With so many coffee shops featuring increasingly complicated menus, 9th Street Espresso has instead opted to keep it simple with a menu of only four drinks: brewed coffee, iced coffee, espresso, and espresso with milk. This devotion to minimalism is echoed in the café’s décor: the original’s 10th street neighbor is located in a slender, uncluttered space with white walls, wooden floors, and little seating. Here too, coffee is the main event: the café’s central wall decorations, complementing an elegant map of the world, are ground coffee displayed in wall pockets close to the back of the store.
Beneath the Spanish Benevolent Society lies La Nacional, one of Manhattan’s most authentic Spanish restaurants and the most easily accessible part of the society. Just by walking down the steps into the dimly lit basement lounge, we felt the bustle of 14th street quickly recede and we were transported across the ocean. La Nacional has the same relaxed, no frills atmosphere as most tapas bars in Spain. We gazed at the old photographs from the society’s earlier years on the walls and then had the option of sipping a drink at the bar, sampling some classic simple Spanish tapas such as tortilla de patatas, croquetas or chorizo, or dining on a full meal of paella. Perhaps the most authentic option, though, was to simply have a seat by the television to watch the fútbol game - it is always on. For visitors from Spain who want a taste of home, those of us pining for the Spanish travels of our past, or New Yorkers simply curious about a new culture, La Nacional is the place to go.