As the attraction of small-plate dining expands in Central PA (take note of recent changes just at Stocks on 2nd, the long-awaited Rubicon on North Street and Note opening in midtown) there’s an established small-plates place you should know.
Andalusia in downtown Carlisle offers a delicious selection of small plates along with nightly specials, a great wine list as well as full-sized entrées for those so inclined.
This is an easy-going restaurant along Hanover Street in the heart of the borough. Close-by street parking is readily available, at least on weekends. There’s both bar-area seating and dining room tables. The atmosphere is very casual.
Décor includes hardwood flooring offset by brightly-colored walls hung with original art and poster art under track lighting. Some seating includes up-against-the-wall banquettes.
Service was excellent, friendly without being annoying, informed without being pushy and more than willing to offer tips and suggestions on house favorites.
The place features Spanish and Moroccan tapas. And if you’re wondering about the pairing, go look at a map. Andalusia is that southern region of Spain that’s right across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco in North Africa.
Carlisle’s Andalusia has a liquor license and knows how to use it. Wine selection is wonderful and, despite offering a full bar, I strongly suggest trying the Spanish wines offered by the glass or the bottle.
A caution: Small-plate dining can get dicey. Diners can run up a big bill in a hurry. But take your time and order as you go. I, for example, had mind, heart and stomach set on three specific tapas — they run roughly from $5 to $11 per plate — but after two (OK … and sharing a third), I was too full to order another.
Paella de Mariscos
For starters, my dining partner ordered gazpacho, the classic Spanish chilled veggie soup served with house-made croutons and Spanish olive oil ($5 a-cup, $8 a-bowl). It drew thumbs up. Next, we ordered datiles con tocino — dates stuffed with almond and Spanish cheese and wrapped in bacon for $8. They were excellent.
I paired the dates with a Spanish white wine, Salneval Albarino, made from grapes grown in northwest Spain ($9 a-glass, $36 a-bottle). My partner opted for a glass of white sangria ($7).
Next came tortilla Espanola — a Spanish egg, onion and potato omelet served with alioli, a favorite Spanish mayonnaise made with olive oil, lemon juice and eggs. This was formed into an omelet, larger than I expected, more like a soft quiche. But it was wonderful. The alioli was an excellent addition, and it was all just $6.
It was followed by patatas bravas — a row of fried fingerling potatoes served on a platter lying atop some salsa and beside (thankfully) more alioli. This dish ($7) is so much better than anyone has any right to expect. It’s just potatoes, right? Wrong. They were prepared to perfection. And both sauces combined to make for a delicious taste. (There was a moment when we were tempted to double-down and place a second order.)
Next there was koutban bel kefta — skewered marinated lamb with Moroccan sauce grilled with vegetables ($9), another choice dubbed a winner.
The tapas menu varies and there are nightly specials. Here’s a sample of other tapas: Serrano ham and béchamel fritters; grilled bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil; sautéed mushrooms topped with Manchego cheese (from the La Mancha region of Spain); and grilled octopus with potatoes and olive oil.
Their full entrées include steak, Moroccan stew and usually a fish dish and a chicken dish.
There is, of course, classic paella made with rice and chicken or with seafood (shrimp, fish, squid, clams and mussels). Both versions are made to order and can take up to 35 minutes to be served. The price is $19 for two, $38 for four.
Dessert was a vanilla flan with caramel sauce ($6) and coffee. I recommend the flan and note there is also Moroccan sweet mint tea served with cookies.
What I like most about Andalusia is the restaurant’s atmosphere, the variety of flavors in its small-plate offerings, the service and its excellent wine list.
This is great place for a group outing with lots of sharing. But it’s also a great place for a table for two and something a little different.
26 N. Hanover St., Carlisle
717.462.4141 www.andalusiacarlisle.com Hours: 4 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 4 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Full service bar; accepts major credit cards; street parking.
THE PHANTOM DINER HAS BEEN A LONGTIME RESTAURANT REVIEWER FOR CENTRAL PA MAGAZINE.