Culture of Good Food
Being a gastronomic capital is not something that all big cities can boast of. In Barcelona it seems natural. Eating in Barcelona is not a matter of luxury restaurants – while not forgetting that the hometown of renowned chef Ferran Adriá is home to 23 Michelin-starred restaurants – but an opportunity to experience a special relationship with the table, which starts from the time in which usually dinner: late, very late. In Barcelona, don’t risk skipping dinner if you go out hungry from a flamenco show at 10pm. Here, as in other places where the sun of the (many) hot months makes everything a bit more tiring, you hardly think about eating before 9pm …
Food cultures: from paella to local street-food
… Unless you opt for a refreshing snack like pa amb tomaquet: the sweet-sour taste of tomato, rubbed on bread, with the addition of oil and salt may not surprise those who come from the country of bruschetta, but it is the snack for entire generations of Catalan children (and less children). The Catalan cuisine also offers more complex dishes ranging from mixed paella of seafood and meat (mar i muntanya) to conill amb cargols (rabbit with snails), more and more difficult to find on the menu.
Food culture in Barcelona also means tapas: the lure of many appetizing tastings of various specialties that has always made millions of tourists and locals stranded at the counter of a bar, like Ulysses with the sirens. During your visit you can choose between traditional restaurants, and those with more exotic influences, for all budgets, and nibble on street food among kiosks and markets.
Eating paella in Barcelona: the melting pot on the table
Visiting Barcelona and not tasting paella should be considered illegal. In one of the local variants, seafood (mariscos) is combined with chicken and goes to live together with rice in the paellador, the special pan that is sometimes brought directly to the table. Also very popular is the fideua, a version in which fideos (macaroni pasta) are used instead of rice. Here are a couple of addresses to be on the safe side: At the Arume restaurant, the informal variety of the decor is also reflected in the menu, which offers curiosities such as crispy octopus with potato mousse and offers paella with duck and peppers and the classic seafood paella. It is located in the heart of the Raval, at 11 Carrer d’En Botella; a Paella is around € 15.
At the Barraca restaurant, you can taste the arroz mixed to various types of meat, vegetables and squid and if it seems to you that the scent of the sea pervades the air, perhaps it is also because you are comfortably seated on the splendid terrace overlooking the Barceloneta seafront. Paella about € 20; at number 1 of Passeig Maritim, Barceloneta.
Go for tapas in Barcelona: pasito a pasito among a myriad of flavors
Saying tapas in Barcelona is equivalent to saying an aperitif in Milan or a pub in London. It is not simply a matter of revelry, but of the culture of drinking, eating and, above all, sharing. The tapa (literally cap) was a saucer containing a taste of some particular dish that hosts and bartenders offered to the patrons together with the ordered drink, placing it on the glass as a lid.
Today’s tapas, while remaining delicacies in small doses, are no longer used to cap a glass of dyed wine but interpreted as a way of making dinner with many different specialties of the most disparate flavors, at relatively low prices.
Step by step, one tapa at a time, you will arrive on the coast to taste pulpo a la gallega and go fishing for zamburiñas (sea scallops), mejillones rellenos (mussels au gratin), chopitos or punitllas (fried cuttlefish in batter) and gambas ( prawns) in all sauces, literally (delicious all’allioli, for those who are not afraid of garlic). Are you tired already? It’s not like you on … finish your glass of albariño, the perfect white to accompany seafood dishes, and get ready to travel inland to taste chorizo (cooked in wine or cider) or cheeses manchegoortetilla paired with olives or anchovies, and followed by patatas bravas, ending with the “lottery” of the pimentos de Padrón, which are fried chillies, all sweet for the most part, except when you get the super spicy one, recognizable in appearance because it is exactly the same as all the others … too spicy? No problem: a nice sip of house red and it all goes away.
You can start the journey in a more traditional way, that is, in those places where tapas are still presented on the bar counter, or seated and served at the table.
El Xampanyet, behind the Rambla del Born, is a family-run establishment reminiscent of an old-time bar. An easy place to try anchoas (anchovies) and other specialties. You can find it at 22 Carrer Montcada.
Not far away is the Bormuth vermuteria restaurant. Vermouth is a typical aperitif drink and vermuterie are the answer to this tradition. In this warm and welcoming place, you can drink a couple of them while you refuel with battered calamares or albondigas (meatballs with sauce). A few steps from the Parc de la Ciutadella, in Carrer Rec, nº 31.
If you are in Ciutat Vella, near the Museum of Contemporary Art, you can stop at La Masia and taste the tortilla de patatas: the great classic. In C / d’Elisabets, 16; closed on Sundays.
At Bitacora, the mejillones are steamed, the boquerrones (anchovies) in vinegar and the chipirones (squid) in Andalusian style. The restaurant is located in Carrer de Balboa, 1, near the port. They do not accept card payments.
Meat restaurants in Barcelona
The culinary tradition of tapas also includes meat dishes such as pincho moruno, a skewer with beef, chicken or lamb, solomillo, a pork medallion served in a cheese sauce, onions or marinated in white wine and a stew of beef with chilli, called carcamusa. But if you want to eat a good cut or a particular hamburger, you can try one of these places:
Bardeni el Meatbar is a restaurant specializing in quality meats, led by award-winning chef Deni Lechuga, where you can delight your palate with the Vaca Charolais steak or the beef tartare. It is located at Carrer Valencia, 454; open from Tuesday to Saturday, the kitchen closes at 10.30pm.
Centonze (one hundred and eleven) is so called because it is located on the Rambla at that street number and, they say, because it is 111 steps from the Boquería market, the market from which the best ingredients are supplied. Here you can try Iberian pork tenderloin in port and artichoke puree, among many other meat dishes.
In El Rincón Criollo the South American influences are felt. In this Argentinian restaurant you cannot miss the solomillo. Open every day until midnight, it is located at Passeig de Sant Joan, 72.
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Barcelona
There is no shortage of restaurants for those who prefer to avoid products of animal origin:
Quinoa Bar Vegetarià is a small restaurant with very few seats and a simple menu that includes courgette spaghetti and veggie burgers. You can enjoy the intimate atmosphere of this place by going to Travessera de Grácia, 203.
Teresa Carles is the chef who over 35 years ago founded the vegetarian / vegan restaurant that bears her name. It will offer you a selection of vegetarian tapas and artisan pasta specialties . Teresa awaits you in Carrer de Jovellanos, 2 a few steps from Plaza de Catalunya.
Fast-food for all budgets
If you want a quick burger or a piece of fried chicken, Barcelona has no shortage of large fast-food chains. But you can find a proper sandwich, cheap, and perhaps a little healthier even in some local fast-food restaurants.
It offers a wide selection and is located in various corners of the city and the center, finding one will not be difficult!
Markets: the new frontier of street food
If you want to find fresh products of the day, freshly pressed fruit juices, but also snacks to eat while walking with your nose in the air, you cannot miss a visit to a local market.
At Boquería, the wonderful market that overlooks the Rambla, you can buy freshly baked bread, jamon Serrano (the typical Iberian cured ham) and queso manchego, and here you have prepared a sandwich to eat while continuing to stroll around the market or head for towards the port of Barcelona.
Food Tours: Take the secrets of local cuisine with you
Wouldn’t you like to know more about the food you tasted during your Barcelona holiday? Spanish cuisine is simple and genuine, but to do things right you need to know the tricks of the trade.
For food lovers, the city offers many direct experiences such as a course of a few hours to learn how to prepare tapas.
It is good to remember that you dine late and that during the weekend it is advisable to book to avoid long waits. Some traditional restaurants are so traditional that they only accept cash payments – better check at the entrance.