NYCReview

The Spaniard image

The Spaniard

Bar Food

West Village

$$$$Perfect For:Big GroupsBirthdaysDay DrinkingDrinks & A Light Bite

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Going out on a boat for the day is great, but taking a 10-day cruise is far less enjoyable. In both situations, you’re out on the open ocean getting sunshine and not catching fish. But one gets you back to shore before you run out of limes for your beers, while the other leaves you with a shot glass from St. Lucia, a desire never to eat shrimp cocktail again, and the lingering thought that maybe you should have spent your money elsewhere. The experience is more fun when it’s casual and low-commitment, and we feel the same way about The Spaniard.

The Spaniard is a bar on a busy stretch in the West Village with an extensive cocktail menu and over 100 types of whiskey. There are a couple TVs that show major sporting events, but this place is much more of a cocktail bar like The Happiest Hour than wherever you watch the first half of Knicks games. While the food is probably better than it is at that sports bar, it’s also considerably more expensive. Overall, you’ll have a better time if you use The Spaniard as a bar rather than a restaurant.

We’re clearly not alone in liking The Spaniard for day drinking and for after-dinner cocktails with a group. The whole space - a big horseshoe bar with booths along the walls and a separate dining room - tends to be packed every night and all day on weekends. A lot of West Village bars get crowded, but they’re usually dark, small spaces where you lose your voice trying to yell over deadmau5 blasting from the speakers. The Spaniard, though, is a multi-room space that never gets too loud or dark, where you can comfortably speak with friends or even try to move beyond your “no new friends” policy.

But the crowds that make this a fun spot to get drinks also make eating a full meal here a fairly unpleasant experience. The tables always seem to have reserved signs, even though some remain empty for hours, and if you sit at the bar, you’ll have crowds three-deep shouting “whiskey ginger” over your head throughout your meal.

The Spaniard image

The Spaniard serves elevated bar food, like buffalo wings with duck, a ribeye with housemade steak sauce, and lobster toast - and it’s just alright overall. In most cases, the twists don’t actually make the dishes taste better - in the case of the wings, for example, any duck flavor is lost under the grainy, mild buffalo sauce. While some things are pretty good - like the patty melt - the prices all feel a few dollars too expensive, and $25 is more than we’re looking to spend on a patty melt and fries.

Dinner at The Spaniard is generally disappointing, but perhaps that’s due to unrealistic expectations. We had (and continue to have) good times drinking at the bar, and we got ahead of ourselves thinking the food could be great as well. It’s yet another reminder that just because something is enjoyable in small doses, it doesn’t mean that more of it will be pleasant as well. Ten days chugging Pepto on a floating amusement park should have taught us that.

Food Rundown

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Oysters Rockefeller

These are pretty tasty, but know that any oyster flavor is masked by the melted parmesan. If you’re OK spending $18 for six very rich bites of spinach dip, add some hot sauce.
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Chopped Broccoli

Much like the TV show Dexter, this grabs your attention at first, and then goes downhill. Pecans give it nice crunch, but it’s a really big portion that gets seriously salty as you work your way through all the feta. This could be a good starter to share, though, if eating something green makes you feel better about the burgers and wings on your table.
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Buffalo Duck Wings

We’re usually disappointed with the results of our never-ending search for high quality buffalo wings, and the disappointment continues here. The duck wings are less meaty than their chicken counterparts, and the flavor of the meat gets lost under a ton of grainy, mild sauce. If you’re not a blue cheese fan, make sure to tell your server, because the wings come topped with crumbled blue cheese.

Steak Tartare

The tartare is very tender and we like the dijon that’s mixed in, but the brown bread crackers have a really strong flavor that overwhelms the meat. So either eat this with a fork, or just get your meat fix from the burger or the patty melt.
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Patty Melt

Served with dry aged meat and some blue cheese, this is the best thing here, and should be on your table, as long as you’re fine spending $25 (with fries).
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Burger

This is a very solid take on a fast food burger that looks like it came straight from a Mickey D’s photo shoot. The sauce on top causes the squishy bun to slide off and it’s tough to avoid spilling melted cheese, but just ask for a lot of extra napkins. And wear a bib.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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