Sunday, June 26, 2022

In Photos: Reservations now open, as Mariposa Tapas Bar makes its debut

Mariposa Tapas Bar opened on 3rd Street in the South Front District, and is serving traditional tapas for lunch, dinner and brunch. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver) Click on the picture to scroll through the gallery

WILMINGTON — Chef Bobby Zimmerman of True Blue Butcher and Table has opened his first restaurant in the South Front District. Mariposa launched Friday and is now serving lunch, brunch and dinner, Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday to 11 p.m, and Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

RELATED: Local chef will launch authentic tapas restaurant, Mariposa, in South Front District this spring

Located at 1502 S. 3rd Street near The Harp and beside of Big Benny’s on Greenfield Street, Mariposa focuses on traditional Spanish tapas. Its soft opening on Wednesday and Thursday nights welcomed familiar faces from around downtown, local business owners, civic and nonprofit organizers, developers, and restaurant industry folks who were welcomed to try out the varied menu.

“Order as much as you can,” Chef Bobby announced through the small kitchen window. “We need to perfect and practice.”

Above the bar, pitchers hung, awaiting to be filled with Mariposa’s two sangrias: white with lemon and honey, and red with a warm cinnamon finish. The restaurant also has a variety of Spanish wines.

With every glass ordered, a complimentary plate of tapas — two cheese slices, two chorizo slices and an olive, all drizzled in olive oil — is delivered to cover the glass. Its a tip of the hat to a tradition that started back in the taverns in Andalusia, where a slice of bread or meat was handed to customers to cover their drinks to prevent fruit-flies from entering.

The staff of Mariposa discuss delivery of the complementary tapas to every table that orders a glass of wine. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

By 5:30 p.m. the restaurant was abuzz with the clicking of forks poking into carrilleras de cerdo — braised pork cheeks, piquillo pepper, fennel, and garlic — and pulpo, which comes with charred octopus and chorizo with potatoes, served over a Romesco sauce. An elevated charcuterie and cheese board, served on black slate, tempted with olives, jamon, chorizo, Manchego, hot peppers. The conserves board is like the seafood version of charcuterie: tuna belly, sardines, cockles and razor clams.

Zimmerman told Port City Daily in March he has secured Manchego from a small producer, which outputs seven kinds of cheese a year. Mariposa serves three: Manchego of various ages, plus aged Mahon and Idiazábal. It also serves handcrafted olive-oil from a fourth-generation maker.

“You can drink it, it’s just that good,” one of the servers said upon delivering it to a table. 

Pan con tomate, a common item served in restaurants and bars in Spain, consisted of thickly sliced bread, dripping in tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. Mariposa also offers the addition of cheese.

Traditional tortilla Espanola was served in large portions, three triangles to an order. The potato-onion omelet comes with aioli and roasted tomato sauce for dipping.

Heartier eaters had their appetites sated by albondigas, beef and chorizo meatballs in tomato sauce with olive oil, as well as solomillo con cabrales, beef tenderloin with blue cheese and manzanilla olives.

“I think the shrimp and garlic with chiles is probably what I’m most excited about,” Zimmerman said in March. “Sourcing the shrimp was critical. You get these beautiful blue prawns that are pretty massive — so beautifully fresh. To be able to serve a shrimp of that caliber with the head on, with the beautiful simplicity of the garlic chiles and papayas, I think that’s probably the one I’m most intrigued in exposing because it’s really, really simple.”

During lunch bocadillos (ham and cheese, tortilla Espanola, and Spanish ratatouille sandwiches) and a burger are offered. The sandwiches also are featured at brunch, which will be a menu culminating in lunch and dinner items plus a few more specialty creations.

There is outdoor dining on Mariposa’s wrap-around porch of the craftsman-style home-turned eatery. Courtyard dining also is available, and reservations are now open.

Zimmerman’s Mariposa won’t be the only new addition to the neighborhood’s culinary hotspots — Benny’s Big Time, Second Glass, Block Taco. The chef is launching a second True Blue beside of New Anthem in the fall.

Click on the picture to scroll through the gallery or thumb down to view:

The hostess greets guests on the wrap-around porch at Mariposa. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Manchego, chorizo and olive, topped with olive oil, is served on top of the wine glass orders. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Jamon serrano hot peppers and olives are part of the dark slate charcuterie board at Mariposa. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
At a packed bar on Thursday, the Mariposa bartender pours housemade red sangria, which has hints of cinnamon on the finish. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Pan con tomate, is housemade bread, toasted then dripping in tomato, garlic and olive oil; cheese can be added on as well. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
The albondigas are meatballs made of chorizo and beef, served with a tomato sauce and olive oil. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Patrons place their drink orders with Mariposa staff at the soft opening on Thursday. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Charred octopus, served with chorizo and potatoes come atop a bed of fresh made Romesco sauce. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Pork cheeks come in a stew of fennel, garlic and tomato. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Chef Bobby Zimmerman can speak with staff and look out over the dining room from a small window in the Mariposa craftsman-style home-turned eatery. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
The Conservas features preserved cockles, sardines, razor clams and tuna belly, served with tomato sauces and hot peppers. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Tortilla Espanola is drizzled with olive oil and served with aioli and roasted tomato sauce.(Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Almond cake topped with marscarpone is a light, airy finish to Mariposa’s tapas experience. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Diners share small plates of food and wine in the bright dining room. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)
Mariposa at dusk illuminates in the South Front District. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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