There are some places that feel special the moment you walk through the door. That is what I felt when I entered Bikinis, a tiny gem on Avenue C in the East Village.
Maybe it was the baby blue and white tiled floors or its ultra-white tables with vinyl chairs right out of a 1950s kitchen. Or the counter, bright as an orange. Or maybe it was the images of bikini-clad women lining the wall. Or, it could have be the warm smile of the owner showing off her new baby while accepting compliments with modesty. Yes, there is a lot to take in from such a tiny space. All good.
Bikinis isn't named after a swimsuit as its name might suggest. It is actually the name of a sandwich that you might find on the streets of Barcelona. Here they are being cooked up in an open kitchen about the size of a large closet. But every inch of space is utilized, and the food leaving the kitchen is well worth the wait.
I ordered the "classico" bikini along with some croquettas and a nice chilly glass of Estrella, a Barcelona beer. The croquettas quickly arrived fresh from the frier and golden brown. The filling is a molten mass of silky mashed potato with tender bits of chicken at the center. You get three for five dollars. Then it was time to try my bikini, a lightly pressed sandwich that Americans might call a grilled cheese. My first bite offered a whiff of fresh butter, and instantly brought back childhood memories of my own mom cooking up grilled cheese sandwiches for us after school. It is the ultimate comfort food and Bikinis' version is no slouch. It's packed with thick slices of ham and organic provolone. The restaurant is also offering other Spanish-style tapas and homemade churros for dessert.
As I savored my sandwich, and the excellent greens accompanying it, I couldn't help but feel that I had just paid a visit to Barcelona by way of Avenue C.