Starlight Cafe's Tapas Night: Small plates, big flavor

I've never been to Spain ... but I've been to Tapas Night at Greenville's Starlight Cafe. And was it ever delicioso!

Chef Tobias Boutiller has created a menu of both hot and cold small plates -- called tapas in Spain -- which shine a spotlight on fresh, local ingredients. The tapas are offered on Thursday nights as appetizers or combined to create a meal.

Chef Toby was inspired to create the tapas menu after he tasted a particular North Carolina cured ham by Lady Edison in Johnston County.

Billed as "extra fancy country ham," it's comparable to Spanish Iberico ham -- and it won a 2017 Good Food Award. Toby tasted that rich and buttery cured pork and immediately purchased a whole ham, bought the equipment to cradle it in a place of honor on the back of the cafe's bar, and decided the best way to serve it to patrons was sliced paper thin -- bare, on its own, to let the savory flavor speak for itself.

Also on the Tapas menu: * Marinated roasted local seasonal vegetables; * Hard-boiled fresh Starlight Farm eggs with olive oil and herbs; * Marinated olives; * Pickled fresh beets; * House-made sourdough bread topped with a tomato and garlic spread; * Manchego cheese with house-made preserved figs; * Marinated shrimp salad with capers and lemon; * Starlight Farm Beef meatballs in red wine; and * Mushrooms with roasted garlic and lemon.

Toby dishes up the plates at the bar -- and expertly slices the ham to order.

Bill and I decided to try all 10 tapas on the menu on a recent Thursday night. We shared and savored the food, discussing each one as we sampled the fare that highlighted our local products in a unique way.

For $5 a plate, Starlight has created an affordable and fun way to shake up your dining experience in Greenville.

The Tapas Menu is served from 5:30-9 p.m. on Thursdays only.

Starlight Cafe is at 104 W. Fifth St in Uptown Greenville. For reservations, call 252-707-9033.

Owned and operated by the Boutilier family since 2000, Starlight Cafe also has its own local farm and grows and produces many of the ingredients used in the cuisine.

Jane Welborn Hudson, a native of Greenville, wrote The Daily Reflector's Hot Dish restaurant column for 12 years and the Greensboro News & Record's Short Orders restaurant column for 8 years. Email her at