The tapas trend took hold of New York back in the Y2k days. Some of the more precious instances of the trend have shuttered, but the survivors endured largely thanks to a dedication to the glorious cuisines of Spain’s many regions. Here are some of the biggest winners in the small plates race.
1 Tía Pol
Eternally packed, though that's understandable given its pint-sized setting. Tía Pol zeroes in on Basque cuisine, which is heavy on peppers, paprika and seafood grilled over hot coals. Mind the bill, which tends to add up fast, but don't let it interfere with your enjoyment of lamb skewers, green peppers and disarmingly smooth croquettes.
2 Degustation Wine & Tasting Bar
The small plates here are as French as they are Spanish. But although the postage stamp-sized Degustation may lack Iberian authenticity when it comes to menu items, the ability to see your food prepared right before your eyes at one of the 16 seats wrapping around the kitchen transports you to a Madrid cervezeria. Ignore the menu and go for a tasting menu full of molecular gastronomy-inflected bites.
Named after Barcelona's famed central market, Boqueria's Soho outpost benefits from slightly fresher digs than Yann de Rochfort's Flatiron original and a location conducive to apres-croquette revelry. There's also a deep wine list that will ease the pain of inevitable waits for a table. Once seated, any dish entailing lamb is a standout. Be sure to browse the small but quality cooking goods for sale on your way out.
4 Casa Mono
This relative old-timer comes from Mario Batali, an eccentric NYC staple more often associated with hearty Italian fare. Duck eggs are a must, and an ample steak is available for those looking for a more traditionally portioned meal. Be warned that space, enviably located on Irving Place, is tight. Good thing jovial chef Andy Nusser opened the relaxed Bar Jamon, serving tapas and desserts, next door.
The rare tapas restaurant whose interior doesn't aim to be as small as the plates. Pipa's quirky location next to ABC Carpet & Home is replete with dangling chandeliers, their price tags intact. The pitchers of sangria never stop coming out the door, thanks in part to the restaurant's popularity with birthday party planners. Bacon wrapped dates, a tapas joint obligation, are exceptional here.