If you can’t afford a private jet to fly to Barcelona, Spain for Tapas, like myself, you are forced to find alternatives in New York City. This brings me to Tia Pol, one of my favorite, authentic tapas restaurants. The food served here is the real deal, with a variety of dishes that could easily grace any menu throughout Barcelona. Unless you live in Chelsea and like to venture all the way West, you would hardly have any reason to walk down 10th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd in the evening on a hunt for dinner. Luckily one gorgeous summer day with our stomachs grumbling, my friend, Zac and I left his Chelsea apartment on the hunt for some food. We stumbled upon this hole in the wall spot with inviting open doors, and one sip of sangria later, we were hooked.
I decided to try my OpenTable luck and scored one of the few coveted reservations at Tia Pol. I immediately called my friend and told him there was a change of dinner plans, we were going to my favorite tapas place. I haven’t been here in a while, and been dying to go back for a taste of Spain.
We walked into the narrow restaurant, past the hoards of people standing with their drinks against the little shelf for drinks towards the none-existent hostess stand. Instead to save space, a computer screen is mounted against the wall, where multiple girls attempt to work the system and check you in. I said my name and they told us it would be just a few minutes. I smiled and said, thank you, knowing it would be even longer, despite the fact that we had a reservation.
The restaurant is tiny, with a small bar area when you first walk in. Dark, exposed brick lines the wall, serving as the decor for the restaurant. It’s simple and rustic, and that’s really all that they need, it’s actually better without any overly tacky decor or attempted glitz and glam.
The seats at the bar are reserved for dining, so while you wait, you can pretty much guarantee you will be standing the whole time. Coat/purse hooks cover the bottom side of the little shelf for drinks and tapas people munch on while they anxiously hope their name will be called. The back area is equally small with high tables and stools filling every nook and cranny. Surprisingly enough, even waiting in the front doesn’t feel cramped. Everyone waiting is extremely kind, which might be the result of a few glasses of their lethal sangria and no food. But people don’t shove and are really cordial to one another, with the knowledge that everyone’s here for really great food.
The sangria here is some of the best in the city. It’s on the sweeter side, with hints of cinnamon cutting through the sweetness. It’s absolutely delicious, and surprisingly strong.
A few moments later, we were seated. All of the tables at Tia Pol are high top, with benches against the walls and stools for seats. It’s a fun way of dining, adding to the more casual environment of the restaurant.
I took the reigns with ordering, opting for traditional Spanish dishes. We started off with Pan con Tomate, which is a simple Spanish dish of tomato spread onto toast. Tia Pol kicks this dish up a notch by adding three sauces on the sides to enhance your toast.
This rustic dish sticks to the basics. A spread of tomatoes and garlic is slathered on top of crispy, fresh bread. The addition of the trio of salsas on the sides allows for you to enhance the classic dish in anyway you please. I like to try and do a little bit of everything, with the olive spread for one bite, avocado for another, and finally topping it off with the grilled onions and peppers. It’s an outstanding version of a dish you will find anywhere in Spain.
Next, we ordered the croquettes. Each day, Tia Pol offers a croquette special in addition to their traditional Jamon (ham) variation. Today, caramelized onion graced the blackboard towards the front. Of course, I needed to make sure Mike tried both.
These are phenomenal, served in little wooden dishes, made just for holding two croquettes. They are served alone, without any side dipping sauces, because they do not need anything else. They are just that good. The special of the day, caramelized onion, was my favorite. The crispy outside kept the inside warm and creamy, with the pureed potatoes mixing with the sweet and acidic onion. It just melted in your mouth, as you tried to savor each bite. Next, I went for the ham croquette, a classic. It’s always great, combining salty and sweet. However, on this particular day, the onion one definitely won out between the two.
For the main part of the meal, if you could even call it that, we ordered the Shrimp with Chiles in Garlic and Oil.
Spicy, sweet and absolutely delicious, these shrimp are addicting. They are sizzling hot, served in a ceramic tin and cooked to perfection. It’s easy to continually pick at this dish, as the combination of flavors continue to build. After three or four, you start to feel the real effect of the chiles, which makes these even more addictive. It’s the ideal protein element to the dish, especially if you love shrimp and spice.
Finally, we needed to end with my favorite Spanish dish of all time; patatas bravas. The Spanish version of crispy potatoes in a spicy aoili, are absolutely addictive, in the same way that French Fries would be. These are absolutely phenomenal at Tia Pol.
Simply put, these are some of the best crispy potatoes in the city. The potatoes themselves are crisp on the outside, but soft in the middle. On top, a smokey-spicy aioli, topped with paprika adds an unbelievable element of flavor, making this a dish you won’t really find anywhere else in the world. I am absolutely addicted to patatas bravas and will order it any time it makes its way onto a menu. And trust me, these at Tia Pol, are phenomenal.
Everything at Tia Pol is modestly priced and sized, allowing for lots of tastes and figuring out exactly what you love. It’s a great spot for early dates, dinner with friends, or just filling the Spanish food craving that comes on every so often. It’s easily an all-time favorite of mine, and a place I would recommend to anyone looking for a fun night of dinner and drinks. It’s cozy, and comfortable, and super casual. A meal at Tia Pol will be sure to impress anyone you bring to this authentic Spanish tapas restaurant.
Tia Pol – 205 10th Avenue – New York, NY
Location: Chelsea, NY
Type: Spanish, Tapas
Perfect For: First Dates, Impressing Foodies, Authentic Dining, Casual Meal, Small Plates
Reservations: Recommended via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Croquettes, Pan Con Tomate, Patatas Bravas, Shrimp in Garlic, Lamb Skewers, Sangria