The menu at Tres Gatos in Jamaica Plain may read familiar to anybody who’s ever been to a tapas restaurant before: Stuffed Medjool Dates, Tortilla Española with pimentón aioli, Lamb Bocadillo. These small plates are, in fact, as worthy of seeking out as they are welcome in the neighborhood (more on that to come). But even if Tres Gatos dished up rote renditions of Spanish tapas and pintxos, it would still be a singular dining experience in Boston.
It’s the city’s only record-and-bookstore–slash–tapas bar, for one thing, and it’s also a unique piece of real estate. Tres Gatos is located on the first floor of a turn-of-the-20th-century Victorian home. The bar is built into what really was once someone’s living room, so the cozy, lived-in feel of the place is authentic. A one-time bedroom now houses a few high-top tables and a window that looks into the narrow kitchen. The book and record shop is in the back of the building, accessible from Roseway Street as well as via a small hallway inside the restaurant, so you can browse the collection if there’s a wait for a table.
The food is certainly inspired by Barcelona, but these seasonally changing tapas sport flavors from around the world—and ingredients from the backyard. (Seriously, at the right time of year, the mint that crowns your cocktail or the oregano in the chimichurri was plucked straight from the raised-bed garden growing alongside the house.)
You might begin with a charcuterie board of house-made chicken liver mousse and New England cheddar cheese plus slices of imported Serrano ham and Manchego, and feast on paella teeming with Atlantic clams for the main event. Drinks are just as vibrant. Kitty’s Got Claws, a mezcal cocktail with a house-infused pepper syrup, ginger, apricot, lemon, and peach juices, is a feisty and fun favorite. Local craft beer complements the curated selection of Spanish sherries and wines. Service is friendly and prompt.
Tres Gatos isn’t the kind of tapas experience that transports you to Spain. You’ll know you’re in Jamaica Plain the whole time: It’s eclectic, whimsical, friendly, and fun.
Start with a drink, because you can imbibe in the store while browsing for fiction or vinyl if there’s a wait for seats in the restaurant. If you select a record before dinner, the affable store manager is usually willing to give it a spin on the house turntable while you eat.
Tres Gatos has a small garden patio out front and also offers seasonal outdoor dining alongside the restaurant on Roseway Street.
Before opening Tres Gatos in 2011, owner David Doyle ran another JP bookstore called Rhythm & Muse for more than a decade.
The owners and their elementary school-aged son live in an apartment above the restaurant and tend to the patio’s garden of flowers and herbs.