Despite the name, Hotel Tortuga is not a place for weary travelers, but a restaurant. Husband and wife team, David and Jean, opened Hotel Tortuga just a few years ago and describe it as a "cozy throwback to Acapulco 1952." We certainly appreciated their taqueria-style Mexican food with a comfortable atmosphere complete with drawings on the walls and a tin of crayons placed on each table. As for the food - one of us ordered a traditional Mexican dish, Chicken Pozole, which was stewed to perfection and served with lime. We also had a “Room 66” - a vegetarian chorizo burrito (soy protein) with spices and salad wrapped inside… But first thing's first: immediately upon our arrival, we were invited to grab some homemade chips out of a bin along with a cup of salsa and then, of course, we ordered a side of guacamole to complement this. We loved the ambiance, smell, and overall vibe, including David's laid back, yet friendly and helpful attitude.
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.