Man of La Plancha: Bravas Opens

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The patio at Bravas Bar de Tapas, perfect for sipping cava. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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“Jamon in,” everyone’s welcome at Bravas Bar de Tapas. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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The dining room at Bravas Bar de Tapas. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

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Fresh anchovies with olive oil, one of the many tapas at Bravas Bar de Tapas. Photo courtesy of Heather Irwin.

By 707 correspondent Heather Irwin. Sign up for the BiteClub Newsletter.

We’ve all gotten a bit too comfortable with the term tapas. Spanish for “cover,” it originally referred to slices of bread, meat, and cheese served atop a glass of wine or sherry to keep the flies out (or so the legend goes). What it has turned into is anything served on a saucer-size plate—from sushi to nachos.

After a recent trip to Spain, Sonoma County restaurateurs Mark and Terri Stark decided to bring the concept of authentic Spanish tapas to Healdsburg, opening ~BRAVAS BAR DE TAPAS~ this week.

That vision translates to sangria, cider, and wine served with bites of paper-thin Iberico ham and Manchego cheese; fresh anchovy filets with olive oil; roasted leeks with romesco; marinated mussels with chile relish; creamy chicken croquettes; cider-braised chorizo; or tomato- and garlic-rubbed toast. Along with the hot and cold tapas are heartier dishes cooked à la plancha, including local sardines, Monterey calamari, skirt steak with red onion marmalade, and quail with lavender. Most dishes are priced between $8 and about $12 each (Iberico ham and steak are a bit more, but so worth it).

The opening menu is filled with brassy, bold flavors that leave no question you’ll need a breath mint or two before getting familiar with friends or co-workers. It’s a departure from the usual Wine Country lineup, but the basic building blocks of the menu (shrimp, pig ears, fried duck eggs, Dungeness crab, sardines, skirt steak, seafood ceviche) are ingredients the Starks have a proven track record with at their other restaurants (Willi’s Wine Bar, Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar, Monti’s Rotisserie & Bar, and Stark’s Steak & Seafood).

Inside, the former Ravenous space has been updated; the signature orange walls now sport a few dark gray accents. Swirling, psychedelic posters from the San Francisco’s Fillmore deck the walls, which are bound to be extra groovy after a few glasses of cava.

Outdoors, a revamped patio and bar are ready for year-round use. Just look for the neon sign beckoning you with the glowing words, “Jamon In.”

Bravas Bar de Tapas, 420 Center St. at Mitchell St., Healdsburg, 707-433-7700. Open 11am-10pm daily.