La Feria downtown is still legit
When Spanish restaurant La Feria brought tapas to the downtown dining scene on Halloween 2013, it was before shareable small plates were appearing on almost every menu in the city.
A decade later, La Feria has many of the same warm and interesting qualities it had when it first opened, but it has also evolved along with the city and its restaurants. In 2018, the owners opened Cata Vino wine bar and retail shop next door, allowing for a second dining room and bar to enjoy La Feria’s menu.
It remains a unique restaurant, serving authentic Spanish cuisine using recipes from the collection of co-owner Pilar Baron Hidalgo’s mother and grandmother. The menu is presented as a menu of hot or cold entrees, more than a dozen each, so diners can build their plate one course at a time.
You can get “small plates” almost anywhere now, but not like this.
The paella, which is only served on Tuesdays, is a real treat. This golden yellow rice dish is packed with tart, citrusy flavor and perfectly cooked shrimp (and sometimes mussels and chicken, too). It’s made in a giant frying pan that takes up most of the stove, which is why Higgaldo and her team only serve it one day a week. The delicious paella, plus another big dish like the charred and sliced flat-iron steak — priced at $16 — is enough for a full meal, but you can also dance around the menu and get several smaller plates.
An unexpected favorite was the berenjenas fritas, or fried eggplant. They are served in large, thick slices of bread and fried with sea salt and honey, almost like pudding or a grown-up version of sweet potato fries. This was not something I would have ordered had it not been for a recommendation from the husband at the next table.
Sardine asadas are served as three whole charred sardines that are easy to eat and well salted with a hint of lemon and a pleasant fishy aroma. Just as when it opened in 2013, perhaps the best seafood dish at La Feria is the gambas al ajillio. As good as they were when this spot first opened, the plump shrimp are bathed in warm garlic and olive oil with hot red pepper flakes. Get some bread to absorb this oil. Don’t waste any of it.
You can also dance around the drinks menu and try many labels via a wine or sherry flight. There are also craft cocktails and Mediterranean beers that you don’t always see around town. Now is the perfect time to enjoy a glass of La Feria’s house sangria, which is refreshing yet deeply flavored with fruit infused with cloves and cinnamon.
If you fall in love with a glass of wine, you can probably buy a full bottle to take home from Cata Fino.
Co-owner Elias Khalil calls Cata Fino “a great complement” to the dining experience at La Feria. Customers can get a full food and wine menu no matter which side of the building they sit on. La Feria (pronounced “FAIR-ee-uh”) is Spanish for “fair” and Cata Vino means “wine tasting.”
“We’ve been able to bring more wines that people can enjoy while dining and as a retail option. Right now, what we’re doing is we’ve combined the two into one entity. Even though we’re branded and in a different way, we’re basically offering gambit.” Complete on both sides of the restaurant.
The decor of both the restaurant and wine shop is relaxed and casual, but not cookie-cutter. Khalil and Hidalgo and their third partner, Naomi Kahil, wanted to create a space that blended the best of Detroit and Spain, especially the Seville area where Hidalgo is from.
“This is an authentic Spanish taste that can’t be replicated anywhere in southeast Michigan, and that’s pretty amazing,” said Khalil, who has lived in Detroit all his life and is familiar with the area and even co-authored a book about Cass Pass. “We actually transported tiles from Spain, a lot of the murals… We wanted to recreate a piece of Spain here in Detroit, but we also wanted to be committed to Detroit. Our tables are made from recycled and repurposed wood from abandoned homes. “It’s really a synergy to bring Detroit and Spain together in this area.”
4130 Cass, Detroit
(313) 285-9081 laferiadetroit.com
hours: 5-11pm Tuesday-Friday. and from 4 to 11 p.m. Saturday.
the prices: Hot appetizers, $9-$16; cold appetizers, $6-$21; Paella, $13 (Tuesdays only); Dessert $7; Cocktails from $8 to $18; Beer $6; Wine by the glass, $10-16; Bottles, $24 and up.
Reservations: Taken, but not required
to implement: Fulfilling orders received by phone during the week; Food is truly meant to be eaten and shared at home.
Outdoor dining: A few tables with umbrellas outside
Noise level: Low to friendly
Dress to wear: Nothing is formal, but a casual wine bar is smart
Accessibility: No barriers
parking: Metered street parking
What do the stars mean:
★ — Good
★★ — Very good
★★★ – Excellent
★★★★ — Exceptional
more: Whet the appetite: Your guide to dining at a walkable car show
more: Restaurant Review: Berkley’s Casa Amado has some of the best tacos in town