La Nacional

The concept behind genuine tapas is gold: you pop in casually, chow on beasted-out bar food, and drink. Trendier New York small plate joints pee on this tradition, so if you want tapas as God intended, hit refreshingly unfashionable La Nacional.

La Nacional doubles as an organization called "The Spanish Benevolent Society" -- you've probably walked by hundreds of times and assumed it was a soup kitchen for down-and-out Iberians. But step inside and you'll find a linoleum-floored barroom lit by fluorescent light strips, filled with Spanish Civil War vets playing dominoes and watching Real Madrid (a perfect hangout for when you're not on a date, or are but wish you weren't).

To your right's the dining room -- nicer than the bar, but not much. This is irrelevant, because the food's cheap and plentiful. We recommend the buttery shrimp and succulent, grease-riffic meatballs. Better, the not-too-sweet sangria isn't clogged with ice and fruit; and it's served in full-sized pitchers that put the hurt on typical tapas spots' anemic ponies.

La Nacional's service is friendly, but your waitress might appear dumbfounded by the presence of so many not-Spaniards in a Spanish social club. Just explain to her that you're tired of trendy, price-gouging tapas spots. When she continues to stare blankly, turn awkwardly back to your chorizo, and remember to tip benevolently.