Join us, as we take you on an out of this world culinary experience to an iconic eatery, El Quijote. Since 1930 many celebrities, New Yorkers, and tourists alike have flocked to 23rd street in order to experience a taste of Spain. The restaurant is attached to Hotel Chelsea, a New York institution with a rich history. After a four-year closure, Hotel Chelsea and its eatery reopened their doors for a fresh start.
This Chelsea gem first operated as a clubhouse, where on any night of the week you could spot public figures such as Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, among others. They came for the endless sangria and late night conversations with their art community.
El Quijote classifies as the oldest Spaniard restaurant in Manhattan, as well as the final flourishing restaurant of its kind, as eateries such as El Faro, La Bilbaína, Trocadero Valencia, Bar Coruña, Little Spain Bar, Café Madrid, Mesón Flamenco, Spain Restaurant, and Francesco Centro Vasca have all shut their doors. The majority of these Spaniard eateries were located in New York City’s little known enclave, called Little Spain, on 14th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues. (photo above, and top of post: Eric Medsker)
Through the years, El Quijote became the epitome of a certain, nostalgic dining style. If you find yourself wondering what has changed, fear not, the décor has been well-preserved. The rust-and-white mural depicting Don Quixote’s quests, as well as the frosted glass and the red cursive neon sign out front have all remained. You can also spot Don Quixote-related statues and tchotchkes lining the bar, which were presented to the restaurant as gifts from patrons over the years.
As soon as we stepped into El Quijote, the aroma of the restaurant’s rich history hit our noses first. We sat down in one of their booths, close to the entrance and started our culinary experience with cocktails and starters to share. While El Quijote is known for their sangria, we wanted to try various options on the menu and opted for a refreshing drink called Rebujito and sweet option called the Kalixmoto. (photo: Eric Medsker)
For small plates we tried the Ensalada Mixta, Croquetas de Jamon, and Patatas Bravas. The Ensalada Mixta contained little gem lettuce, savory toasted garlic, and pine nuts. The salad was a great starter that contained crisp ingredients to stimulate the appetite. (photo: Eric Medsker)
The Croquetas de Jamon had a creamy filling made of bechamel sauce bursting with flavor that left our palates wondering whether we were eating ham flavored mashed potatoes or a delectable melted cheese and ham concoction that was deep fried into absolute perfection. They were also topped off with the jamon serrano slices, the Spanish ham similar to a prosciutto. Our final appetizer was the Patatas Bravas. Patatas Bravas are considered to be a basic, traditional tapa on the popular side at elegant big-city establishments, since it is moreso offered at modest village hostels. The Patatas Bravas at El Quijote came with some aioli along with a tomato and choricero pepper sauce for dipping. These potatoes were mildly tangy once you dipped them into the sauces. (photos: Eric Medsker)
For our main course we tried Butifarra Casera de Trufa Negra con Salsa Vizcaina (photo above:: Eric Medsker). The dish consisted of a truffled garlic sausage, baby butter beans, and a tomato pepper sauce. This dish had a smoky taste to it, as the oaky, nutty and earthy, sweet and juicy sausage was packed with stinging savory notes like black olives. The Fideuá de Setas (see photo below), which features toasted angel hair, marinated mushrooms and piquillo peppers, is quite impressive. Once done it is put back in the oven to be toasted, giving it a well-balanced taste of crispy and creamy.
We then ended the evening with two more cocktails: the Portonico and the Quijote G+T. The Portonico reminded us of a spiked green juice, since it is a frozen blended green cocktail made up of white port, cachaca, green apple, mint, and cucumber tonic.
Overall, El Quijote is a great place to savor the richness of New York City history. This is a great eatery to visit with your significant other or a group of friends who are adventurous.
For more information on El Quijote, follow them on Instagram @elquijotenyc.
El Quijote, 226 West 23rd St (betw 7th/8th Ave)