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The Short Version: Despaña Brand Foods has brought a taste of Spain to New York City singles, couples, and families. Its specialty foods include cheeses, meats, and olives, most of which have been imported, and the Soho café sells croquetas and bocadillo sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Soon, the original Despaña in Queens will add sandwiches and other traditional Spanish meals to its menu as well, making it a wonderful place for couples to grab a quick bite for a date.
Couples who love Spanish food and new experiences will have a great time on a date night out at Despaña Brand Foods in Soho. They can opt for a simple meal of bocadillo sandwiches with tuna and piquillo pepper, or they can snack on a meat and cheese board paired with almonds and grapes.
Some couples may choose to enjoy an at-home date and pick up groceries at Despaña. Thanks to this eclectic grocery, they can take home Spanish ingredients that will liven up any meal. For example, Despaña Manhattan has canned paté, fresh-made chorizo, and a variety of wines and spirits in stock.
Whether you’re planning an intimate date or a lively dinner party, Despaña caters to all types of tastes with its imported foods.
For over 40 years, Despaña has been New York City’s favorite place to buy Spanish grocery items. The first location opened in Queens as a humble grocery store, and now it has two other shops in Soho and Lower Manhattan. The Soho location also has a café with sandwiches on the menu.
Angelica Intriago, Despaña’s Vice President, said the grocery store has a loyal following because of its unique products.
“One of the keys of Despaña is our high-quality products, including conservas — also known as canned goods,” Angelica said. “Americans have the idea that canned goods are salty or not of good quality, but Spain cans pâtés, seafood specialities, and vegetables that are very high quality.”
Couples don’t have to cook with the ingredients they pick up at the grocery. Many of the products are easy to prepare or come ready to eat. Simply open the can or package, drizzle with olive oil or a lemon squeeze, and then enjoy. The Spanish Snack Box is recommended for a date because it includes chorizo, mini breadsticks, a wedge of Manchego cheese, and all sorts of goodies that don’t require any cooking.
“You don’t need to be someone who cooks every day to shop here,” said Angelica.
The café at Despaña Soho is a down-to-earth eatery away from big tourist crowds. Couples can order at the counter and then choose a table for two by the window. The eatery is ideal for first dates or quick meals. Patrons can also come in for a glass of wine or sangria. It’s pretty common to see coworkers enjoying a happy hour together on weekday evenings.
“People mention it’s a place where they’re unencumbered by other things. Meet someone or talk to someone — it’s not a huge burden for a full-fledged dinner,” said Angelica.
The café has several types of Spanish food on the menu. Many diners go for bocadillos, a sandwich prepared on artisan bread and filled with chorizo, ham, cheeses, and peppers.
Couples on a date will probably enjoy sharing tapas over wine. The Spanish small plates include cured anchovies, olives, and fried potatoes.
Feeling adventurous? Then you can order the Don Bocarte Jibiones Con Arroz — squid with ink over bomba rice. The Spanish tortilla is a classic egg-and-potato dish that is part omelet and part casserole. Meat lovers may enjoy the chorizo mixed into the tortilla, while vegetarians prefer cheeses and peppers.
The café also serves salads, charcuterie plates, and croquettes stuffed with savory flavors. Desserts include a flan and almond cake that diners could enjoy with a drink from the espresso bar.
“It’s a date night place, and we have had a lot of stories. A couple who met here at our opening party got married, and they have three or four kids,” Angelica told us.
Despaña Soho serves as a reminder of home for New York City transplants from Spain, and it’s a taste of vacation for Americans who have visited Spain.
Some couples prepare for dates by shopping for their favorite Spanish products in the store. Many of the store’s customers are men, who appreciate the range of meats for sale. Some professionals work in the neighborhood and come into the grocery to pick up a quick bite for the office. Locals seem to enjoy the chance to mix up their meal routines and add some Spanish flavor to their days.
“We have tour guides who tell people to visit this place because it’s different. It’s a boutique experience, not just a grocery store,” said Angelica.
During the pandemic, Despaña developed an even broader following and got feedback from customers who appreciated the high-quality canned goods imported from Spain. Some novice cooks said the Spanish tortilla mix helped them make a quick and delicious meal of eggs and potatoes.
The online store offers 40 meats, 43 cheeses, 57 seafood items, and a variety of other canned, pickled, seasoned, and bundled foods. Its spreads and sauces can bring new flavors to a home kitchen, and some of its unique ingredients could inspire a fun cooking night. Couples can shop online to create a delectable menu for their date night meals.
Despaña offers doorstep delivery for New Yorkers as well as people across the U.S.
Of course, some couples enjoy the experience of shopping at the grocery store together. Visiting Despaña is an experience in its own right. The shelves are stocked with tempting items, and staff members are knowledgeable when it comes to Spanish cuisine.
Despaña can make couples feel as if they’re taking a food tour through Spain, and it offers a wonderful opportunity to try international foods. The grocery offers free samples of many popular and new items.
“It’s not a hard sell. Sample something that transports you,” said Angelica.
Despaña Brand Foods’ online ordering system blew up in popularity during the pandemic, and the team plans to keep that system in place to facilitate e-commerce and nationwide delivery. It’s an easy way for a small grocery store to reach foodies all over the place, not just in New York City.
At the same time, Despaña has maintained a place in the community with brick-and-mortar grocery stores where locals can gather. These stores bring a human touch to the grocery shopping experience and offer a space where friendships and dates can begin.
In the next year, Despaña will add a café to the Jackson Heights, Queens location, which has served generations of New Yorkers. The grocery is a particular favorite among Latin American expats who come by every week or every month. For them, a chorizo isn’t just an easy dinner option — it’s a taste of home. Recently, the store has seen more young adults who once came with grandparents and now have children of their own.
In light of this new generation, Despaña is pivoting to offer more to-go meals and quick lunch options.
Though New York City has many options to enjoy cuisine from around the world, the Despaña store has found a captive audience by keeping to the traditions of Spanish cuisine.
“We never did a lot of PR. All of our growth has been through customers who connect with these stories. People already fall in love with it, and they will tell their friends. That’s hugely special. You can’t pay for it,” Angelica told us.