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Tia Pol Disaster

  • h

First of all, Tia Pol is about as wide as a matchbook and was as crowded as a pack of sardines. And after sitting on an uncomfortable stool for 35 minutes in the overcrowded bar (and waiting for a pitcher of sangria which never came!) my boyfriend and I were escorted to a tiny table with a stool drenched in wine, which I unknowingly sat on!! We complained to the waiter who insisted it was water and not white wine despite the fact that both the stool and my pants smelled like white wine. The waiter then took the stool and returned with a new one after about 10 minutes. We ordered the Sangria again, and when the waiter brought it he said it was on the house. That was a good thing because the Sangria was the worst I've ever had in my entire life. I would have hated to pay for something so horrendous. There wasn't one piece of fruit in this "sangria" and what we were given tasted like watered-down KoolAid. I don't know if the sangria always tastes like this or if this was a special concoction created for us because we were loud about our poor treatment. Well the food was decent to good, nothing spectacular, we ordered almost everything on the menu. We were in Spain last summer so we know what tapas should taste like and these were ordinary at best. I don't think we'll ever go back.

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  1. granting that everyone has a different thing they're looking for, and different taste, i disagree with your review..

    ate their recently for my birthday.. we were six and had the (only) booth in the back.. plenty of space and our staff experiences were completely the opposite of yours.. we enjoyed the sangria, drinking a few pitchers amongst our small group..

    i'm impressed that you were able to order "almost everything on the menu" with only two people.. as you're aware, the menu is relatively large, probably consisting of in excess of two dozen dishes.. we hit somewhere between 12 and 15 plates, repeating one or two dishes because we loved them so much..

    NYC tapas bars have a habit of being crowded and cramped.. check out Xunta, El Cid, even La Paella, and you'll see what I mean.. in fact, since you didn't enjoy Tia Pol at all, why not check out the other options and see where they fall in relation to Tia Pol?? you're not in Spain anymore..

    4 Replies
    1. re: jesse

      I find it plausible...not because I've been to Tia Pol (I haven't), but because I am probably the only one on this board to have had horrendous service at Union Square Cafe. We had, what I consider to be the worst waiter/service in NYC despite the history of Danny Meyer's service.

      So with that said...things happen. Chalk it up to a fluke AND lower your expectations a little. Spain and NYC can't compare when it comes to tapas. Just as I wouldn't seek out smoked herring in NYC after having the best of its kind in Kopenhaven.

      1. re: jesse

        "you're not in Spain anymore.."

        And so they have no right to expect great food? You'd NEVER make that comment if someone was complaining about an upscale French restaurant.

        1. re: Dave

          I posted my thoughts about this on the General Topics board, because it was way off subject for Tia Pol where I've never been.

          1. re: Dave

            look- we've bastardized tapas in the US.. in Spain they're served as small accompaniments to drinks.. usually, a place will specialize in one or two things in particular and not have a menu offering over two dozen choices..

            further discussion on Not About Food..

        2. Like you, we were in Spain last summer and have been lusting for tapas since, so have tried several places, none of which will make us forget those we had in Barcelona. But your experience at Tia Pol is sad. I'm sure it was totally colored by the disaster and, yes, I did find the sangria disappointing and watery so ordered wine the last time, which was terrific. They had the wonderful peppers and I've had some delicious tapas there, including a special of sardines the first time we were there. The place is cramped and uncomfortable, but if you go at an off hour and don't sit in muck or order the sangria, you may like it better. The owner is extremely sweet and this is her first place, so I'm sure she'd want to please you if you were to give her a chance. We'd gone to Azafran downtown, liked it the first time, less the second. And there's another tapas place near the UN that was pretty good. But nothing compares to Spain!

          1. I disagree with this review given my personal experiences @ Tia Pol. At least I wouldn't call the place a disaster.

            Service has been great, very attentive in fact, and the food spectacular. And I've been to Spain - yada yada yada - spent a summer there, and some of these items are better or as good as any Spanish tapas spot.

            I still don't understand how people can be so uncomfortable on their stools. I've been there for 2 hours and no problem.

            In the end, to each his own. I'll keep going, taking people, and recommending it. As I've learned in my own experience working in this industry, it's IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone, but at least I know firsthand Tia Pol does very well at providing great food and service.

            1 Reply
            1. re: TP

              well although i have reservations about that post one thing is true and that is the bar stools are bloody uncomfortable and i am not normally one to even notice things like that. also, i just don't see how a person with a purse or bag can sit there on the rather high stools (comfortable or not) holding on to it and enjoy eating at the same time.

              as for sitting on the wine spill, wellll, the bartender spilled a glass of red in my lap---coincidence? hmmm (kidding).

              finally, two people eating everything off the huge menu? come on -- hardly! we could barely get thru three or four items. the menu is huge and what we had was real good.

            2. Granted that we never sat on a drenched seat, we've had nothing but friendly, casual and efficient service at Tia Pol.

              A lot of posters here have been to Spain, too. Some much more than others. Without comparing to what Spain has to offer, my take is that the selection of very good tapas at Tia Pol is such a refreshing addition to the everyday varieties that other tapas place here serve.

              1. Give them a break-it's a small place that's quickly become very popular,and they are first time owners trying to deal with it.We are in New York,not Barcelona,and as a hot dog probably wouldn't be too great there,tapas will never be what it was in Spain.I thought that the food was quite good,yeah the servers needed help,and the bar stools could be more cushy.I could see that they were struggling with the crush of customers,and a green staff.Hopefully,some of the glitches will be weeded out,in due time.

                1. Sounds like they were very fair. I've sampled almost the entire menu at Tia Pol and the food is pretty darn close to what you'd get in parts of Spain. I cant think of any other tapas place in nyc that comes close. And if you want authenticity- why are you complaining about the size of Tia Pol? Aren't most tapas places crowded and small?

                  Tia Pol's menu is very far from "ordinary." What exactly did you try?

                  1. g

                    Tia Pol is definitely overrated! The long wait is totally NOT worth it. We've sampled pretty much everything on the menu, plus the specials they offered. They were just mediocre. I was disappointed because I went one time and there was a two hour wait so I went back again. It's in a not-so-convenient location either. Anyways, service wasn't good, space was totally tight.
                    For good tapas, I recommend going to either Sala or Alta. They have much better tapas.

                    1. Why not fly to Chicago and eat at Avec? ;) The best. I am eating at Tia Pol today and am anxious to compare it to Avec. High standards have been set....

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: matentupe

                        Um matentupe,

                        I won't compare Avec with Tia Pol because I don't think they are actually that similar. Tia Pol is very traditional rustic simple spanish tapas. Avec is more contemporary and has better presentation IMO. They both have their own appeals but I am not not sure if I will compare to the two directly.

                        Also, while I really like Avec and Blackbird, I don't think i will fly to Chicago just for them. There are plenty of excellent tapa and "blackbird-ish" places in New York. Tia Pol is not even the best of the breed when it comes to tapas.

                      2. that's too bad. Tia Pol is a favorite of my me and my girlfriend. It reminds me of my trip to Barcelona more than any other tapas place I've been to.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: ginsbera

                          Maybe it's gotten better since 2004? <grin?> We've still not made it there because of the no reservation policy. Any particular dishes that you'd recommend? It looks like a good place to try for lunch on summer Fridays, as my husband is trying to leave work early!

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            I've gone maybe a half dozen times in the past year or so and we've never had a bad dish or experience. I wrote a full review (see below), but overall the chorizo and chocolate, blistered piquilla peppers, patatas bravas, lamb skewers and fava bean puree are generally top notch.


                            1. re: ginsbera

                              How do you think it compares to Casa Mono (which I realize may not be as traditional a tapas place)?


                              1. re: MMRuth

                                Hi MMRuth,

                                May be I will chime in here. I had been to Tia Pol only for dinners and it had been awhile. However, I recalled that the suckling pig being very good. Very crispy skin and juicy meat. They also had sea snails, squid ink paella de fideos, fried big long green peppers (sorry forgot what those are called). The ham and cheese dishes were just ok.

                                As compared to Casa Mono, I found Tia Pol to be a bit simpler in their approach, only a few ingredients in one dish that highlight a certain ingredients. Dishes in Casa Mono tend to be more multi-dimentional, with more ingredients and more flavors packed in one dishes. More agressive in taste so to speak.

                                1. re: kobetobiko

                                  Thanks - appreciate it! My husband loves suckling pig - I'll see if they have it at lunch.

                                  1. re: kobetobiko

                                    Agreed with that assessment. Tia Pol has a more rustic, simple feel. Food is maybe less interesting, but very satisfying (especially those patatas bravas). Tia Pol is also no reservations and all bar seats (either at the bar or bar tables). There was an announcement this week that the chef, who was a partner in Tia Pol's opening, will be leaving (or has already left), so this might not be the best time to visit.

                          2. i've been to Tia Pol a few times and have found the food to be generally pretty good. Last time I was there however was not so great. I guess we ordered the wrong dishes because no in our party of three was impressed. The snails for example were a total waste. Also, we ordered a $30 pork special (the only dish we ate that night that I would consider very good) and the waitress took it away before we were done with it. I guess we were talking and didn't notice her clearing. We brought it up afterwards, but frankly, she didn't seem that concerned. I've been to this place at least 4 times and have enjoyed it, but after the last experience, I think I'm done. I know the owners have opened another place. Is Tia Pol on autopilot now?

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: psawce

                              I wouldn't say tia pol is on auto pilot by any means. I've been there on many different instances with small or large groups and there was only one somewhat dissappointing time (off putting service once). El Quinto Pino is the "new" offshoot, but they only serve a small menu and have no seats. I would say they will get back on track after removing the head chef, the dishes they cook aren't overly complicated (like someone said earlier). Casa Mono is more obscure, rare and inventive, but not neccessarily as authentic or approachable as Tia Pol (my opinion of course).

                              1. re: psawce

                                Hasn't there been a recent change in chefs at Tia Pol?

                              2. Went to Tia Pol the other night, and have been at least 4 times over the past year and it never disappoints. Hands down my favorite tapas place in NYC, and i just returned from a trip to Barcelona - very comparable! My go-to's here are the Chorizo con Chocolate - a very interesting and delicious interplay of salty and sweet, Patatas Bravas, Croquetas de Jamon, Razor Clams & Cockles, and the Suckling pig was quite delicious as well. The wait for a table is annoying but just go earlier and grab a drink down the street - they call you when your table is ready... Also my favorite red wine here which I HIGHLY recommend (and also drank repeatedly while in spain) is La Granja. Not too expensive either at $48 I believe.