Manolo Tapas Brings Spanish Vibe to Uptown Restaurant Scene

By Ben Fractenberg on April 4, 2012 1:51pm 

Manolo Tapas' Paella Marinera includes lobster, littleneck clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, and squid in slow-cooked saffron bomba rice for $27.
Manolo Tapas' Paella Marinera includes lobster, littleneck clams, mussels, scallops, shrimp, and squid in slow-cooked saffron bomba rice for $27.
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Manolo Tapas

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — When Jesus Perez opened Manolo Tapas two years ago he wanted to brings a hint of Spain to uptown Manhattan.

"Everything is oriented toward Spanish culture," said Jesus Perez, 36, of his Spanish restaurant in the historically Hispanic neighborhood. "Our wine list, beer list, our menu, our entertainment, everything. There is no other originally Spanish restaurant in the neighborhood."

Manolo Tapas is family business borne out of two neighborhood mainstays, La Rosa Fine Foods, which sells Spanish gourmet foods, and La Rosa Liquor, with a large selection of Spanish wine. The restaurant combines the food and liquor expertise of both stores, and is part of the increase of fine food in upper Manhattan over the past few years.

"The neighborhood has been changing, becoming more culturally diverse," said Perez, who credits much of the change to a decrease in crime over the past decade. "We should have a little bit of everything. It gives people a larger offering." 

He added that the new establishments are helping to revitalise the community.

"The more restaurants that open here bring enjoyment and revenue to the community," said Perez. "There's a convenience of not having to travel for good dinner and drinks."

The Washington Heights eatery features no cover, live music Wednesday through Sunday nights, and the musical acts are often setting up in the bar area right near the front door, immediately immersing you in the music when you walk in.

The restaurant's arches and exposed red brick makes it feel like you could be eating in a villa in Spain, rather than Washington Heights.

On a recent Sunday night the band "Lee" was playing a mix of modern pop music with a Latin twist. Patrons in the bar area vacillated between holding intimate conversations and watching the band.

Jose Santos, 40, said he spent his Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at the restaurant.

"The music is perfect," he said. "The people are alive."

The restaurant usually features jazz on Wednesday, a guitar player on Thursdays and Flamenco guitar on Fridays.

Chorizo al Jerez is made with smoked cured Spanish chorizo sautéed in Jerez wine for $8.
Chorizo al Jerez is made with smoked cured Spanish chorizo sautéed in Jerez wine for $8.
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Manolo Tapas

Saturday and Sunday musicians have more of a pop sensibility, with a younger crowd hanging out at the bar, which stocks more than 100 Spanish wines and 50 types of imported beers.

The restaurant is located on Broadway between 176th and 177th streets.

Their website lists upcoming events.

Check out DNAinfo's Beatz & Eatz, a month-long celebration of food and music in Upper Manhattan.

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