If you’re the one in charge of deciding dinner, you have a couple options. You could send out a questionnaire to your date or group of friends asking: Is meat murder? Are you the sharing type? Where does your current diet fall on the scale from juice cleanse to Thanksgiving dinner? Or, you could suggest tapas.
Spaniards have been making everybody at the table happy with little bites of lots of things long before everyone else decided they only wanted to eat small plates. Tapas bars tend to have menus with everything from cheese croquettes to plates of octopus, and no one has to commit to just one dish. Whether you need to meet your former coworker who’s in a rush, or you want to share food and wine with friends over the span of three hours, use this guide to find the best tapas spots in NYC.
You need to choose a spot for your book club to get dinner after you finish discussing the new Nick Offerman book. You’re pretty sure three people are vegetarian, one guy seems to only eat cheese and cured meat, and the other four are primarily interested in cocktails. Get a big communal tables at Cata, a fun LES spot that looks like a converted fire station. The huge tapas menu has options for everyone, and there’s a long cocktail list including 12 different types of gin and tonics.
The barrels and signs in gothic font at Sala One Nine suggest a Medieval Spain exhibit in a children’s museum, and we’re fine with that. This place is shockingly large, romantically-lit, and realistically cavernous. It’s also a little more formal than some of your other tapas options - they have fancy meat platters, a long wine list, and servers who can help you figure out your order. We recommend this place for drinks and tapas after work in Flatiron, a date, or a group meal where people feel comfortable spending a bit.
El Quinto Pino is a tapas spot in Chelsea from the same people behind Txikito and La Vara, two of our other favorite places for Spanish food in NYC, but they serve some slightly more adventurous tapas - like noodle paella and deviled eggs with tahini. They have earned some fame for their uni panini, and you’ll feel left out if you’re the only one here who isn’t eating one. So we recommend ordering that, some of the potatoes covered in aioli, and whatever else calls out to you.
The menu at Donostia in The East Village is huge and mostly in Spanish, which are two good indications that you should be eating tapas here. The space isn’t very large, but there’s a long bar, a few high tables, and seats at the front window, so it’s perfect for dinner with someone you’re not sure if you’re trying to impress or not. Order a bunch of traditional pintxos (small bites on pieces of bread) or, if you want something more substantial, get a sandwich. If you close your eyes while eating a salt cod croquette here, you can plausibly pretend that you’re in Spain.
Being put in charge of a group dinner can make you want to find new friends. But Huertas is the solution that always feels like a relief. There’s plenty of space, you can easily make a reservation, and everyone will find something they want to eat at this Spanish place. Most of the dishes are a little bigger than your standard tapas, which makes them ideal for sharing (or for that one person in your group to do his own thing because he doesn’t eat anything besides potatoes). Your group should also get the pinxto sampler so that you'll have a bunch of excellent bite-sized dishes all over your table.
Txikito is a place in Chelsea that specializes in Basque food, so you’ll be eating seafood, little chorizo sandwiches, and meatier things like ribs and lamb meatballs. The highlight here is the squid ribbons, which may or may not sound appetizing to you, but they should be on your table. Much like Txikito’s nearby sister restaurant El Quinto Pino, this place has plenty of little two-person tables in a dimly-lit space that feels kind of like a small cabin.
La Vara is one of our favorite restaurants in NYC, and it’s also one of the best places to eat tapas in the city. However, unlike a lot of other spots on this guide that are great for groups, we feel the need to warn you that the food at La Vara is so good you won’t want to share it with all six members of your book club. We’d suggest you come to this charming little brick-walled spot with one or two other people who truly deserve that last little bite of lamb meatball, fried artichoke, or octopus.
Changing up your lunch order usually means adding some greens to your rice bowl. Planning anything more adventurous would infringe on the time you usually devote to finding out which Parks And Rec character you are, so we did the work for you. Go to Despaña - a tapas bar in Soho with a giant menu. We like the chorizo cooked in apple cider and thin slices of octopus over mashed potatoes, but the best part of this traditional tapas spot is asking for samples of Spanish cheeses and cured meats while you wait for your meal.
Maite is a big corner restaurant that’s a step up in fanciness from most Bushwick neighborhood spots. The food isn’t quite as traditional as other Spanish tapas places - they mix European and Basque flavors and put them into Latin American classics like arepas and empanadas. In the past, we’ve enjoyed the duck egg arepa and some squid ink burrata, but the small plates change all the time, so you can pretty much count on having to get up from your table a few times to look at the chalkboard menu on the wall.
Drinking a glass of wine and eating head-on prawns at Las Ramblas may temporarily make you forget where you are. Then you’ll see an NYU student stumble out of Down The Hatch after too many games of beer pong, and you’ll remember that you’re a block from Washington Square Park. Even still, this tiny spot is ideal for affordable drinks and tapas with a small group. Ask for a side of house bread, and dip it in the sauces after you finish your mussels or octopus.
El Born feels more like a Spanish bar (with a big food menu) than a restaurant. The long bar takes up most of the space, and there are almost as many drink options as there are dishes. We like their gin & tonics, which come with things like with rosemary and thyme, and are about the three times the size of gin & tonics anywhere else. Get one of those, or try one of their Spanish vermouths, along with classic tapas like papas braves and croquettes. This is a great place to come before a night out in Greenpoint or Williamsburg.
Tia Pol is yet another tapas option in Chelsea, and it’s a nice, straightforward place where you can sit at a bar and eat excellent croquettes. While there isn’t quite enough room for groups in the long, narrow space, it’s a great spot to bring one other person. We suggest a date - or maybe a friend who’s had a long day and wants to eat ham and tell you about it.
Everything at Lamano is cooked behind the bar, and since the whole space is the size of a studio apartment, you’ll essentially take a sauna in the fumes of frying potatoes and searing meat no matter where you sit. We like this dark space for casual dates, even though it’s a bit more expensive than some other tapas spots in the West Village. The small plates are all good, especially the egg tortilla with truffle and the thinly sliced octopus with fried potatoes. The bread is also free and fresh - two important adjectives for bread.
Tomiño is a great spot to meet someone for drinks and snacks when you don’t want another charcuterie board at a wine bar. You can sit or stand by the long bar at this affordable tapas spot in Little Italy, or get one of the sidewalk tables out front. Come here after work and order the octopus and the puff pastry filled with chorizo.
Why there are so many tapas options in Chelsea? We’re not sure, but Salinas is there too, and it’s great for when you might want to eat a meal that isn’t all tapas in a place that kind of feels like a lodge near a Spanish mountaintop. This restaurant is full of plush chairs and vases filled with flowers, and there’s nice open-air patio in the back. Come with a group and spend a decent amount of money on huge plates of paella and excellent charcuterie.
Boqueria is a chain with a bunch of locations around the city, but it’s still a solid spot for casual Spanish food and drinks. We like that the vermouth drinks here come on wooden boards with oranges, shishito peppers, cheese, and olives for no apparent reason other than DIY is trendy and cheese generally tastes good. In an ideal world, we’d show up here a few times a week and just order that, but the patatas bravas, bacon-wrapped dates, and spinach and fava beans should also be on your table.