Once in a while, you need to leave Brooklyn — and dining at Tio Pepe restaurant makes it worth your while.
The fact that it is owned and operated by the same family that runs beloved Casa Pepe restaurant in Bay Ridge means you can still be Brooklyn proud.
This authentic Spanish and Mexican eatery is located on W. Fourth Street in the Village, a sombrero’s throw from the W. Fourth Street subway station, where all trains stop. Dining at tables close to the floor-length open windows provide you with the perfect opportunity to people-watch while you sip sensational sangria or a magnifico margarita.
The restaurant is celebrating its 45th anniversary, and one of its recipes for success is that the chefs remain loyal to cooking genuine Spanish and Mexican fare, with no fusion concepts. Paella is prepared with Valencian Bomba rice, as it would be in Spain. This short-grain rice is known for its ability to absorb water without becoming mushy. The result is a dish with flavor and consistency, true to its roots. Tio Pepe offers clams, mussels, shrimp, chicken, chorizo, rabbit, pheasant, and duck sausage to its various paella entrees. Decorated with strips of red pepper and green snow peas layered across the top, it conjures images of the Mexican flag.
About a year ago, Tio Pepe added a wood-burning oven, allowing cocas to be brought to the menu. These Spanish flatbreads are brilliantly baked until they are crisp, then adorned with a variety of generous toppings. The Ibérica has Serrano ham, manchego cheese, asparagus and baby arugula. The Del Mar boasts shrimp, clams, mussels, salmon, tomato and manchego cheese. The Campesina features the most delicious homemade chorizo, oven-dried tomatoes, broccoli rabe, artichokes and mozzarella. Served on slate plates, the crust stays nice and crunchy. Call it a Spanish pizza. It’s a great starter for lunch, brunch, dinner, or at the bar.
Another highlight is ordering the guacamole, prepared tableside with its fresh ingredients, served inside a molcajete, the traditional Mexican stone footed-bowl. A cart is rolled to the table, and the server scoops soft avocado from its shell, adding red, chopped tomatoes, fresh cilantro, onions, jalapenos, and fresh-squeezed lime, mixing it all with a pestle. You get to scoop every drop with colorful red, green, and yellow tortilla chips. It’s one muy bien way to get a fiesta started.
Main courses include sizzling chicken, steak, shrimp, salmon, or vegetable fajitas, marinated with lime, and grilled with tomatoes, onions, and tri-color peppers. Layer them inside a tortilla, and smother it all with guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo.
Another favorite is Camarones al Ajillo — an abundance of shrimp, sautéed with garlic, olive oil and white wine, accompanied by a side of saffron rice.
The atmosphere of the main dining room lends itself to the restaurant’s authenticity, with Spanish-style lamps, candelabras, and tables made of blue and white ceramic tile. Sit at the bar, taste some tapas, and make some new amigos.
Brunch is served Saturdays and from noon to 3:30 pm, an opportunity to enjoy cocas topped with caramelized onions, goat cheese, bacon and eggs. Or, perhaps the brunch quesadillas — scrambled eggs, bacon and Mexican cheese, folded in a flour tortilla. Get two hour of unlimited mimosas or Bloody Marys for just $10.
Churros, with a decadent chocolate dipping sauce, are a great way to wrap up the meal.
Tio Pepe [168 W. Fourth St. between Jones and Cornelia streets in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, (212) 242–6480, www.TioPe