Tapas are often rooted in Spanish cooking, but Txikito specifically follows the Basque style, which prizes simplicity above all. The restaurant describes its menu as “austere but sensual,” citing a diverse selection of canapés, spicy spare ribs, and cold plates of octopus carpaccio as evidence.
Inspired by their extensive travels in Spain, Tía Pol owners Heather Belz and Mani Dawes created a menu that pays tribute to the country’s regional culinary styles. Tomato puree colors an 18-months-aged Serrano ham that’s served on a toasted baguette, and squid sits atop a blend of rice and its own ink.
While touring the Mediterranean, Il Bambino owners Darren and Melanie Lawless were taken with Spain’s tapas bars and Italy’s cafés. Both figure heavily in the couples’ paninoteca, where the tapas come with a thick Italian accent. Smoked tomatoes and roasted garlic butter accompany the marinated sardines, and the bresaola carpaccio gets its slightly piquant flavor from shaved manchego.
At the Boqueria market in Barcelona, shoppers move from stand to stand as they sample the various merchants’ foods. Boqueria Flatiron recreates this experience in Manhattan. Chefs attain fresh ingredients at the Union Square Greenmarket and use them to spice up a tapas menu that includes bacon-wrapped dates filled with almonds and valdeón.
Nearly everything inside this two-floor brownstone betrays evidence of craftsmanship, from the local art hanging in the indoor and patio dining rooms to the carefully curated list of Spanish wines. Even these pale in comparison to the tapas, which include boquerones, stuffed piquillo peppers, and wild mushrooms seasoned with garlic.
Unless you opt to stay at home, you will be hard-pressed to find a dining experience more intimate than that of Jack Lamb’s Degustation. A 16-seat tasting bar encircles the performance kitchen, where Spaniard Wesley Genovart stuffs squid with oxtail and braises short ribs before placing them on beds of pomme puree.
After leaving Boqueria, Next Iron Chef finalist Seamus Mullen opened his first solo restaurant, Tertulia. The experiential eatery quickly charmed Bloomberg into naming it their top new restaurant in 2011, thanks to Mullen’s penchant for Iberian ham and an open kitchen that nicely frames the artist at work.
Buceo 95’s kitchen stays open until midnight, giving chef Misha Ryklin plenty of time to craft her tapas with free-range, organic meats. Though her menu of vegetarian, seafood, and meat tapas is extensive, Ryklin specializes in pintxos that thread together smoked salmon and fried quail eggs on skewers.
Award-winning chefs Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Andy Nusser have shared a kitchen for years. In 2003, the trio opened Casa Mono to showcase Nusser’s creative approach to tapas. The native Spaniard particularly excels at unusual pairings—housemade fennel adorns sweetbreads, tomato caramel blankets beef tongue, and sunflower seeds add a crunch to tender duck hearts.
From the bulls that decorate the taps at the bar to the crispy bocadillos on his rotating menu, executive chef Fernando Echeeverri fills Las Ramblas with nods to his native home of Pamplona, Spain. Fresh, simple flavors shine through in rustic dishes such as rice-and saffron-stuffed peppers and york and serrano ham croquetas. The intimate atmosphere transports diners to the streets of Spain with large wooden tables surrounded by tall stools.
Deal or no deal, our editors strongly recommend these businesses based on their reputation, popularity, and quality of service.