152 Metropolitan Avenue, (Williamsburg)
Price Range: $8-25
Many moons ago in Andalucía, wine bar owners began placing small saucers over their patrons’ glasses to keep fruit flies out. When they started placing snacks atop the plates, the first tapas — the Spanish word for “cover” — were born. Just a few blocks off the well-trodden Bedford Avenue sidewalk, Zipi Zape (named for a pair of cartoon twins) offers some of the city’s best traditional tapas for rock-bottom prices.
We grab a table in the narrow dining room, start with a pitcher of sangria (small $20, large $30) and a slice of tortilla Española ($3.50), and prepare to give our undivided attention to the petite waitress as she rattles off the long list of daily specials. She darts between Spanish and English, sometimes blending the two with trilled r’s and breathy a’s. Listen closely for chorizo al diablo — Spanish pork sausage cut into thin pepperoni-like slices and soaked in a spicy sauce — and the pork loin, which the waitress enthusiastically describes with two sideways hand claps, in pantomime of the tender and deeply flavorful meat being slapped on a slice of bread. And consider yourself warned about the scallop in a half shell — a tiny and dizzyingly fresh bite of the sea, doused with fresh lemon juice and coarse salt: Although I’d always loved scallops (sans shell) at swankier restaurants, Zipi Zape may have soured me toward those large lumps forever.
Tapas are served a couple at a time, and soon we’re basking in the slow, sultry heat of the red potatoes in romesco sauce — a Catalonian classic made with tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, and almonds ($4). We try not to fight over the Galician boiled octopus, dusted with sweet, smoky paprika ($12), and remember to save room for the fish and chips – or Soldaditos de Pavia (which mysteriously translates to “little soldiers of Pavia,” an Italian province). Light and crispy batter-fried Chilean merluza fillets are served with fries that are fine enough to charm a Belgian, along with a dipping cup of rich garlic aioli ($8).
Like most tapas joints, you can order almost anything drenched in garlic and white wine, and (unless you’re hung up on your breath) you should. The menu always promises ultra-garlicky mushrooms ($5), chicken ($4.50), and, my favorite of all, shrimp ($8). The only downside to this place is that it reminds me how rusty my Spanish has gotten but as long as I can pronounce ”camarones al ajillo” — and it seems to roll off the tongue more easily with every glass of sangria — I know I’ll never go hungry in Andalucía.