- scene: This place is a funny throwback; the walls are covered with an old if not pleasant mural of sunny seaside Spain; giant 20lb lobster claws dangle from the wall randomly, in case you forgot what the main attraction of this place is
- sip: Red Sangria, aka Happy Juice
- savor: Baked clams oreganato; lobster; shrimp with green sauce
- sit: Bring anyone who can appreciate the novelty of this place, or wants a big lobster; definitely not a first date place, because you need to get down and dirty with some lobster and garlic to really understand what this place is about
- spend: $$
- address: 159 West 23rd Street (between 6th and 7th)
- phone number: 212-645-6224
- website: www.franciscoscentrovasco.com
Francisco’s Centro Vasco is an old school throwback, where the waiters are all dressed up and not much else is. It is a precious rarity, a place that is so unpretentious and unhip that you can’t help but fall in love with it. The sign on 23rd Street feels iconic to me, and it is amazing to go to Francisco’s with people for the first time, and watch them go through a full range of emotions until they finally get it. The menu is a mix of standard Spanish fare (paella, green shrimp, arroz con pollo), but lobsters are the main reason to go. The sizes of the lobster vary from “small” (I am still not really sure what that means) to enormous, around 8 pounds (size of a large baby). They arrive pretty no-frills, either steamed or broiled with breadcrumbs, with a side of green beans and rice, and a choice of thin, home made potato chips or baked potato.
There is hardly a place in NYC that I can think of to get lobsters at a better price, and the charming, if not a little old environment is definitely one of a kind. The clientele is a mix of people who are all craving a crustacean, including big groups well lubricated by the flowing sangria, or couples together for a night out. Don’t mistake “charming” for “romantic”- the best parts of this place involve garlic and a bib, so leave your pretenses and manicures at the door. I have never made a reservation here, and although this place fills up, there is rarely more than a 10 minute wait at the bar, which surprisingly features TV, possibly the most modern touch in the whole place.