Spanish throwdown - what do you love?
Hi! Pennsylvania hound coming up to NY again. Had a ***wonderful*** time with your recommendations the last time (the fact that I just plain LOVE your city doesn't hurt, either), and interested in hearing your opinions on anything Spanish of tapas-y (our current obsession).
I just copied a bunch of listings from the NY Times and it looks like we could practically eat Spanish in every neighborhood (which is sort of amazing from my POV - in Philly, I think there are a whole two? Spanish restaurants). I'd love to hear your opinion of which of them is good, which overrated, etc.
My one caveat is that we'll have our 4-year-old with us. While he's an excellent chowpup and digs his jamon and polpo, we can't go to any uber formal, muy serioso temples to gastronomy where it's inherently impolite to be under the age of majority.
And the list...
Rincon de Espana
A 33 Crosby
Back from NY, and did we eat! It's almost a relief to be gone: we loved it so much, and there were so many things to eat and do and see, it was exhausting. I'm sure if you live there you eventually cool the hell out, but clearly that hasn't happened for us yet.
*Loved* La Nacional. That was the one and only Spanish place we actually went to. Had olives, polpo, garlic shrimp, veggie paella, rioja, cafe solo. Yum. Complete with older Spanish men watching futbol and one waitress (who did speak English, and who was the soul of patience).
Breakfast at the Flame diner every day. Whole grain waffles, bagels and lox, buckwheat pancakes, Californian omelette. (That was more than one day's worth of breakfast!) Great diner service. To make it perfect, they need to skip the corn syrup crap and offer actual maple syrup.
Had dinner at Bistro Citron on Columbus in the 80s. Loved the mussels Pernod, had the salade Citron, monkfish, hanger steak. Nice wine, well priced for a restaurant/for what it was. Waiter recognized us form last time and we had a nice time.
Lunch at Nice Matin. Ate at the bar with the two nicest bartenders in the world, one of whom made junior a virgin peach mojito. Had a good composed salad with smoked turkey, croque monsieur, a Moet et Chandon split, and espresso.
Dinner at Kum Gang San. Had intended (based on friend's recommendation) to go to Kang Suh, but we got confused. Were very amused by the self grilling, but not in love with the food. Had bipimbap, several kinds of kimchee, and barbecued short ribs and some other kind of beef. Eh. I'm glad we tried it, and I might try Korean again, but not there. The waitstaff was extremely nice to my son, bringing him extra fruit (without being asked - and no charge) and changing the television (!) so that he couldn't see the violent gunfight (!!!) that had been on.
Snack at Devon & Blakely or Berkely or something ostentatiously Englishy. Bleah. What kind of idiots sell (forgettable, overpriced) food and drink, have seating, and do not have a public restroom? It will serve them right when (not if) a pre-schooler pees on their seats. Or worse. It's gonna happen. Thankfully, it did not happen while we were there.
Take out dinner from Cilantro. Little guy conked out early in the hotel room, and DH ran out to get something decently portable. 2004 Argentinian malbec went really well with the world's largest pork chop, sweet potatoes, corn, salmon, spinach, and grilled summer veggies. Also had spicy chicken soup. I'm sure there are lots of more interesting take-out options, but we had no clue what they were; this was enjoyable, if not serious chow.
For tapas I enjoy Tia Pol and Boqueria as well. Back then when tapas were not so common in Manhattan I thought Casa Mono was great. But now where all these fantastic tapa places, I really don't see a compelling reason to dine at Casa Mono which IMO was extremely cramped and it was impossible to talk without hear the next two tables.
As I've said many times on this board, Urena is one of the most underrated restaurants in the city. Chef/owner Alex Urena is very talented, and his Spanish-inspired cuisine is truly creative and delicious. Wonderful tapas + the dishes on his regular menu, including his desserts, are inspired. It's a very comfortable place, i.e., nicely-spaced tables as opposed to the exceedingly cramped seating at Casa Mono. And I'm sure Urena's very friendly staff will make your son feel welcome.
Thanks for the feedback, everyone!
I'm sure this smacks of "tourist" (hey, not inaccurate) but: Is waiting inevitable for a good place? I just cringe to think of that.
You're right on the money about the built-in tension between goodness in tapas vs. child-friendly. Our plan of attack is to try to hit an off hour (and here that often means later than the dinner crowd, like 8 or 9, but I doubt that's possible in NY), order IMMEDIATELY, get sparkly water for junior, and kill time before the food arrives by reading stories, going to the can, walking outside, or (if we're not in the way) peeking in an open kitchen. An immediate plate of food is worth more than its weight in gold. Optimally, we chow down and leave before anyone gets twitchy.
I appreciate the word on the places to avoid and the addition of 1492. It was pretty clear that the Times listings were not all very current.
I would absolutely recommend Casa Mono-- especially now that you mentioned the open kitchen. They have two or three tables that are off to the left of the door when you enter. If you get one of those it would be possible to right next to a small/impressive open kitchen and be close to door if you need to get a little run around outside. The food there is phenomenal and I'm sure they would be willing to accomodate specific table requests. You can't go wrong with the food there-- if you're looking for specific recs and you end up there-- just hollar.
In my opinion, Casa Mono would be very difficult w/ a child...i've had rude and rushed service all three times i've been there, so much so, that i've stopped going entirely...it's very crowded and deafeningly loud...but, i suppose you might get lucky if you go at an off hour, but at Casa Mono that would prob mean going very early as opposed to very late ...food quality was mixed all three times: some delicious choices, some mediocre ones...
For a mellow and delicious meal w/ a child along, i'd say La Nacional is your best bet...the tapas are decent (and somewhat large portions) but the paella is excellent...
Unfortunately, a 4-year-old is a serious liability in your search for the best tapas place. The tastiest ones on your list are barlike in atmosphere: crowded, tiny and often with tall barstools instead of chairs. Tia Pol is my favorite, but the wait can be quite long unless you show up at an off hour, and it's definitely no place for a young child. Ditto for Casa Mono / Bar Jamon, Kaña, Las Ramblas, ñ, Global 33 and Xunta. Pintxos might work early in the evening, but is a total eurotrash party scene after 9 (great people watching!)
Any chance you can get a babysitter? If you can, the chorizo + chocolate app and the fried garbanzos at Tia Pol are so very good.
Don't bother with Pipa -- food is lousy.
My vote is Las Ramblas. But it'd probably be hard to dela with a four year old there. Tia Pol and Casa Mono/Bar Jamon are very good as well but also not a good place to bring a child.
I've had a couple solid meals at Pintxos. It's a better bet for a little one.
Not too good: Cafe Espnaol, El Cid, Euzkadi, and La Nacional