Name of Restaurant: Tapas Teatro
Name of Interviewee: Naomi Kline, Curator of the Craft Cocktail Program at Tapas Teatro
Address: 1711 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21201
Website: tapasteatro.com
Type of Food Served / Specialty: Tapas! Spanish style small plates.

Current Exhibit: Paintings by Lania D’Agostino

Tapas Teatro introduced tapas, also known as Spanish small plate dining, to Baltimore in 2001, way before the concept became a highly popular culinary trend. The restaurant, located next to the Charles movie theater, honors the traditions of Spanish food and wine and features a creative and changing menu, full of fresh and seasonal ingredients.

No matter what you like to eat, there’s a full range of international flavors and the house made Sangria, both the red and white, is delicious and packs a punch. The restaurant and bar features a large selection of beer and wine, and  their proximity to the Charles always makes a to-go cup tempting.

Naomi Kline has been with the Karzai Restaurant Group for four years. She currently curates the craft cocktail program at Tapas Teatro and will soon be running the bar program at the Karzai’s newest restaurant, the Pen & Quill, slated to open in early August.

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Paintings in Tapas Teatro by Lania D’Agostino

Lauren Van Slyke: Why do you show local art?

Naomi Kline: Tapas actually hadn’t had any new art on its walls for a good, long time. One of our regulars, acclaimed Baltimore artist Lania D’agostino, was a little fed up with our tired collection. We are in the center of the arts and entertainment district, after all. She kindly offered to put up some of her own work. We are so glad she did! Her large format pieces are incredibly unique. They breathe new life into the space and create a catalyst for conversation, which is precisely what you want in a vibrant restaurant. It is a practice that we hope to continue long into the future.

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LVS: How do the arts, and locally owned restaurants, enhance life and culture in Baltimore?

NK: We live in a country that is quickly becoming homogenized. Locally owned businesses have the ability to retain their individuality. The art and restaurant scene in Baltimore is different than that in St. Lewis or Austin or Kalamazoo. These differences help create a sense of place. And these places become important precisely because they are unique to Baltimore.

LVS: How does your restaurant engage with local artists in the community?

NK: I think restaurants and the arts have always had a symbiotic relationship.

Currently on staff we have playwrights, musicians, actors, sculptors, visual artists, poets, and dancers. And our peers are a good portion of the customer base at Tapas. Plus, even artists gotta eat.

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LVS: What is the economic impact of arts on the local economy?

NK: In Station North the arts are pretty much our bread and butter. In a four block radius we have four music venues, a movie house, four theaters, and an art gallery. I think it is safe to say that here the art is the economy. Tapas is fortunate to be in the heart of all the creativity.

LVS: What is your favorite current project in Baltimore? Can be visual, theatrical, musical, or something else?

NK: Oh my goodness! There is so much going on in Baltimore right now. The theatre scene is really hot right now with awesome stuff coming out of the Acme Corporation, Single Carrot, EMP, and the Annex. The dancers over at Effervescent Collective are always doing stunning work. If you are in the market for visual art, Gallery Four and Metro Gallery can’t be beat. For music the Wind-up Space and the Metro Gallery are always hosting great events. The list goes on and on!

LVS: Tapas Teatro has been in the Station North area for some time. What is the biggest change you have noticed in the area?

NK: I guess, most importantly, it is now a place where small businesses of all sorts can flourish. And that is pretty great.

Interviewer Lauren Van Slyke is the Marketing Director at BmoreArt. We Heart Restaurant Art is a local series aimed to recognize the historic significance restaurants have played in Baltimore’s art scene and their vital role within arts and culture.