Movida: Bringing Tables Together over Tapas

One of the reasons I love writing about food is that it’s encouraged me to become more adventurous in so many ways. I can’t even begin to describe how many incredible facts, big and small, I’ve learned about the food scene in Wisconsin, or how many recipes are bookmarked for me to try out in my own kitchen. I’m trying foods that the younger, pickier Jen never would have dreamed of trying.

So, you can imagine my pleasant surprise, when I visited Movida, a Spanish restaurant in Walker’s Point, and had the opportunity to try a dish with octopus. I didn’t hesitate. I just picked up a fork and took a bite… And it was incredible.

The pulpo (Spanish octopus) at Movida includes grilled pineapple (my favorite part), confit fingerling, arugula and mojo picon.

“The pulpo has been a staple forever,” General Manager Cas Olejniczak says. “Now it’s got the mojo picon and grilled pineapple, but we’ve done fennel and mandarin.”

“The pulpo dish has seen a bit of an evolution, because it’s been on the menu for so long,” StandEatDrink’s marketing and public relations director Sean Wille adds. “Because it’s a favorite, we’ve seen a couple renditions of it.”

If you plan on ordering the pulpo, Olejniczak recommends pairing it with Movida’s red sangria, one of the cocktails I tried – and loved.

“We use fresh pineapple juice and just a little bit of spice in the sangria,” She says. “So when they come together, it’s really nice and beautiful.”

I also tried another staple on Movida’s menu, the jamon croquetas, which included a fantastic roasted garlic aoli to dip the croquetas into. 

“Croquettes are something that I think, in most styles of cuisine, there’s room for,” Olejniczak says.

As for a cocktail pairing? She says to try the “In Man & Wife,” a Spanish brandy drink. 

“I think it goes well with anything, frankly, and the croquetas you can eat with anything,” Olejniczak says. “The nutmeg is good with the fried and the garlic.”

At Movida, the goal isn’t just about bringing great dishes and cocktails together on the table, but also about bringing the tables together with one another. If it seems like the tables are a bit closer together than you might expect, that’s because they are… and there’s a reason for it.

“The Movida service-style is built on everyone feeling like family,” Wille says. “The guest interacts with the server, and then something happens. Maybe it’s something like the jamon on the table or a round of sangria that everyone at one table gets. So now, they’re talking to the table next to them, so everyone’s having that communal ambience. The service element has been focused on this for Movida, on creating this experience.”

The communal style of Movida reflects what Movida’s partners, Aaron Gersonde and Andrei Mikhail, experienced when they visited Spain several years ago. Wille says Gersonde and Mikhail knew they wanted to replicate that environment for their own restaurant, and brought their ideas of communal dining, tapas-style and Spanish cuisine to fruition three years ago. It’s become a recipe for success for the Movida team.

“I’d say three, four, five nights a week, we’ve got people chatting to the tables next to each other,” Olejniczak says. “Most of the feedback we receive mentions the servers aren’t buttoned-up… every person in this restaurant who’s working has an interaction with that table.”

Movida, located at 524 S. 2nd Street, is open seven days a week, from 4pm-10pm Sunday through Thursday, and 4pm-Close Fridays and Saturdays.

The restaurant hosts the following events on a weekly basis:
Mondays: All Night Happy Hour (4pm-10pm) with $5 sangrias and special prices on tapas.
Tuesdays: Date Night and live flamenco with paella and a bottle of sangria for $60.
Wednesdays: Wine & Women with a free first glass of wine.
Thursdays: Jamon and Cava with a $5 sandwich and glass, $10 platter with two glasses and $25 whole baguette and bottle.

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