“I went to Hockaday and had this incredible Spanish teacher there,” says Donika Jimenez, owner of the popular Cafe Madrid in the Knox-Henderson area. “So when I was 14, I fell in love with Spain. I’d never even been there, at this point, and she would bring us slides and tell us all about her travels.”

Jimenez went on to study abroad and got a degree in Ibero/American Studies. She recalls: “I did this always knowing that someday I wanted to have some kind of business that would involve Dallas and Spain – I wanted to educate the neighborhood about Spain.”

Tapas, the core of the eatery’s menu, originated in southern Spain about 200 years ago. Some classic items are the Spanish potato omelette with aioli sauce, Andalucian meatballs in almond sauce, shrimp in garlic and white asparagus vinaigrette. On Fridays and Saturdays, Cafe Madrid dishes up a first-rate paella, the national dish of Spain.

“I didn’t want to make it ‘gimmicky,’ I didn’t want to Americanize it,” says Jimenez. “I wanted people to feel like they’re walking into a restaurant in Madrid when they come in the front door. The music, the smells, the quaintness when it’s packed.”

And packed it usually is.

CAFE MADRID

4501 TRAVIS – 214.528.1731

The restaurant has classical guitar performances on Tuesday nights and flamenco guitar on Wednesdays. International Night is the first Wednesday of each month – not for the claustrophobic. Periodic special events take place in conjunction with Spanish festivals such as the Running of the Bulls and the Fair of Seville.

Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese

(a quick and easy dish that serves four)

8 roasted piquillo peppers

16 oz. goat cheese, softened

4 oz. extra virgin olive oil

1 oz. capers

Stuff the piquillo peppers with cheese. Add olive oil and place under a broiler for two minutes. Sprinkle with capers. Note: if you can’t find piquillo peppers – a very distinctive type of Spanish pepper – at the grocery store, they are available at Cafe Madrid.