Students who study abroad in Spain often return suffering from withdrawal from the country’s unique, delicious food. Luckily, there is an option nearby that is almost as good as the real thing. Dalí, a Spanish restaurant in Somerville, is the perfect place for students to go to pretend they’re back in their favorite restaurant by Puerta del Sol in Madrid.
Though Dalí is not very close — it’s about a 10 minute drive from campus — it is worth the trouble to borrow a car (if you don’t already have one) and leave campus for a night to try it out.
The most notable thing about Dalí is its all-around authenticity, which shines through most prominently in its food. The jamón (Spanish ham) and sangria (fruity wine, for the 21+ crowd) — two Spanish staples — will make any restaurant-goer feel transported back to Spain. The tortilla Española, another traditional dish, is served warm with a flavorful aioli sauce and a sprig of rosemary to brighten the plate.
The more traditional dishes tend to be the best ones. Order the gambas and you will get a sizzling bowl of shrimp soaking in a garlic and olive oil sauce, with a hint of spice from a chili pepper. But if you order the mussels stuffed with jamón and manchego cheese, you will be left wondering if the kitchen decided last minute to merely mash a handful of popular ingredients together into one plate.
If you have the time and the money, do not skip out on dessert. The churros, another traditional Spanish dish consisting of strips of fried dough and chocolate sauce to dip them in, are wonderfully crisp and lightly sweet. They also come with a sweeter dulce de leche dipping sauce, if the chocolate is not enough.
Tradition is also highlighted in the décor. On the walls hang an eclectic mix of decorations from various regions of Spain. Decorations showcasing the famous hand-painted plates from Sevilla, a poster advertising Pamplona’s popular bullfighting and of course the strange, surreal elements associated with the restaurant’s namesake, Salvador Dalí.
Of course, good food and good décor do not come without costs. The place seems perpetually crowded, and with no reservation system, one could easily be waiting for over an hour for a table to free up. Call ahead to put your name on the list, or you will fall victim to the horrendous wait, which you will have to spend in a small, cramped area by the bar. Making your way to your table can at times feel like walking through a frat party.
The large amount of patrons can also rival the noise of a frat party. Popular Spanish music is played at a relatively loud level already, but between the density of people in one space and the amount of sangria being passed around, the noise level stays consistently high.
The food may be typical of Spain, but the prices are not. Plates are served in tapas style, meaning that you will probably want to order two or three for dinner per person. However, each plate costs what could easily be one course at another restaurant. Although the cost may feel prohibitive, at the end of the meal, the feeling of satisfaction is priceless.
To complete the restaurant’s warm ambience, the service is very friendly. Waitstaff seem to always be singing “happy birthday” — or celebrating something. There was a bachelorette party in attendance that was serenaded almost every five minutes. Above all, the atmosphere was very relaxed. Though this may have accounted for the long wait, it gave patrons plenty of time to sit, chat and enjoy the sangria — just the way the Spanish do.
Dalí is located at 415 Washington St., Somerville, Mass., 02143. It is open Sunday-Thursday 5:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m., with the bar open until 11:30 p.m. It is also open Friday-Saturday 5:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m., with the bar open until 12:30 a.m.