1252 Tapas Bar & Kitchen
BY KERIN MAYNE
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Nestled amongst a row of shops and restaurants sits a little taste of Spain called Tapas 1252. The cozy interior with its bar and table seating opens through sliding glass doors onto a nicely shaded patio. An unobstructed view from the patio gives way to Central Park, a lush green space located within the impressive collection of retail-and-dining-therapy hot spots known as Market Street in The Woodlands. Authentic, imported, Spanish food with high quality wines and top shelf drinks guarantees that you can easily spend a few hours recharging and a few more building surplus for the days ahead.
We started our journey through Spanish cuisine with a nod to the coastal cities by ordering Ceviche. The white fish, shrimp, lime juice, pico de gallo, and avocado served with half-moon shaped corn chips was light and flavorful, the perfect compliment to our handcrafted drinks. Eric Anderson, the General Manager, is also the restaurant’s resident mixologist. Using fresh ingredients, including ruptured blackberries –no bottled syrups here, we were treated to Blackberry Limoncello and White Sangria they’ve been serving since opening day. What a way to start our kick-back-and-relax afternoon!
Light and refreshing was complimented by the next goodie from the kitchen, 1252 Flatbread. Flatbread is the not-a-pizza that’s kinda-like-a-pizza; it’s pizza for grownups. The crisp bottom and the slightly soft and doughy edges were the perfect vehicle for the imported Serrano ham, tomato sauce, Monterrey Jack cheese, arugula, Manchego, and crispy bacon. To accompany the meaty, peppery, and cheesy bites of flatbread, Eric recommended the Tito’s Vodka Mule. What a perfect combination of Tito’s vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer –refreshing!
Part of hanging out on the patio and people watching requires multiple dishes for grazing. Luckily we had tapas to choose from as well as the starters. These small bites ventured into heavier flavors, which were perfect for our foodie palates that had been peaked by the first two dishes. We ordered Shrimp Al Ajillo, baked shrimp served with a simple garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil sauce in a personal sized skillet; Meat Empanadas, filled with Serrano ham and Prosciutto; and Pintxos Morunos, marinated pork skewers with gremolata served on the side. And with that we had journeyed through Central Spain, the region of hills, rivers, and farmland bordering the Southern Coast, and the Northwest corner. Luckily for us, all of the drinks we had been enjoying complimented these dishes as well; sips and bites that went hand in hand.
Two items on the menu stand out as popular choices when ordering for a group to share, Calamares Fritos and Tabla 1252. Fresh-never-frozen, perfectly fried calamari rings served with sides of marinara and lemon aioli and a Spanish meat and cheese plate, again with imports from Spain, gave us even more options as the limitless afternoon of relaxation and conversation continued. By now we had chatted enough with Eric and felt confident enough in his mixology skills to let him choose our beverages for us. Thank god we did! Honestly, I’ve never been a martini drinker, but one sip of these completely changed my mind. I’m not sure if I should have been regretful or thankful that I didn’t discover these sooner! Party on the Patio, also known as the pink martini, is sweet and tart all in one sip. The sweet pomegranate infused vodka with the tart freshly juiced lime and grapefruit was amazing! And then just when I thought that was the only martini for me, we were introduced to the Expresso Yourself. Expressed in this martini was freshly brewed espresso, but served with a side shot of White Godiva and Baileys liqueurs; just like coffee, you were free to sweeten the drink as you saw fit. Luckily he made both of these drinks for each one of us because I’m pretty sure I would have fought to the death to keep them both for myself. The premium alcohol and the made-from-scratch flavors made it clear that handcrafted drinks should be the standard. 1252 Tapas does it all at a reasonable price at $8-$10 each; what don’t you love about that?!
As afternoon had worked its way into evening, we found ourselves coveting more time on the patio where we had joyfully wasted most of the day. Despite all of the starters and small plates we had shared, we decided there was room for one quintessential Spanish dish, the 1252 Paella. There is a limited daily supply of this dish, and the cook time ranges from 20-30 minutes, so make sure you plan ahead when ordering. It requires a little more of a wait than the other made-to-order dishes, but the paella was worth it. The paella pan arrived at the table overflowing with mussels, shrimp, chicken, chorizo, and the perfectly cooked rice that reveals whether or not the paella has been cooked correctly. As the perfect pairing for this main course, Eric chose a Aldonza Clasico, Spanish blend with a beautiful ruby red color; he chose the perfect table wine at a perfect price point.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Surely I’m finished talking about the food. And I am. After one last dish. Dessert. We were ready to say no and walk away happy. Instead, we ended up saying yes and walking away even happier still. It’s not a Spanish dessert, but a house-made deep dark chocolate brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream from a Spanish tapas restaurant surely means it’s at least part Spanish, right?? A bite for each of us and we were finished, this time for real.
My parting words for you concerning 1252 Tapas are: leave your watch at home, put your schedule on hold, and come spend some time in Spain. With the food, drinks, and service you’ll find here, I’m pretty sure you’ll never want to leave. Stay a little later and you’ll be treated to live music, Wednesday through Sunday. What more could you ask for? So, grab a few friends, like I did, and reconnect with life. Esta es la vida.
Good Eats Houston Recommends…
Whitefish, shrimp, lime juice, pico de gallo, avocado, corn chips
Paired with: Blackberry Limoncello
Limoncello, Crème de Violet, and lemon juice, topped off with sprite and soda. Garnished with blackberries and lemon wheels
Calamares rings served with sides of marinara and lemon aioli
Selection of fine Spanish cold cuts and cheese
Both paired with: White Sangria
Rioja wine, sugar, Calvados, lime, lemon, peaches and apples
Serrano ham, tomato sauce, monterrey jack cheese, arugula, manchego, crispy bacon
Paired with: Tito’s Vodka Mule
TIto’s vodka, lime juice, and ginger beer garnished with lime and mint
Shrimp Al Ajillo
Baked shrimp, simple garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil sauce
Serrano Ham and Prosciutto
Marinated pork skewers served with gremolata
All three paired with: Party on the Patio
A pomegranate infused vodka cocktail with sharp twists of fresh lime and grapefruit juices
Chorizo, shrimp, chicken, rice, mussels
Paired with: Aldonza Clasico
Blended red, Braman Winery
Dark ruby color. Aromas of floral beeswax, dried berries and nuts with a supple, dryish medium body and a tangy sour cherry, apple and kale accented finish and chewy tannins
house-made deep dark chocolate brownie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
Paired with: Espresso Yourself
A rendition of a classic espresso martini served with shots of White Godiva and Baileys, to mix and sweeten to your own liking
PHOTOGRAPHY: KERIN MAYNE
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