New York City's bustling, hurried lifestyle has made Spain's tradition of relaxing with small plates of tapas and a glass of wine a welcome culinary fixture. At the city's best Spanish restaurants and wine bars, find rustic morsels like wispy serrano ham slices, plump head-on shrimp and crisp patatas bravas meticulously paired with complex Iberian reds, whites and sherries. From a tiny Basque standby in Chelsea to a bustling butcher shop inside of a giant food court, these are the best restaurants for tapas NYC has to offer.
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Best restaurants for tapas in NYC
Given that Boqueria is named for Barcelona’s centuries-old food market, you might expect the menu to lean toward the classics. Not quite. Chef Marc Vidal offers up creative riffs on classics like quail eggs and chorizo spread onto toast, and skewered lamb sourced from Colorado and served with pickled shallots and salsa verde. The Flatiron location is small and the bar area packed; a better bet is the 16-seat communal table, where you can nibble shaved jamón under the glow of filament bulbs.
This counter-only fine-dining operation from Jack and Grace Lamb (Jewel Bako) delivers inventive, seasonal small-plates cuisine. The kitchen churns out contemporary Spanish dishes such as a decadent slow-poached egg with lamb belly and smoked maple and a high-low mashup of snap peas with Funyuns, cashews and clothbound cheddar. Add the professionalism of the staff and thoughtful wine list, and the result is a truly special night out.
Chef Seamus Mullen charms the West Village with Tertulia, a solo endeavor evocative of that causal taberna you might stumble upon during a road trip through northern Spain, somewhere between San Sebastián and Gijón. Here, Mullen offers an idealized spin on old-fashioned fare like hand-sliced wisps of jamón on toast and spiced potates with just the right amount of crunch.
Alex Raij and Eder Montero's multiregional tapas bar issues challenging dishes, including the lauded miniature wasabi-kissed sea urchin “panino," at a moon-shaped bar lined with antique Spanish tiles. El Comedor, a larger dining room opened behind the original 400-square-foot bar, adds breathing room as well as an expanded menu that includes tapas both cold (Cantabric anchovies with vanilla butter, egg and potato omelette) and hot (Castillian bacon, Moorish lamb skewers).
Offal-loving partner Mario Batali and protégée Andy Nusser (Babbo, Po) broke new ground by serving dishes that less adventurous tapas restaurants seem to shy away from: pig ears with chilaquiles, and excellent fried sweetbreads in an almond-flour batter. For nonorgan lovers, there's a juicy skirt steak atop romesco sauce and the iconic fried duck egg. Dishes come straight from the open kitchen into the dining room, which is adorned with mosaic tile floors and lined with wine bottles.
This tiny wine bar from Mario Batali and chef Andrew Nusser sits adjacent to Casa Mono, their Spanish eatery. Sneak into a space along one of the communal tables before selecting from the impressive Spanish wine list and small bites menu. Supplement a dish of tapas touchstones like tortillas, tuna and serrano ham with a vivacious chorizo and house pickled peppers number.
This buzzy limestone grotto feels like a party most nights, with brightly hued cocktails and a menu that captures the boisterous spirit of authentic tapas-style dining. The small plates here are boldly flavored and actually portioned to share. With an emphasis on seafood and pasta, there are deep bowls like Berkshire pork belly with baby shrimp, kabocha and spicy pumpkin seeds and a popcorn-crusted octopus. Get into the fiesta spirit of the place with offerings from a list of wines, rose and sangria.
It may look unremarkable from the street, but this completely unpretentious and absolutely authentic Spanish tapas restaurant is one of the best in the city. When a table frees up in the cozy, roughly hewn dining room, order the sangria and sample as many small plates as you can. The changing menu recently included boquerones (anchovy fillets), calamari and shrimp, liberally doused in garlic, and a subliem paella. The pan brims with chicken, shellfish and rice basking in a succulent stock that smacks of the ocean. Temporarily closed, scheduled to reopen June 1.
Seamus Mullen's meat-and-provisions offshoot of his Gotham West Market tapas bar lives up to its name (el colmado means "the grocer" in Spanish). Along with small-plate staples (patatas bravas, daily tartare), Mullen turns out whole rotisserie chickens herb-brined for 24 hours. Pressed sandwiches and Brooklyn Roasting Company coffee are available at a grab-and-go counter, while a larder is stocked with imported Spanish olive oils and vinegars. The butchery sources meat from farms upstate, Pennsylvania and Vermont for cuts like lamb leg and pork chops, plus house-made sausages and terrines. After dark, the white oak butcher-block counter converts to a wine bar, pouring Spanish bottles and local on-tap varietals from Long Island and the Finger Lakes.
Young guns Jonah Miller (Maialino) and Nate Adler (Blue Smoke) team up for this Basque-inflected spot, serving pitch-perfect pintxos (duck liver mousse, mussels) and shared raciones (bavette steak, saffron fried rice with shrimp and bacon) in a garlic-perfumed bar area and back dining room. House-made vermouth and a well-appointed selection of wines round out the lusty offerings.
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