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.
When first walking in, we thought we were entering just another Mexican takeout place, but after spending a few minutes looking around and chatting with the husband and wife team behind Dorado, we realized that this was something special. It isn't often that you see a large glass dispenser with homemade Sangria on the counter at a takeout Mexican place, or a variety of sauces to choose from to put on your freshly made tacos. As described by Rachel and Michael Brau, Dorado has "gourmet food at fast food prices. " Right around the corner from NYU, the restaurant has a constant flow of young people. There are a few tables for seating, so we placed our order and sat and enjoyed some tacos, including a vegetarian option and, of course, we had to share the guacamole. We were all quite satisfied as we moved on across 12th Street.