Because I am a lover of Tapas, I edited the whole recent thread on Tapas (minus the !!!'s) down to this digest:
El Cid - I'll second the recommendation of El Cid. . They have fantastic Spanish wines (try the Marques de Riscal, Rioja 1995) And definitely try the sweetbreads... my choice for great Tapas in NYC. Did anyone ever have the angulas? I've had eel in many incarnations but not here. Also, their ajillo sauce is superb . a wonderful bartender and I just adore the garlicky potato salad (15th street between 8th and 9th). Awesome tortilla and shrimp of all kinds. Owner is named Yolanda, very nice but gets crowded. one of my favorite restaurants in nyc.
N - I always liked n (enya) on Crosby but haven't been in years . that place is even smaller and it's really
more of a bar these days.
Solera - is wonderful but is an upscale Spanish restaurant, not a lively tapas bar.
Tapastry - I've enjoyed Tapastry but the caveats that others have pointed out certainly apply .; it's an "American Tapas" restaurant -- small plates -- but no Spanish food. Picture a downtown version of Hi Life. Definitely not worth your time or money.
Xunta on 1st Ave. may be precisely what you're looking for: based on the sound level in the room, it is truly a Tapas Restaurant!!(It's also very good; it's the tapas bar recommended in Jim's book.) On a good night, Xunta is just like being in Spain. But there haven't been many good nights in a long, long time. Last time I was there, they'd sprinkled my pulpo (octopus) with CORN oil (!!!), and it was tough and cold. I've also had very very serious pulpo Gallego there....but, again, not in quite a while .But they've still got a socko selection of alarinos, the young white wines that are the Galician versions of Portuguese vinho verde. Ask to drink 'em out of "tazon", or ceramic bowls. Cool.
Sala - One place to avoid is Sala, a new place on the Bowery. The decor is Hyatt-Hotel-does-Spain, the prices are inflated, the food precious and fussy, and the portions tiny. And my waiter didn't know what manzanilla was. (Not a failing in any normal human being, mind you, just in a server in a tapas bar.)
Miegas - Not long ago I tried a new place on Hudson called Miegas (sp?). The food was nice and the atmosphere at the tapas bar was excellent
Rio Mar, which greatly resembles (lousy wine and thick cigarette smoke included) the basic tapas bars in the working-class districts of Madrid. Spicy chorizo, octopus sizzling in olive oil, teeth-stripping rioja: they've got it all.
There's another place on Bedford at 7th Ave that always has people in it. it's also a little larger so you might have an easier shot of sitting down quickly. unfortunately i cannot remember the name or vouch for the food. But they've been in there for a while now even with a location that's less thanprimo, so it might be worth a shot.
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