaurants and create an unpretentious neighborhood gathering place for caffeine and intellectual conversation.
“In the U.S., people think that European food is fancy, but I don’t think that at all,” Bolanos said. “We’re all human beings, we just want simple organic food — the worse a place looks, you’ll probably get the best food of your life.”
The counter service spot debuted in late December.
Little Madrid, 5661 N. Clark Street, Open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday; 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.