Near Harvard Square, a Spanish tapas bar that has a distinct Cambridge feel to it

Where to Wine Bar Barcelona in Cambridge.

Why For tapas under twinkling terrace lights, served alongside gin on ice.

The Backstory Barcelona Wine Bar is a chain, but it doesn’t feel that way. General Manager Jeff Osowski is a 35-year-old vet in the hospitality industry in Boston: he was a longtime general manager at Harvest and a well-known server at Grill 23, and he’s a smiley presence in the dining room and on the busy sidewalk, chatting with get guests and drinks. The location can’t be beat: It’s on a gastronomically blessed stretch of Mass Ave. close to Bagelsaurus, Dear Annie, Giulia, Honeycomb Creamery and the new Moëca.

Despite the fact that Barcelona has branches all over the country – along with one in the South End and another in Brookline – Osowski also sees this as a neighborhood restaurant. He and Chef Jose Ochoa add location-specific dishes to the menu, such as a recent braised cabbage with breadcrumbs and corn with yogurt. They also team up with a local mushroom picker, an old friend from Osowski’s harvest time.


In Barcelona’s new wine bar in Cambridge. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

He turns on the music, which even thumps into the street, and strives for a family atmosphere of a dinner. To that end, Osowski chooses local staff from Cambridge and Somerville, focusing on personality rather than pedigree.

“I’d rather have a person who is really fun and likes to make guests feel like they’re being taken care of,” he says.

Among those recently visiting guests: a Wikipedia-savvy MIT professor, couples on dates, a table of neat Harvard students living large, and a family with a small child. Essentially a cross-section of Cambridge.

Outside the Barcelona wine bar in Cambridge. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

what to eat By now, most of us are familiar with tapas, or small plates. You know the drill: Order four or five per person and share if you like. Highlights: crispy patatas bravas slathered with a creamy garlic aioli; a balsamic whipped ricotta, swirled with vinegar-roasted peppers and tomatoes; sliced ​​chorizo ​​and figs in sticky balsamic syrup; and strips of scallop crudo spiced up with lemon and harissa. A potato tortilla is admirably fluffy and fat-free, with just the right amount of chives sour cream — not too heavy or rich. The same goes for the slab of pork belly served atop a spicy, rust-colored piquillo puree, which is good enough to scoop up with a spoon.

Within Barcelona, ​​where the wine list is extensive.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

What to drink? There is an assortment of gin and tonics mixed with Fever Tree. Choose your botanical poison: elderflower, jasmine, cardamom, bay leaves. Also: mezcal and bee pollen; tequila and nutmeg; sangria; and sherry galore. The wine list is extensive, as it should be: try the well-priced trio of themed half-pours ($13.50 and up): Acid Trip (sour wines), an aperitivo exploration of sherry and vermouth, an “organic curious” biodynamic sampler, and more.

The Fruit Gintonic and Barcelona.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

the takeaway A cosy, bustling hotspot in a plum corner of Cambridge. The only downside: no reservations, so be prepared to hang out on the sidewalk (although a friendly server might get you a drink while you wait).

Barcelona Wine Bar, 1688 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-468-2200,

Kara Baskin can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.