Food Culture: Spain - Dining Out NJ Winter 2018

Spain brought new ingredients to the native populations of the Americas. In turn, Spain brought back ingredients from the Americas and incorporated them into their own cuisine. The arrival of the Spanish in America in 1492 initiated the export of potatoes, corn, bell and chili peppers, paprika, vanilla, and chocolate. Many traditional dishes such as tortilla de Patatai (omelette with potatoes) would not be possible without the discovery of America.

In southern Spain, dishes have Arab influence due to the Moorish Invasions of the early Middle Ages. This was the time of Spain’s famed hero, El Cid, and the era of the conquesta. The Arabs brought spinach, eggplant, lemon, orange, and almond, which are all common to the rural, coastal regions of Spain. Of all the nation’s regions, this one consumes and cultivates the most olives and olive oil.

Olive oil is a staple ingredient in the famed dish gazpacho, a cold soup made with vegetables, bread, and vinegar; meat dishes of oxtail stew; and tripe. Cured meats include serrano ham and Iberico ham; drinks include wine and Sherry brandy. In the mountain region of Aragon, lamb is the specialty meat. On the French border of eastern Spain, the favorite is fabada bean stew and sausages such as chorizo. Croquettes are made with thick béchamel and filled with chicken or cod.

Tourists visiting Spain’s most populous cities, Barcelona and the capital city, Madrid, will be awed by the abundance of cafés and taverns. Tavern fare consists of Galician octopus, scallops, langosta, crab and barnacles.

Appetizers are called tapas, or small savory dishes typically served with alcoholic beverages. Pinxto—translated to “thorn,” in English—is a tapas consisting of small slices of bread upon which cod, anchovy, and peppers are placed and fastened with a toothpick.

Now that you’ve gotten a taste of its culture, here is our list of a few Spanish restaurants in the area to whet your appetite!

Sayola Tenafly NJ

Sayola – Tenafly NJ

SAYOLA {50 Prospect Terrace, Tenafly; 201.871.2182;}
Sayola is an acronym for the first two letters from each of the owner’s children: Sandra, Yorett, and Lazaro. So yes, this eatery is certainly family-friendly. In a dining room adorned with exposed brick, a sparkling chandelier, and coffered ceiling tiles, guests can take to the main floor or reserve a private room for a more intimate affair. Signature seafood dishes include Paella Marinara, filled with bites of lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari, and scallops over a bed of Spanish valencia rice; and the Paella Negra with black squid ink rice topped with shrimp, calamari, and all-oil gratin. Pair your meal with a glass of Spanish or Italian wine from the restaurant’s impressive collection.

LOLA’S {153 14th Street, Hoboken; 201.420.6062;}
Lola’s brings diners the charm of a quaint, country cafe to the heart of Hoboken. This darling locale has it all, from a cobblestone walkway outside to cast iron chairs tucked into tables made out of oak wine barrels. The expansive menu boasts over 100 plates and wines in which to choose. Decadent dishes include Spanish seafood paellas, Churrasco Con Setas Portobello, and tapas of every kind. Pro tip, order the grilled octopus and the Vieiras con Bacon en Salsa Frambuesa (scallops with bacon over raspberry sauce and almonds)—it’s the owner’s favorite. With a slew of Spanish beers, cocktails, and sangrias on order, Lola’s is always ready to start a fiesta. Speaking of parties, the restaurant has a private dining room and wine cellar on reserve for special events and celebrations. Each room can accommodate up to 70 guests.

La Taberna - Dumont NJ

La Taberna in Dumont NJ

LA TABERNA STEAKS AND TAPAS BAR {31 West Madison Avenue, Dumont; 201.374.1661;}
Situated at the corner of Park and Madison Avenues is La Taberna Steaks and Tapas Bar—a cozy, dimly-lit space with Old World charm. As a nod to Spanish-style bullfighting, images of bulls adorn the walls. Popular tapas include Grilled Octopus with potato, arugula, and cherry tomatoes; Shrimp Cocktail; and Beef or Chicken Empanadas that’ll make your heart skip a beat. A portfolio of dinner plates fill the menu, including hearty steaks, fresh seafood, and chicken cooked nearly every which way. Complement any meal with a side order of mashed potatoes drizzled in mushroom sauce, string beans, or creamed spinach.

EL CID {205 Paramus Road, Paramus; 201.843.0123}
Accented with wood paneling, white linen tablecloths, and dazzling chandeliers, EL CID—which loosely translates to mean “the lord” in Spanish—is the epitome of a classic steakhouse. And the food is on par too. Rib-eye, prime rib, filet mignon, and lobsters run the gamut here. The first floor can accommodate up to 65 guests, whereas the second floor, ideal for parties, can host up to 100. Can’t dine in? Takeout is always an option. EL CID is a great place to dine any time of the year, but be sure to swing by during the holiday season for some jolly happenings. For instance, if you order the twin lobsters on the Specials Menu, you’ll receive a third for free.“We started this deal four or five years ago,” explains owner Vinny Pita. “It was just a way of saying thank you to customers for their business. Instead of giving wine, let’s give lobsters!”

Meson Madrid – Palisades Park

MESON MADRID {343 Bergen Boulevard, Palisades Park; 201.947.1038;}
Feast on traditional Spanish cuisine in an Old World-style dining room and bar at the sophisticated Meson Madrid. Boasting live lobster specials—broiled, steamed, and stuffed—and seductive dinner plates, there is something for everyone here. Start with Shrimp Cocktail or Mussels Meson before diving into the main course like Penne Primavera or Red Snapper. Not in the mood for seafood? An array of savory poultry and meats are available. Whatever you do, make sure to save room for dessert. Tropical sorbets, cakes, and brownies are on the roster.

SEGOVIA RESTAURANT {150 Moonachie Road, Moonachie; 201.641.4266;}
Named for the historical city in the northwest region of Spain, Segovia Restaurant entices with a menu of traditional fare. Plucked from the sea, seafood lovers will enjoy the whole Maine lobster with crabmeat and shrimp found in the Langosta Rellena. Carnivores can sink their teeth into the thinly sliced veal, drizzled with white wine and lemon sauce in the Ternera Madrileña. Wine and dine by perusing the wine list—featuring a number of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese varietals—or opt for the housemade sangria. If the Moonachie location is too far of a hike, make a visit to Segovia Steakhouse and Seafood in Little Ferry or venture to their newest locale, Segovia Méson in Carlstadt. The newest restaurant can accommodate up to 300 guests, perfect for private and corporate events.

TAPAS DE ESPAÑA {7909 Bergenline Avenue, North Bergen; 201.453.1690;}
Tapas de España has transported patrons of New Jersey to the Iberian Peninsula for over 10 years. At this authentic Spanish restaurant, try the baby lamb chops braised with brandy and garlic, the fresh octopus flown-in from Spain, or daily fresh fish specials like the Branzino. Pair your meal with a selection of local and Spanish craft beers.

PINTXO Y TAPAS {47 North Dean Street, Englewood; 201.569.9999;}
This charming restaurant brings the wow factor when it comes to Spanish cuisine and presentation. Order from an assortment of fried tapas from baby sardines, sweet plantains, or beef empanadas, or try their Salpicon de Marsico; a seafood mix of grilled shrimp, calamari, scallops, octopus, and mussels. Fuller appetites can sink a fork into the broiled skirt steak found in the Churrasco a La Parilla or the traditional chicken dish, Arroz con Pollo.

By Conner Turpanjian and Lianna Albrizio