I have a secret.
I’ve been a so-called blogger for over a month now and I still haven’t told you about my favorite restaurant in New York City.
It’s not because I want to keep it from you. I don’t, even though it’s minuscule and couldn’t handle the influx of traffic from my myriad readers (ha ha). No, I wouldn’t dare keep this place from anyone, it’s that good.
So I’m not holding back anymore: here it is, a full rundown on Tia Pol, located in Chelsea and my family’s all-time favorite restaurant in New York City.
The food: Tapas
The place: Tiny, hole-in-the-wall-esque but with a a few larger tables in the back for big groups.
The price range: So, so reasonable! Which is saying something because the phrase “Let’s get tapas” usually fills me with dread. What is it with tapas restaurants where the portions are tiny but the prices aren’t scaled down to match? At Tia Pol, food on its own almost always comes out to $20 per person. Drinks bring that up, but not too much.
The drinks: Wine and beer only, with a fabulous red wine sangria with orange slices and chopped apples. Apples are my favorite fruit to put in sangria since they retain their crunch. Also, it’s not too sweet.
Now, let me give you an exhaustive–or excruciating, you decide–rundown of what you should order.
Things you must have on your table:
Patatas bravas. They say you can’t live on bread alone. That may be true. I, however, could live on these patatas bravas everyday for the rest of my life and be obesely happy. There are many, many variations of this dish and I don’t really know which is the most authentic. Also, I don’t care.
At Tia Pol, they’re crispy fried potato chunks covered in creamy, garlicy, ever-so-slightly spicy aioli and sprinkled with paprika. Other restaurants will serve you patatas bravas where the “bravas sauce” or spicy red sauce and the garlic aioli are not combined but drizzled over the potatoes separately; others serve it with just the red sauce. At Tia Pol, they’re delightfully combined for the most delicious thing you will ever put in your mouth. I mean it.
(As an aside, when I studied abroad in Cadiz my host mother told me that what I was describing as “patatas bravas” were patatas al aioli, a cold potato salad in salty, overly garlicy mayonnaise. She made an enormous bowl for me and I had to eat the whole thing, in front of her, until I thought I was going to explode.)
Croquetas del día. Croquetas are fried oblong pieces of creamy goodness. Whatever the special croquette of the day is, get it. Sometimes it’s blue cheese, other times it’s caramelized onion, and they’re always good.
Paquetitos de jamón. Literally translates as “ham packages.” Which is accurate…if not appetizing. Basically, they’re little triangular packages of Serrano ham filled with a puree of artichoke and manchego cheese. They’re salty and delightful.
Pan con tomate y tres salsas. This one is your average Spanish restaurant fare–slices of bread rubbed with garlic, olive oil and tomato. It comes with 3 spreads: marinated red peppers, olive tapenade, and pureed fava bean.
Pinchos morunos. These are skewers with three pieces of juicy, tender, slightly rare lamb. The skewers come with a chunk of bread on the end to soak up the juices, which is genio.
Piquillos rellenos de pisto: As an alternative to shishito peppers (see below), consider these hollowed out piquillo peppers, filled with a caponata of squash, eggplant and tomato and served in a river of sheep’s milk cheese.
Things you might want on your table:
Pimientos estila gernika: Blistered shishito peppers are on pretty much every menu these days so its hard to get excited about them. They’re basically a nice vessel for flaky sea salt, and usually fairly mild, but every once in a while you get a killer so proceed with caution.
Chorizo el jerez: It’s chorizo, you know what to do.
Gambas al ajillo: If you’ve ordered all of the above and are still hungry, you are a savage. Just kidding, but consider ordering these shrimp cooked in blistering hot garlic oil. They’ll hit the spot and the oil is fantastic when mopped up on the lamb bread.
Things I’ve had once but will definitely have on my table next time I go:
Ensalada de alcachofa: Shaved white asparagus and greens, topped with a tangy lemon vinaigrette and…wait for it…fried artichokes. Dios mio.
Chanquetes en adobo: Fried fish. Imagine eating these with patatas bravas for the most insane fish and chips of your life. I plan to test this theory ASAP.