German Village hot spot Barcelona embraces its role as the city's special-occasion destination

The lush oasis of Barcelona's patio in the center of German Village is widely acknowledged as the city's most romantic outdoor dining spot. First dates, birthdays, proposals, anniversaries-Barcelona is a natural choice for those looking to impress.

That patio feels almost tropical, overflowing with potted leafy plants and flower-filled hanging baskets. (And to add to the charm, the staff even plants and cares for the patio landscaping themselves!) Bright blue umbrellas provide shelter from the sun, and lanterns offer soft, flattering illumination.

If you don't snag a table on the patio, though, don't despair. Inside it's nearly as lovely. Exposed-brick walls in the century-old space are covered in work from local artists. Often, a musician sits up front, strumming on an acoustic guitar. Factor in the perpetually low lighting, and you've got a reliably enchanting backdrop for any occasion.

Perch at the bar-an impressive carved wood specimen-for a few cocktails before settling in for your meal. The Caipirinha is tailor-made for steamy nights. It's a refreshing Brazilian cocktail made from cachaca, a rum-like spirit, mixed with soda, sugar and lots of lime juice. The Cactus Rose is a neat specialty drink with rosemary-and-lemon-infused vodka, ginger ale, agave syrup and a squeeze of lemon.

Every meal at Barcelona starts with a little lagniappe, a tiny treat from the chef. It's just one of many touches that make every trip to Barcelona feel like a special occasion.

Spain is synonymous with tapas-style dining, and Barcelona specializes in small plates. Tapas tasting menus are perfect for couples who like to share their food. For $30, you get six constantly changing small plates plus a dessert.

Or, order a couple of tapas from the regular menu as appetizers. The Mejillones con Pimenton ($9) are outstanding-briny steamed mussels cooked in white wine with onions and garlic, topped with a smoked paprika cream sauce. Use the grilled baguette slices to sop up all those salty juices.

Also memorable are the Gambas al Ajillo ($9), sauteed shrimp with some pickly Basque peppers and chile flakes.

A diverse lineup of salads and chilled soups includes winning options like the Tomates y Mozzarella ($7)-mixed greens topped with roasted chopped tomatoes and fresh mozzarella and drizzled in basil oil and a honey balsamic reduction-and the Sopa Fria de Pera ($6), a chilled pear soup laced with crumbled Covadonga Spanish blue cheese.

Like the country that inspired it, Barcelona is famous for its paella, a rice dish cooked with a variety of meats and seafoods. The Paella Barcelona is the restaurant's signature dish. Served in a cast-iron pan, this stunner features a bed of basmati rice and peas studded with roasted chicken chunks, housemade chorizo sausage, plump pink shrimp, squid, clams and mussels.

If you want a twist on that classic, try the Paella des Mariscos con Curry ($27), a curry-spiked version made with mussels, shrimp, crabmeat, a lobster tail and flavorful piquillo peppers.

Another notable entree is the Vieiras ($25), pan-seared sea scallops. The sweet, tender shellfish are sauteed until just browned, and served in a lovely pool of cream sauce that picks up flavor from salty bacon and baby lima beans. Chopped mushrooms and, surprisingly, dates, add some textural interest to the delectable melange.

For dessert, don't pass on the Barcelona Bread Pudding, a super-rich, super-moist indulgence made with raisins, cherries, and white and dark chocolates. It's served warm with vanilla ice cream.

It's just the kind of treat that keeps diners coming back.

Shelley Mann is the editor of Columbus dining magazine Crave. For more, visit ColumbusCrave.com.