El Quijote, West 23rd Street

Open since 1930, El Quijote claims to be the oldest Spanish restaurant in New York City. Renowned for its authenticity, people flock to El Quijote for its mejillones, paella, chuletas, gambas and of course, sangria. It is now considered a historical landmark, as it has remained untouched through the decades. Surviving the Great Depression, World War II, and more, El Quijote is truly a gem of the city and will undoubtedly be around for many years to come.

Walking into El Quijote is like taking a step back in time, or better yet, a step into Spain.  Instantly drawn in by the large statue of the Man of La Mancha himself while surrounded by murals of bull fights and green, pastoral Spanish villages, one immediately has high expectations for the cuisine as well.  It’s as if your thought process tells you that such a beautiful, romantic and artistic setting must also produce delectable meals—and in this case, your thought process would be absolutely correct.

Being that El Quijote claims to be the oldest Spanish restaurant in New York City (celebrating its 81st anniversary this year) it quickly becomes obvious that its years of experience have paid off.  If you begin your meal with the specialty soup, which comes included with most dinner entrées, the standards will be set high for the rest of the evening.  A white bean delight, replicating Sopa de Lentejas (a lentil soup common in Spain) it is the perfect mix of white beans, spinach, potatoes and chicken—an ultimately authentically pleasing first course.

But what most people come to El Quijote for are its main courses.  Though some find the prices a little steep, the food and robust portions make it well worth the cost.  Seafood and paella are the most popular choices amongst guests, but the massive menu includes a medley of steaks, chicken, and of course tapas (appetizer-like foods) for those seeking smaller portions.  Regardless of your choice (chicken, shrimp or pork), the specialty Quijote sauce is not something you would regret trying on your entrée.  With just the right amount of garlic and herbs, it adds a unique and delicious flavor that you can’t find anywhere else in the city.

Of course, without drinks and dessert the exquisite dining would not be complete.  One cannot go to a Spanish restaurant and not try its Sangria.  According to Lindsay Kuo, a frequent diner, “Quijote’s Sangria is the best I have ever tasted outside of Madrid.  They don’t overwhelm you with fruit so that the taste dissipates; it is just wonderful.”  The Sangria manages to be impeccably sweet and bitter, giving your taste buds a one-of-a-kind experience.

Concluding your meal with the flan would be the perfect end to the evening.  An authentic Spanish dessert, the flan has the perfect amount of caramel sauce covering a light and fluffy vanilla custard.  Even if you’re full, there is no need to worry; the flan’s exquisite frothiness won’t fill you up much more.

Ultimately, El Quijote is as close as you can get to Spanish dining without leaving New York.  Prepare yourself for authenticity, greeted by energetic and lively employees who’ll make you feel right at home—or, like you’re right in Madrid.

For a link to a 360 degree panoramic photo el El Quijote, click here.

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