A couple of my friends are visiting Barcelona this week, and asked me if I knew of any good spots to eat. I have never been but thought it would be a good idea to ask you. I suppose they are looking for anything that they might not notice in guide books, something like some hidden gems that only a local or an experienced traveler might know about. If you can help I’d really appreciate it! – Sam
When I went to Barcelona with my husband and friends in 2009, having great meals was first on our agenda. We ate well, without spending too much. Here are some of the highlights:
Cal Pep: Sure, it’s in all the tourist books. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! We arrived at this storefront just before 1 p.m. so we could grab a seat at the 14-person counter. A cheerful server told us that he would take care of us and indeed, he did. We must have consumed seven courses in all, plus two bottles of crisp Penedes white wine.
Many of them were Catalan specialties, including chipirones, or baby squid, cooked with garbanzo beans, sausage served over white beans, tortilla espanola and crème Catalan. It was a rowdy and intense foodie experience. So worth it.
Paella at Can Sole: Every Sunday, many restaurants down by the marina in the Barceloneta neighborhood serve paella. We chose Can Sole because it was one of the oldest. With white tablecloths and a doting staff, it’s more upscale than a counter/diner restaurant such as Cal Pep. The stuffed-shirt atmosphere dissipated when our paella came out, in a table spanning pan. It was loaded with seafood – langoustinos, mussels, clams, shrimp – and perfectly seasoned with saffron. “This is REALLY good,” my friend John said. “Like really good, like one of the best meals of my LIFE.”
TapaC 24: Besides trying traditional Catalan dishes, we wanted to experience some of the innovative combos created by disciples of Ferran Adria (of el Bulli fame). This little tapas bar by his disciple Carlos Abellan was just the ticket. We ordered a sampling of dishes, including potatos brava, crispy cuttlefish, and ham croquettes. A standout: a toasted ham and cheese sandwich topped with a generous amount of truffle oil.
Jamonisimo! This is where we found our ultimate Iberico de Bellota ham, the delicious meat that comes from acorn-fed pigs. More of a deli than a restaurant, Jamonisimo had shanks of ham hanging behind the counter. We came at the unpopular hour of 10 a.m., which meant we could grab one of fhe small booths in the back and ooh and ah over the jamon sampler plate. My friend Soon, who is based in London, liked Jamonisimo so much that she came back twice on our trip and has made subsequent pilgrimages to pick up Iberico de Bellota.
Boqueria Market: Can’t finish a post on Barcelona’s food without talking about this legendary market off La Rambla. It is as wonderful and diverse as everyone says it is. We ate at the famed Pinoxto, pushing our way through the crowds to point at the dishes on the counter, including baby squid with white beans, and more croquettes. If you go, plan to spend plenty of time wandering around, taking in the sights, smells – and tastes.
If you have any more recommendations for Sam’s friends, leave them in the comments below!