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Chelsea - New york, NY

Spanish, Tapas


239 West 14th Street

New York, NY 10011 (view map)

T: 212.243.9308




With the exception of a small sign and a freestanding chalkboard on the sidewalk of a transitioning block on West 14th Street, there isn’t much to guide you into one of the best and most authentic Spanish restaurants in New York City. La Nacional counts chocolate guru Jacques Torres and tapas chef extraordinaire Alex Raij among its fans. But finding it requires a keen eye. First, you must spot the Spanish Benevolent Society. It’s located in a townhouse that clearly shows its age which dates back to the 1800’s. While its doesn’t have a glamorous exterior, it does have a golden history.  Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, poet Federico García Lorca, and even JFK have all visited the social club that opened its doors back in 1868.

Don’t be deterred by the exterior.  For that matter, don’t be deterred by the interior.  To get to La Nacional, you must first walk a few steps down a dark hallway, pass a florescent-lit bar filled with ex-pats watching Spanish television. There you make a u-turn, which puts you in the dining room. Yellow-colored walls and wooden tables create a homey setting. The crowd is a mixture of families speaking Spanish and hipsters there for the food.

The reason we’ve suggested you go this far is for the food. The tapas are spot-on and a few of our favorites include:

- creamy and crispy-fried croquetas, which alternate flavors weekly: cod, mushroom, ham and cheese, and chicken

- boquerones, which have a surprising sweetness to them, and should not be missed

- gambas al ajillo, float in olive oil and have just the right amount of garlic

- patatas bravas, which they translate in English as fierce potatoes.

The paellas are filled with fresh vegetables and array of seafood. There is also a vegetarian paella.  The socorrat, the caramelized rice that sticks to the bottom of the paella pan, is crusty and delicious. The wine list is filled entirely with inexpensive Spanish finds. They also serve refreshing sangria, which can tend toward the fruity depending on the day.

This is the first of two tapas/paella bars by chef Jesus “Lolo” Manso, La Nacional being the older. Lolo opened La Nacional in 2001, with a simple and honest idea: he would serve the traditional food he grew up with in Valladolid, Spain, using recipes from his sister and mother. “Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.” Lolo said to us recently over an afternoon drink at the club, as Spanish CNN played in the background and the line cooks were making flan. “Know your roots, know your flavors and make food you enjoy.”

Spanish tapas bars have become a huge trend in New York in the last few years, but La Nacional was not invented by some restaurant concept consultant, this place is the real deal.


Details of Lolo Manso’s recommendations on where to eat and shop for Spanish food in New York.

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La Nacional