You can't be unhappy at tapas time. There are all these yummy little plates vying for your attention. With bread in one hand and a glass of sangria in another, all's right in your dining kingdom. Sure, I am substituting food for other holes in my life, but at least I could have an imaginary tiara made out of olives. On with the final installment of Grub Burg.
7. Praise be to paella!! La Nacional in Chelsea has wonderful paella, served in an epic platter. The challenge is how one is to partake of this platter of ricey goodness after enjoying tapas time and awesome sangria times. Yeah, I lead a tough life.
Unfortunately, since it's been a few weeks, my pea-sized brain's not doing too well with the specifics of the tapas. The table was hectic with seven or eight people of meat-eating and vegetarian variety snarfing down over half the tapas menu. Definite recs: shrimp in garlic sauce and either/both red and white sangrias.
The is-this-a-restaurant first impression makes it easy to miss, even when you're looking for it. La Nacional is in the basement of the Spanish Benevolent Society and you might encounter futbol playing on the tube, old men drinking wine at the bar, and merriment in the cosy dark of the dining room. Sometimes, as we did, you will hear the rhythmic thud of flamenco dancers through the ceiling. We didn't go check it out though, since eight little piggies were nursing our very full stomachs, squealing all the way home. Truly a sexy bunch.
8. Oliva on the lower east side seems to have garnered great thumbs ups for their food as well as disappointments with their service. Well, at 6:30 on a Tuesday, the food was excellent, the service attentive, and with rain spitting outside on a gray and chilly fall-approaching day, you'll toast your table-mates with more glasses of sangria and thank the tapas goddesses (with all sorts of olive tiaras at their disposal) that you stumbled upon this place.
Starting out with a perfectly fine but few slices of manchego cheese platter tricked us because the six or seven plates that paraded triumphantly out afterwards were not only tasty but hearty, good-sized portions. Standouts: steamed mussels, which nature custom made for humans to sop up their steamed garlicky juices with never ending bread, fried calamari reminiscent of that of La Nacional, very lightly battered and perfectly accompanied with aioli, and 'txangurro' crabs breaded in panko with pepper and tarragon. The menu didn't ring exactly as 'authentic' as La Nacional, nor was the sangria up to their awesomeness, but this seems like a really fun place to while away some eating and drinking time when the restaurant's not too busy. Biggest con: advertising that they take amex and then telling us the machine was down when it came time to pay.
9. Cupcakes!! Last but not least in this batch of food entries is a visit to the lower east side's Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery. I'm not really part of the cupcake-crazed, but these lovely creations at $1.50 a pop pleased me well, even leading me to trade in my olive crown for ... more cupcakes, especially with names like Ooey Gooey and Sexy Red Velvet. Sugar Sweet Sunshine is a cosy café, and when I say cosy, be careful of the charmingly, old looking chairs.
And speaking of Olives and Sunshine, go see Little Miss Sunshine. Because I love it.