Served from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m., the 9th Door's happy hour is the closest you'll get to that experience on Broadway, a narrowed selection of tapas and cocktails are turned around in minutes and discounted to within the reach of hungry students and artists.
If Spain is synonymous with anything beyond paella and crippling bankruptcy, it's got to be sangria. In white or red, the 9th Door's sangria ($4) strikes the appropriate balance between soda pop and cheap wine, while a superb Spanish 75 cocktail ($5) counteracted the sweetness with gin, tart lemon and a splash of cava. For a real Spanish experience, grab yourself a bland lager: Barcelona's Estrella Damm is available at $3 a pour.
Part of the appeal of most good tapas joints is their casual, ramshackle feel. But the 9th Door just didn't seem to be trying that hard at happy hour. The tostas, a part of any good tapas course, came on bland baguettes and with indifferent toppings, like the Basque tostas ($2.65) with nearly-raw tomato and a smear of goat cheese, or the Manchego tostas ($2.45), topped with an oily slice of cut-rate 'Chego.
And compared to the downright sultry mussel plate at The Populist, the 9th Door's saffron cream mussels ($3.78) might as well be wearing a bathrobe and bunny slippers. Still, it's tough to quibble with the prices. The restaurant seems to understand the Spanish conception of tapas as cheap plates meant to go down with plenty of wine. But when there are so many great happy hours in this town, it's not enough to be merely cheap.
Perfect for: A second or third date. Wow your significant other with your four or five words of high school Spanish!
Can't miss: A glass of house wine ($4), almost mandatory with any meal in Spain -- the 9th Door's house red is pretty respectable.