finally got to centro, the new federal hill tapas restaurant where the wonderful bicycle restaurant used to be. i’d heard so many raves from many friends and was really looking forward to it…and secretly hoped not to be disappointed.

since the sweltering heat in baltimore had just broken (holy dirt…finally) we sat outside in the lovely back patio. it was surprisingly free of city noise with buena vista social club playing quietly, simple potted plants placed to soften corners and white lights glowing along the walls.

the baltimore sun describes the food as traditional spanish tapas with a venezuelan spin and the wine list as “tidy” and i agree with that. there is something for every palette and the prices are excellent.

water for the table was served in very simple and attractive chilled glass bottles. then, sangria for my friend (they offered red and white) and viognier for me. one thing i loved was that the wines were served in rustic stemless glasses. perfect.

my friend has dairy and gluten issues and the waiter was really helpful and patient, consulting with the chef about what she could have. he also offered her a very tasty gluten-free beer. we shared some delicious marcona almonds (fried in olive oil and salted) and a shaved fennel, apple salad and arugula salad, which had great flavors and was beautiful, too. next, i had some amazing little sweet corn pancakes with queso blanco and topped with a chili glaze. my friend had (and i stole several bites of) wilted spinach with roasted chick peas, dates and this insane pine nut butter. i could’ve had a huge plate of that! i also loved the empanadas, which that night were filled with beef and spicy black beans.

the service was excellent and it felt like a nice night out…yet it was not stuffy or fancy – what a great spot. i cannot wait to go back. love centro. go!