174 Eighth Ave.
This venue is closed.
Walking through El Cid's front door is like slipping into an Iberian family reunion at a VFW hall in full swing—you're invited, as long as there's room. Seats at the one-room restaurant's Spanish tile–topped tables fill up fast. The immediate reward for scoring a spot (the dozen or so blue velvet–cushioned stools at the bar are all positioned before full table-settings, too) is a saucer mounded with marinated olives and garlicky, aïoli-coated potatoes, each impaled with a toothpick. Next is the view, accommodated by bountiful mirrors, of old men in Bill Cosby sweaters, and fashionistas in festive colors. A copper Don Quixote sculpture looks on from the corner. Almost everything about El Cid, including its food, seems refreshingly unfettered. Classics like albondicas, mini Spanish-style veal and beef meatballs, and Polpo a la Gallega (Galician-style octopus served in a smoky-sweet pimento sauce), are savory and tender. The Spanish tortilla (an omelet dense with sliced potatoes and onions) is the ideal companion to a jug of sangria. The specialty of the house—saffron-tinged Paella Valenciana, brimming with clams, mussels, shrimp, chicken, and chorizo—seems made with a grandmother's love. This is one family reunion you won't want to miss.