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La Nacional Spanish Restaurant, A Place That Matters

La Nacional Spanish Restaurant, at 239 W. 14th St. (bet. 7th & 8th Aves.), in Greenwich Village, nominated by the students in Columbia University’s Historic Preservation Studio, 2006.

Every year Columbia’s graduate historic preservation students study a part of our city. A focus on 14th St. led to their detailed nomination to Place Matters of the street’s western strip, once commonly known as “Little Spain” for its constellation of stores, restaurants, and community institutions that served Spanish New Yorkers. One place they noted was Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church, at 229-231 W. 14th Street, which has now merged with and moved into St. Bernard’s at 328 W. 14th, leaving the original historic building unused and vulnerable.

La Nacional opened as an immigrant social club in the 1920s. It’s the oldest Spanish restaurant in New York City, and according to its current owner, Jesus “Lolo” Manso, the second oldest Spanish society still in operation in North America. “There is no doubt about it, La Nacional feels like Spain,” Manso told Elena Martínez in a new profile for the PlaceExplorer. Though the area’s Spanish constituency has diminished, a number of places along 14th still serve the city’s Spanish-speaking residents from Puerto Rico, Mexico, and so on. Go through La Nacional’s nondescript downstairs door and come upon the area where old timers drink a glass of wine or cup of coffee while watching soccer on TV. Or get a table in the restaurant proper and try the tapas or the paella for which the restaurant is famous. It is open daily from noon to 11pm, 212-243-9308.