Sun-Wed, noon-10pm; Thu-Sat, noon-11pm
1, 2, 3 at 14th St.; A, C, E at 14th St.
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
A flag hanging above the building of the Spanish Benevolent Society (née 1868) clues those in the know to descend into the flyer-littered entry hallway of the self-proclaimed oldest Spanish restaurant in the city. A front room offers romantic dining on craggy wooden tables amidst portraits of bullfighters. Meanwhile in the fluorescent-lit cantina, where maps and posters touting the almighty empire crudely brighten the linoleum floors and terracotta-toned walls, wizened expats watch soccer and telenovelas, projecting their commentary over the banging of pans from a tiny prep area that's wedged next to a corner mini-bar. Executive chef Lolo, if he isn't charlando with friends, shuttles tapas—such as a perfectly formed tortilla lightly spiced with paprika; hulking sardines whose slightly charred skins flake away from layers of dark and light meat; sautéed chorizo evincing a hint of smoked wood; and shrimp drenched in sop-worthy garlic sauce. Among entrees such as codfish in paprika and olive oil, the exceptional paella, delivered in its skillet on an earthenware tray and loaded with mussels, clams, cockles, peas, and chicken chunks, will please purists with its moist, pearly, saffron-inflected rice. The flan, like the sangria, is slightly too sweet, but a flute of bubbly cava will quell any complaints.Recommended Dishes
Tortilla de patatas, $7; grilled sardines, $8; croquetas, $8; chorizo, $8; garlic shrimp, $9; paella for two, $44