A tapas bar is heaven for an indecisive foodie.
The anguish over the menu, the urge to order something untried, the knowledge that what you didn't order would have been better - yeah, I'm one of those people.
So I've been eyeing the Terra Nostra Tapas & Wine Bar on the North Shore for several months as I walked or biked past the restaurant.
Originally a part of Spanish cuisine, tapas bars now can be found in many cities across the nation and frequently include a wide range of cuisines. Terra Nostra's menu includes dishes from Spain, Italy, France, North and South America, Asia and the Caribbean.
The idea is to order several appetizers and small entrees - rather than just a single order.
You get to try both the spinach ravioli and the cedar salmon. Perfect.
Where: Terra Nostra Tapas & Wine Bar, 105 Frazier Ave.
Hours: 4:30-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 4:30-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 4:30-9 p.m. Sunday.
Price range: $4 (Papas Bravas)-$21 (Spring Lamb).
The menu at Terra Nostra has dozens of meat and vegetarian choices on a list that is three pages long.
Meats include Chicken Lobster Quesadilla for $8, a Moroccan Crepe for $9, Pate de Foie Gras for $17 or Spring Lamb for $21.
Seafood options range from Lobster Bisque at $6 to Crab Springroll for $8 or Salmon Normandy at $18.
Vegetarian choices also abound with Blue Puffs, Greek Salad or Mozzarella Bruschetta at $5 each and Pear & Walnut Quesadilla, Spinach Ravioli or a Vegetable Tower for $8 each.
The dessert list includes the tempting Flan, Peanut Butter Pie or Vanilla Bean Crème Brulée for $5 each.
Unfortunately, the menu does not include descriptions, so it is difficult to know exactly what a dish may contain.
The restaurant has an extensive wine and drink list, including several specialty cocktails. Wines come from California, France, Germany and Italy as well as far-flung places such as Australia, Chile and South Africa.
I settled on the Spinach Filo ($7) and Smoked Salmon ($9).
The Smoked Salmon included an herbed cheese spread, several small pieces of bread and capers. It did not disappoint, with the cheese spread complementing the flavors of the salmon without overwhelming it.
I would have liked a few additional pieces of bread since the order had only three small slices. I ate the last few pieces of salmon with the capers, sans bread.
The Spinach Filo contained spinach, onions and feta cheese wrapped in a filo crust. The pastry was piping hot and the outside crust flaky. The cheese and spinach were well balanced, and the onions added subtle flavor.
The filo came with a small side salad of greens, tomatoes and dressing. It was only a few bites, but tasty.
For dessert, I considered the crème brulée until the waitress mentioned a White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cheesecake not usually on the menu. Unfortunately, the cheesecake was rather solid and flavorless with only a few nuts. It had a fruit sauce on the side.
Two waitresses traded off service duties on the patio where I was seated. Both were friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, answering my questions and making recommendations.
My water glass was promptly refilled at least twice, and I was offered a refill on my coffee.
It took a while to pick up my bill, especially since the restaurant was almost empty by this time. But overall, the staff was exceptionally friendly and personable.
The inside of the restaurant is elegantly casual, with numerous tables and a long bar. Some food is prepared on a stove behind the bar in view of the diners. A side patio with half a dozen tables is decorated with whimsical metal animals, and ivy climbs the walls. Despite its proximity to Frazier Avenue, it was quiet and relaxing.
Terra Nostra offers a unique experience in Chattanooga and an opportunity to sample a range of dishes and wines in a relaxed atmosphere.
However, given the dishes are small - with two or three required for an adequate meal - it is an expensive dining option. I might drop by for a glass of wine or an appetizer but likely won't be back for dinner unless it is a special occasion.