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No. 44

Bar Isabel

THIS TAVERNA’S ABILITY TO LAY THE CHARM on thick remains as strong as ever as it enters its second decade. In the front of the art nouveau dining room, wayfaring guests perch at the bar with an aperitivo and a bowl of warm Marcona almonds, a round of shishito roulette and thin slices of jamón Ibérico. Farther back in the red-lit dining room, ardent guests at more expansive tables jostle over the last jamón croqueta. Sure, few things have changed over the past decade, but so what? All the usual suspects — patatas bravas and pan con tomate with boquerones — prove that the classics endure. The bone marrow is still behemoth; octopus and meats (picanha, rib-eye, the inevitable pork secreto) remain eminently satisfying. Cocktails are smart and sessionable, and the Spain-centric wine list is stellar. The Basque cake comes with a shroud of hot sherry cream, poured tableside. (And yes, you can “bone luge” and quaff Calvados through the emptied hollowed-out marrow bone, if you choose.) The mood is always exuberant.

This bar, the vibe, the food — wows me every time! Vikram Vij
Scallops and Mojo Verde.
A knot of charred octopus tentacle with lemon-garlic butter.
Spanish fizzes, or cava spritzes with olives.

Photography by Rick O’Brien

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