A Taste of Spain in New York

I took one bite, turned to my mom and said, “If these were the only thing I could eat for the rest of my life, I’d be ok with it.”


     After a long day roaming through SoHo and Brooklyn, my mom and I stopped by Mercado Little Spain for dinner because my dad had said how amazing it was, and wow, was he right.

     In its opening stages, Mercado Little Spain seemed like it would be a clone of Eataly or Le District, two of Manhattan’s Eurocentric food complexes. Located downstairs in the new mega complex that is Hudson Yards, Mercado Little Spain had high expectations to live up to in the Eurocentric food world. Now, over six months in, Mercado Little Spain has impressed many skeptics. 

     Chef José Andrés certainly outdid himself. Many credit the Spanish-American chef for bringing the small plates dining concept to America through his many restaurants across the country in major cities like Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, Las Vegas, and now, New York City. With his newest venture, he continues on his industry-changing path. 

     When you first walk in, the architecture, aroma, and music makes you feel like you’re in a real Spanish market— or at least what I imagine a Spanish market to be like. 

     Once you’ve admired the ambiance of the place, now comes the hardest decision: what are you going to eat? There’s endless options of  every Spanish food to choose from. Bocatas y empanadas, cocas, frutas y verduras, bravas, paella, jamón y queso, pescados y mariscos, y tortilla de patatas– you name it and there’s a kiosk for it. Hungry yet? That’s only the main course options; there’s all types of Spanish desserts as well: pasteles, helados, and churros. 

     If you prefer to have a sit-down meal, no worries! There are three restaurant options at the market: Mar, Leña, and the Spanish Diner. Mar highlights seafood from both Spain and America. Leña embodies its English translation, firewood, perfectly. Everything on the menu is cooked in fire, providing a smoky taste and flavor. The Spanish Diner adds a twist on the classic American diner, offering comfort food like eggs, stews, and sandwiches, cooked in a Spanish flavoring. 

     Looking for an after-work happy hour? There are also three bars located throughout the space: Vinos, Bar Celona, and Diner Bar. Vinos has a wide range selection of Spanish wines made in wineries from the Canary Islands to Rioja. At Bar Celona, you will find any drink your looking for. Their specialties include the iconic Spanish gin and tonic as well as sangria. Diner bar focuses on Spains’ signature cocktails: sherry-and-soda rebujitos, red wine-and-cola kalimotxos, and sangrias.

     My experience in Mercado Little Spain was in the restaurant Leña, partially for the menu, mostly because this restaurant was the least crowded, even though it was packed shoulder to shoulder. 

    There was too much to choose only one meal from, so my mom and I split a bunch of different things: pan de cristal con tomate, mejillones, pimientos del piquillo confitados, and puré de patatas al aceite de oliva. 

     The pan de cristal con tomate was toasted slices of bread topped with fresh tomato. It was simple, yet full of flavor and honestly quite amazing. The fresh juices from the tomato contrasted with the crispness of the crust. 

     Mejillones translates to mussels in a English. These giant, steamed mussels were cooked in a Manzanilla wine sauce. Personally, I prefer a red sauce with mussels, but I was excited to try them anyways. The mussels were too big and fishy for my liking. This could be a matter of personal preference since I’m partial to red, but the mussels were the only misstep of the evening. When ordering at Leña, I would stick to their specialized meats. 

     As a last minute decision, we decided to order pimientos del piquillo confitados. To simplify it, these were thin, roasted piquillo peppers in an iron skillet marinated in olive oil and Spanish spices. The sweetness blended with the spice and created the best roasted peppers I’ve ever eaten. 

     Puré de patatas al aceite de oliva is a huge bowl of olive oil mashed potatoes. I took one bite, turned to my mom and said, “If these were the only thing I could eat for the rest of my life, I’d be ok with it.” They were by far the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. The texture was perfect—it was more on the creamy side and didn’t have many chunks of potatoes. I literally ate the entire bowl (sorry mom). 

     Mercado Little Spain is perfect for all ages. They endless options ensure that there will be something to eat for everyone. If you’re ever in NYC, I highly suggest taking a stop there.