This is Highly Recommend, a column dedicated to our very opinionated editors’ favorite things to eat, drink, and buy.
Here’s what will happen when you walk into Ernesto’s: You will see bottles of Isastegi cider on more than a few tables. Waiters will be handing plates of Basque-style seafood—packed with olive oil, aioli, paprika, and fresh herbs. Everyone will be clinking glasses and having a good time. And if you scan the entirety of the restaurant, you will probably spot me—sitting at the bar, eating pintxos, drinking vermouth, and also having a good time. Because while Ernesto’s is great for many things, it is maybe the best for some of my most favorite things: Spanish bar snacks and drinks.
Chef Ryan Bartlow takes his experience working at San Sebastián’s Akelarre, a Michelin-starred restaurant serving ambitious seafood, and simplifies it on his own menu of Basque cuisine. That means croquetas filled with creamy, shredded chicken. Gildas stacked with raw tuna, green olives, and snappy pickled peppers. Toasted baguettes topped with perfectly cooked shrimp and peppers. And a pile of house-fried potato chips draped with thinly sliced jamón ibérico. These are proper bar snacks. Don’t pick favorites. Embrace them all.
And the same goes for the vermouth and wine lists. Bottles of Spanish natural wine from passionate, thoughtful importers, like José Pastor Selections and Selections de la Viña, are there. Vermouths from culty producers (Partida Creus!) are just as good sipped straight as they are with lemon juice and soda water. Whatever you choose, it will pair perfectly with those pintxos.
Just because that’s my move, doesn’t mean it has to be yours. Maybe you make the warmly lit, flower-filled space into a temporary residence over a relaxed five-hour dinner. Maybe you stop by Ernesto’s café next door for coffee and pastries on Saturday mornings. Maybe you drink wine at the bar before heading to some other Lower East Side spot. Whatever you do, you know where to find me, perched at the bar, eating pintxos, and drinking vermouth all night long.
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