Since 1868, the center has offered support and community to Spanish and Latin American immigrants. Now, La Nacional will serve some of the the most authentic Spanish food this side of the Atlantic.
Credit: Eliza Piccininni

You would never guess it now, but 150 years ago, New York City's Meatpacking District was a vibrant hub of Spanish culture. Spanish immigrants settled in the neighborhood the way Italian people settled in Little Italy and Chinese people settled in Chinatown—the area used to be called "Little Spain." While that history isn't so visible on today's West 14th Street, as the Meatpacking area populated with clubs and Google's office and many nice-but-ordinary restaurants, the Spanish Benevolent Society has remained a proud relic of its past; La Nacional is the oldest Spanish cultural institution in the U.S.

On June 15, the space is reopening to the public in a big way: as a non-profit restaurant, serving authentic Spanish food and drink with a menu created by some of Spain's best chefs, including Chef de Cuisine Javier Parreño Grande (of the Valencian restaurant Delicat) and Jordi Morera Siscar (of Carosel) and Salvador Boix and Garcia Sales (of Restaurante Cames).

Credit: Eliza Piccininni

The building at 239 W 14th St. hosts tango and flamenco lessons, Spanish courses, guitar classes, and more cultural events, and this week, the renovated lower-level opens as one of NYC's most anticipated new Spanish restaurants. While La Nacional has had a restaurant component before in decades past, the new space is transformed, with an airy open kitchen, a bar, roomy seating and a big T.V. for World Cup-watching purposes, of course. And the menu is revamped, too, featuring products like Iberico cured meats, D.O. protected cheeses, beers, wines, and more delicacies imported from Spain. You'll find classic dishes like delicately charred grilled, homemade croquetas, super-traditional stews (like Asturian beans with clams), and an assortment of paellas. Beverage Director (and Spanish Benevolent Society member) Elizabeth Fernandez leads the wine program, which will feature family-run producers from across Spain.

Tuna Belly
Credit: Eliza Piccininni

"In celebration of our 150th anniversary, La Nacional for the first time in decades, is taking back control of the space, to create a community restaurant and gathering place open to everyone," reads La Nacional's website. "Our non-profit has teamed up with some of the top culinary institutes in Spain – sponsoring the visas of the country’s best chefs to manage and create in our kitchen. In their dishes, they draw inspiration from La Nacional’s past and combine it with their own contemporary style and techniques, making La Nacional Restaurant a culinary epicentre for Spanish food."

La Nacional opens early this Friday with tapas specials at 12 p.m. for the Spain vs. Portugal World Cup game.

La Nacional, 239 W 14th Street, New York, NY 10011, (917) 388-2888