What to Eat at the Spaniard, Opening April 3 in the West Village

By
The fast-food-style Smash Burger is a default double, with two Pat LaFrieda three-ounce patties and American cheese on a sesame-seed bun. Photo: Liz Clayman

What do a fine-dining chef from Texas and his two Irish-immigrant partners call their new West Village bar? The Spaniard, of course.

The name is a tribute to a few fondly remembered public houses in Ireland, the homeland of the founders of a mini-empire of seven bars scattered across Manhattan and Astoria. They include Bua, Sweet Afton, and the Penrose, all of which serve better-than-it-needs-to-be bar food conceived by chef PJ Calapa, a veteran of Ai Fiori and Nobu. At the Spaniard, which opens next week opposite Sheridan Square, Calapa has become a co-owner, and for the first time, he’ll be on-site running the kitchen — until he embarks on his own solo restaurant project.

The space is well-known to Village drinkers: Before it was the Spaniard, it was Oliver’s City Tavern, and Boxers before that. Its location and layout, with its vaulted ceilings and landmark designation, put the owners in mind of iconic New York taverns like Old Town and P. J. Clarke’s, which served as inspiration. Brooklyn’s Home Studios installed tiling, custom fixtures, green-leather booths, and a back-room “snug.” The bar is stocked with 100 whiskeys, half of them Scotch, and the cocktail list calls out whiskey drinks like the Penicillin and a rosemary Manhattan. “It’s sort of an old Irish pub meets a New York tavern,” says Calapa. “It feels like it’s been there a hundred years.”

History provided a starting point for his menu, too, which includes classics like oysters Rockefeller and steak tartare in addition to such modern-appetite concessions as chopped-broccoli salad and farro risotto. The 12-ounce rib eye is an homage to the bar at Keens. “I want it to be your favorite neighborhood steak,” he says. Of course, few corner taverns make their own steak sauce and hot sauce — or grind beef tartare to order. Take a look at the space and some of the food.

Oysters Rockefeller topped with creamed spinach, lardons, and Parmesan breadcrumbs. Photo: Liz Clayman
Top round is cut to order for the beef tartare — a technique Calapa began using at Ai Fiori. It’s served with crackers made from house-baked seeded brown bread that’s frozen, sliced thin, and toasted. Photo: Liz Clayman
For his patty melt, Calapa uses a dry-aged beef blend and aged New York Cheddar, plus his mother-in-law’s tomato jam — or, as the chef calls it, “Indian ketchup.” Photo: Liz Clayman
Calapa parlayed his tempura-frying experience at Nobu into Vidalia onion rings, served with smoky aioli. Photo: Liz Clayman
Rye Tai, with pineapple juice and housemade orgeat. Photo: Liz Clayman
The Gibbo, a Gibson riff. Photo: Liz Clayman
The ceiling is original; everything else is new.
The designers were inspired by the works of Realist painter Gustave Courbet. Photo: Liz Clayman

190 W. 4th St., at Barrow St.; 212-918-1986

The Spaniard Opens April 3 in the West Village