Hot potato, the earliest dish designed to be passed, is nearly extinct because of the constant ravages of grade-school appetites. Today's Groupon revives rotating refreshments: for $25, you get $50 worth of tapas, sangria, and Spanish-style eats at Oliva Restaurant and Bar, located on the Lower East Side on Houston Street.
Selected by Citysearch as their 2008 pick for Best First Date Spot, Oliva is a lively and social eatery. Shake things up with a Crayola-hued libation from their new cocktail list, including a juicy mango margarita ($10) or the el marlin, a jalapeno-infused Chinaco blanco tequila with cilantro, fresh grapefruit, and lime ($10). Oliva also features wines and bubbly by the glass or bottle, beer, sangria, and tequila to sip on. An extensive tapas menu presents plenty of small-plated possibilities. Nosh on bacon-cuddled dates ($9), fried stuffed olives ($8), or calamari served with aioli ($10). Cater to heavier cravings with grilled skirt steak ($21) or roasted chicken sided with olive-oil mashed potatoes ($21). Soups, salads, and cheese plates round out the menu. For dessert, fork vanilla-bean flan ($6) or Oliva's take on the cheesecake ($7).
Live music on select nights coupled with a seductive dining room bathed in soft light helps to attract a buzzy, vibrant crowd. For almost a decade, the centrally located eatery has served as an epicurean passport to an energetic, internationally spiked evening. Tango, Latin pop, and Cuban salsa sounds take the edge off a blind date, and the finger-friendly menu is ideal for large groups or shy stomachs.
- We might have missed a Jimmy Choo or two under the tiny, painted tables. But it seems that Oliva is full of youngish dressed-for-comfort East Villagers here for the fabulous Basque cooking, not for a teeny martini and a lettuce leaf. Don’t miss the pintxos plate, a collection of savory two-bite tapas. – New York
- With a salsa Cubano band playing most nights of the week, this spirited sangria-and-tapas eatery often gets as loud as the corner of Houston and Allen outside. – Time Out New York