Matt Weir of Manchester Township shares his food with his wife, Darlene, during their date at La Casa de Tapas on Jan. 21. The North George Street
Matt Weir of Manchester Township shares his food with his wife, Darlene, during their date at La Casa de Tapas on Jan. 21. The North George Street restaurant serves Peruvian and Spanish foods, and has recently increased food portion sizes. (FLIPSIDE -- CHRIS DUNN)

Joyce Salazar didn't want to compete with other downtown York restaurants when she opened La Casa de Tapas.

The business consultant instead decided to provide something that wasn't offered.

A laid-back eatery that serves Spanish and Peruvian cuisine seemed like the perfect choice - especially because of tapas trending in larger cities and because her chef husband, Ricardo, is Peruvian.

"I knew it was up-and-coming, and York was a little behind," said Salazar, who has consulted 654 businesses on the East Coast.

After a year in business, she said the restaurant has exceeded her expectations and that she plans to open several independently-operated franchises in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Baltimore and Rehoboth Beach.

I stopped by for a late lunch recently.

However, I had eaten at the restaurant for the first time for a friend's birthday dinner the night before. I had been to tapas restaurants in bigger cities, but I wasn't sure what to expect in York.

The mid-sized restaurant overlooks Sovereign Bank Stadium and has a comfortable, yet chic atmosphere with salmon-colored walls and black chairs, tables and stools. Upbeat Latin-American music played as I looked over the menu.

I ordered a tomato basil salad and seafood paella. The salad was a small bed of spring mix - with a hearty helping of tomatoes, onions and vinaigrette - and bites of fresh mozzarella and croutons.

I liked how the savory dish was mostly the tomato mixture rather than a heaping pile of lettuce.

The seafood paella was mussels, scallops, shrimp and calamari mixed with rice and what tasted like a touch of olive oil.

I loved how each item was an appropriate serving size. Though people traditionally share tapas, two plates were just enough.

Salazar said some customers were originally reluctant because of the smaller portions, so she beefed them up a bit and slightly increased prices.

The business recently started offering $5.95 Mexican lunches, including quesadillas, burritos, taco salad and nachos, plus a drink.

Server Melina Digruttoa serves Lisa Boll of Dallastown at La Casa de Tapas.
Server Melina Digruttoa serves Lisa Boll of Dallastown at La Casa de Tapas. (FLIPSIDE -- CHRIS DUNN)

She said that after several months in business, she learned people wanted a tasteful, inexpensive lunch.

"They couldn't associate tapas with lunch," Salazar said. "They think of tapas as sitting an hour and a half and drinking a bottle of wine."

She said she wants people to feel comfortable and relaxed while dining.

"We're not a restaurant where we're here to turn tables," Salazar said. "We want (customers) to come and stay as long as they want."

Cheap Eats profiles local restaurants, aiming to please our palates and our wallets. Reach Leigh Zaleski at 771-2101, lzaleski@ydr.com, @leighzaleski.

If you go

LOCATION: La Casa de Tapas, 251 N. George St. in York

CUISINE: Peruvian and Spanish

LEIGH'S PICK: Tomato basil salad and seafood paella ($18.98)

PARKING: Yes

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

PRICE RANGE: $4.95 to $13.95

ALCOHOL: Yes

SMOKING: No

ACCEPTS: Cash and credit

TAKEOUT: Yes

KID'S MENU: No

DETAILS: Call 668-8915 or visit www.tapasyork.com