Tapas 177 is a place where you’ll find original martinis, live entertainment, fancy eclectic food and people dancing on the bar. Located at 177 St. Paul Street, it’s an upscale lounge with excellent service and a classy but comfortable atmosphere. It’s set up with a large bar area upstairs and a more intimate dining room and dance floor downstairs.

A lot of people say that Tapas serves the best martinis in Rochester, and we won’t disagree.

The drink list offers more than 20 different kinds, including peach, apple, chocolate, lemon drop and orange milano. Some of our favorites are the caramel apple and the 177 ? Skyy vodka, raspberry liqueur, a splash of grenadine and sour mix. At $6 and $7, they’re not overpriced, when you consider that a martini is basically pure alcohol.

The dinner menu, which changes on a weekly basis, is a fusion of world cuisines with a strong European and Mediterranean influence. Most known for its appetizers, Tapas offers complex-sounding starters such as gourmet empanadas and goat cheese and grilled quail salad.

The portobella bruschetta is delicious. The lobster spring rolls are a great combination of textures, with tender seafood nestled in a crispy wrapper and topped with crunchy noodles.

Entrees include a light, flavorful Mediterranean pasta, as well as creations such as pan-seared Ahi sashimi tuna and tortilla-crusted chicken. Prices are a little high, with appetizers averaging $10 and entrees ranging from about $13 to $24.

The food is great, but the most memorable aspects of the Tapas experience are the service and the atmosphere. Because the place is so nice, we expected the servers to be snobby, but the waiters and bartenders are incredibly polite and attentive. The dining room is really romantic and cozy, with candles, couch seating and pillows. The dcor is tasteful and the floor area is great for dancing.

One of the first restaurants and nightlife destinations to open on St. Paul Street, Tapas essentially spearheaded the rise of the St. Paul entertainment district. This is evident on a Friday or Saturday night, when the place is absolutely packed. Weekend nights are over 21, and the scene is mostly mid- to late 20s.

There are DJs on Fridays and salsa bands on Saturdays. Every first Monday of the month is Greek night. On Thursdays, Tapas offers free salsa lessons from a nice man named Ariel. They are supposed to start at 9:30 but rarely begin before 10:30. Look for a lot of UR faces on Thursday nights. If the awesomeness of the salsa regulars intimidates you, just knock back a couple of martinis and soon you too will be ready to shake your hips like a fool.

Le and Ambati can be reached at cle@campustimes.org and mambati@campustimes.org.

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