“Everything is good here,” a customer told me when she saw me staring at the menu. She pointed to her dining companion. “She’s had the Tuna Nicoise three times!” One of the Manhattan Sideways members followed her advice, and immediately understood why the woman had ordered the same thing thrice. The carefully rolled crepe was alternatively crispy and soft, with delicate folds of batter and crunchy vegetables. Though the cone was jam-packed with ingredients, the result was still light and fresh. Each layer of the crepe brought a different sensation and the carefully placed paper holder caught any falling bits of the finger-food.
T-swirl crepe follows the Japanese crepe tradition, which I had no idea existed until I visited the 14th Street eatery. The batter is made entirely with rice flour, which not only produces a gluten-free treat, but also helps keep the condiments from leaking out. These simple adjustments to the French design allow T-swirl to create decadent, artistic menu items, which are also on display in the window in rows of glass globes like prize orchids. There are both savory and sweet crepes, and customers can wash their meals down with milk shakes, including red bean and matcha flavors. The entire experience is a taste sensation, a successful and delicious collision of cultures.
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.