Update on Aug. 28, 2018: After seven months in business, Tapas Castile has closed.
Trinity Groves owner Phil Romano says Tapas Castile "has not performed well enough for us financially to continue with the concept" in a statement. He believes tapas are "not a good fit" for the West Dallas restaurant park.
A replacement restaurant has not been named yet.
Original story, posted Jan. 29, 2018: Two months after Jessica Kate-Martinez and Kendra Valentine met, the first woman asked the second: "If I ever own a restaurant, do you want to be my executive chef?"
At the time, they worked in the same Dallas restaurant, the now-closed Casa Rubia, then would go on to work at fine-dining restaurant FT33 together. They became best friends, "almost like sisters," they say.
It's now five years later, and Kate-Martinez did open that restaurant. Valentine, of course, is her top toque. But it gets better: They opened Tapas Castile in the exact restaurant space where they first worked together.
There are a lot of things about Castile that just feel like they click.
Rather than sell "small plates of expensive food," which is the reputation Kate-Martinez says tapas can get, the two have created a menu mostly made up of dishes that cost $6 to $12. The no-frill menus are printed on paper.
Kate-Martinez, who is Mexican-American and Spanish, is a self-described geek about Spanish food and wine. She's traveled to Spain many times, once with Valentine, to try to develop a vision for a tapas place that's inexpensive and casual, with food that's "totally craveable," she says.
Lunch or dinner might start with a meat and cheese board, with all of the meats and cheeses shipped from Spain.
"I feel like Spain has some of the best cheeses out there," Valentine says.
Kate-Martinez, a sommelier, is teaching her staff to "make parallels" between Spanish food and familiar American dishes, for anyone who needs help navigating the menu. Mahon, a semi-hard cheese, is "Spain's answer to cheddar," she says. A wine from Priorat county in Spain might resemble a Napa cab. Some of the dishes on the menu include roasted beets with mojo verde, fried eggplant drizzled in honey, and mushrooms served with a garlic-cream-sherry sauce.
For anyone who wants a larger plate (rather than sharing small ones, as is common at tapas restaurants) a special section of family-style dishes includes paella, pork chop or whole fish, all which feed up to four people. Kate-Martinez and Valentine could easily recite the food and wine menus by heart, and they've spent months fussing over them.
"When you're passionate, all the details matter," Kate-Martinez says. She's especially excited about the sherry wines, which are a popular aperitif in Spain that she thinks should be more familiar in Dallas.
They both seemed to be having a pinch-me moment as they sat in their brand-new restaurant, thinking about their dream five years ago to "someday" work together on a restaurant.
"We're on the other side of 'someday,'" Valentine says.