sangria.jpgSince Giuliani cleaned up Mid-Town west, it seems most topless bars have been replaced with tapas bars– which we suppose can be a good thing if you are looking to get more bang for your buck (although some may argue that point). With tapas bars opening on almost every corner, Gothamist decided to cash in our dollar bills for some Sangria and yummy Spanish appetizers.

Before embarking on our 2004 Tapas Gastronomical Tour (T-Shirt order forms to follow) Gothamist turned to the experts to learn more about these cute little Spanish dishes and the beverages that complement them… The rumor goes that “la tapa” was born when the Spanish King Alfonso the 10th, the Wise, had become ill and due to his sickness had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals (today we call this illness “lucky”). Once recovered from the disease, the king ordered that in all inns of Castile's land, wine was not to be served if not with something to eat. Once the “botillerias" (bottle-shops) and “tabernas" (taverns) were all around Spain, the King’s demand continued being effective. And for that reason, the glass or jar of wine was served covered with a slice of smoked ham or cheese - hence the origin of “la tapa" or a solid food that covered the wineglass.

The less sexy hypothesis is that tapas were born because of the need of farmers to take a small amount of food during their working time that allowed them to continue the job until the main meal's time – blah, blah, blah. All this learning made Gothamist hungry, so off we went to indulge in King Alfonso’s bounty.

216 E 53RD St
The sangria at Solera was so good that quite frankly – we can’t remember the tapas. Gothamist remembers them being tasty and there may have been chorizo involved. When the bill arrived we quickly sobered up – Solera may have good sangria but they certainly charge for it.

Yuca Bar
111 Avenue A
Being light in our wallets the Yuca Bar was the perfect place for us to fill up and drink up. Upon being seated, the waiter informed us that the pitchers of Sangria were only $15 till 8pm – there were tears of joy. Of the tapas, the most noteworthy were the plantains and the assorted meats on a stick with dipping sauces.

This is just the beginning of the 2004 Tapas Gastronomical Tour. Upcoming stops include Tia Pol and Pimenton Restaurant Tapas Wine bar. If you have any suggestions of must stops or a secret family sangria recipe passed on from generation to generation…please share. And salud!