24. September 2017 · Comments Off on 6 restaurants to try while in Barcelona · Categories: Blog Post, Food and Drink

Before my boyfriend and I went to Barcelona we did a lot of research about the area. Whenever we travel somewhere new we try to learn as much about the culture and a little of the language before we go. This trip was no different. We learned that in Barcelona they speak Catalan, although it is such a melting pot of a city that most people speak English or Spanish. But because Barcelona fought so hard for their rights to be independent and rejoice in Catalonia we felt it was only right to learn some Catalan prior to going. Using this language and with some help from our wonderful hotel we were able to find some fantastic restaurants.

As with most cities, there are the tourist restaurants and there are the locals’ restaurants. Most tourists that go to Barcelona tend to congregate around tourist attractions and will eat at locations that are handy to said attractions. This tends to be a huge rip off. So, as you walk down Las Ramblas, jam packed with tourists being herded down the pedestrian road, the street itself is lined with sidewalk restaurants, touting Sangria and local foods. From my research, Sangria is so not the thing in Barcelona. Their thing is Cava, a sparkling wine. You can get this just about anywhere, though if you are not really a fan of champagne you are not really going to like cava. We were not really a fan but gave it a shot anyway.

If you want to experience food and drink in Barcelona, you have to know where to go and where not to go. Although I do have to say that on this list are a couple of places that were right on Las Ramblas de Catalunya, but they were so good that we ate there several times because we just couldn’t help ourselves. This list is also not an exhaustive list and in no particular order but just a few highlights and places to check out the next time you find yourself in Barcelona.

  1. Bodega Biarritz (Address: Calle Vidre, 8, 08002 Barcelona, Spain

We went to this restaurant because it was rated #1 on Trip Advisor, so we figured it had to be good, right? Well the food was excellent but come to find out the reason they are ranked number one is because the waiters and waitresses give you their card at the end of the meal with their name on it asking you to give a 5-star review of the restaurant on Trip Advisor. They also want you to include their name in the review so they can get a bonus for it. So, lesson learned, don’t always go based on rankings on Trip Advisor. This is not to take anything away from the restaurant, the food was fantastic. The restaurant itself was very warm and inviting with only a couple tables available or a bar that you can dine at. The seats were made from whiskey barrels and the whole feel of the place was relaxed and secretive. The menu was a pre-fix meaning you paid one fee and they brought you a selection of their tapas, which changed regularly. The entire menu was also vegetarian, so if you are looking to have octopus (pulpo) or Iberic ham (jamon) you can forget it. They also have a decent selection of wines available to pair with your food, including red wines from the various regions in Spain. Trip Advisor stated that the lines can be out the door and that it can be hard to get a table but we didn’t wait at all, probably attests to our late eating strategy, heading out for dinner at around 10pm or later. The check came in what looked like a novel that you opened and the check was inside. The place had a lot of nice touches and the wait staff was very attentive but I was not pleased with the solicitation at the end of the meal.

  1. Casa Lola (Address: Rambla de Catalunya, 70, 08007 Barcelona, Spain)

I only mention this restaurant because it has the best patatas bravas of any place we tried (and we ordered it pretty much everywhere we went). The red sauce drizzled over the potatoes was more homemade and less from a bottle with a ton of fresh garlic that made the dish all the more savory. That was really the only difference, the sauce, but it completely changed the taste of the dish. Most places it seemed like they just used a red sauce kind of like a Cholula topped with a creamy white sauce similar to ranch dressing. They just weren’t that special anywhere else.  Otherwise, this is a chain so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend eating there for dinner but I would definitely stop in for the patatas bravas.

  1. Ciudad Condal (Address: Rambla de Catalunya, 18, 08007 Barcelona, Spain)

This was our favorite restaurant by far and it was located just down the road from our hotel on La Rambla de Catalunya. This place was always bustling at night, even at midnight, with wait times between 1 and 2 hours unless you want to stand behind the folks eating at the bar and wait for them to leave. The bar seating is first come first serve so people would get drinks and hover behind the people at the bar willing them to leave. The first time we went we got a table and got the chefs choice of 5 tapas, which changed regularly. The second time we went we sat at the bar and the third time we got a table upstairs. Each visit provided us with a different atmosphere and my recommendation is to sit at the bar. It’s a little bit crazier but you get to watch the waiters running around behind the bar scooping up the foods displayed in the bars glass case and handing them through a tiny window to the chefs beyond to go to the various customers. You can sit there sipping your Rioja, or beer, or Cava and point at the various fares under the case and they will cook it up for you right then and there. I don’t feel like all they had to offer under that case was on their menus, so I feel like you got more out of sitting at the bar. The waiters would also bring out huge cast iron skillets full of seafood paella that they would scoop out for various patrons. The one night we sat at the bar they went through at least 5-6 of those huge skillets of paella, which was also delicious in almost any place you go to eat. I highly recommend trying seafood paella during your visit, with its scallops, mussels, prawns, and clams it’s a seafood lover’s dream.

My favorite thing at this restaurant though was the grilled cuttlefish. It was cooked to perfection in olive oil infused with garlic and herbs. It was perfectly tender and melted in your mouth. My second favorite thing was the grilled artichokes, cooked similar to the cuttlefish with olive oil and garlic. One of my boyfriend’s top picks was a more traditional dish called Cabreaos egg style. This had slivers of potatoes deep fried with something similar to the patatas bravas sauce and a fried over easy egg on top. The waiter would bring it to you and then mix the ingredients together in your bowl, breaking the egg yolk and getting all the ooey gooey goodness all mixed together. The atmosphere, the food and the controlled chaos of the place made it the most wonderful place to eat and the locals thought so too.

  1. Tantarantana (Address: C / Tantarantana 24, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)

We kind of stumbled upon this place one evening while getting lost in the Gothic Quarter. A lot of the restaurants in the Gothic Quarter you may find once and then never see it again in all your wanderings because the roads are like that seen in Venice. There is no rhyme or reason, and the walls are so close you feel as though the ancient stones are closing in on you. We had to wait about an hour to eat at this place, mostly because we wanted outdoor seating, but this little restaurant was tucked into a side street and absolutely teeming with people. We got a beer and waited on the steps outside for the next available table. Our waiter really made the meal, him and the desert. I tried to speak as much Spanish/Catalan as I could and in turn, even when I switched to English, he kept going in Spanish but it somehow just worked and I thought it made the experience even more special. The food was delicious but the desert was out of this world. There is a Crema Catalana that you can find at a lot of restaurants in Barcelona and I ordered it at this restaurant and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It is served in a little shallow clay dish and is an eggy custard with sugar on top that is scorched with a torch. It is sometimes called the poor man’s crème brûlée but let me tell you it won hands down for me.

  1. La Terminal (Address: Carrer Gran De Gracia, 57, 08012 Barcelona, Spain)

We stopped here during our tour of the Gracia area. It seemed like it was going to be a really fancy place to get a beer but thought it looked cool so we stopped to check it out. The bar had several of their own beers on tap and in the back of the place were tables where you could order a meal. We sat next to the bar and were given a bowl of olives and we each tried a couple of the beers they offered on tap. There was huge map of the world on the wall where we sat with the main airports around the world. The whole place seemed clean and fresh and completely unlike the rest of the Gracia area. The beer was well-made and I totally expected each beer to cost around 7 Euros. For the 4-5 beers we had, our bill was 10 Euros. I couldn’t believe it. I think I almost fell out of my chair. For beer that good to be that cheap I thought they had made a mistake but nope, that’s what happens when you leave the tourist traps of Barcelona. Quality food and drinks for less.

  1. Kælderkold (Address: Carrer de Cardenal Casañas, 7, 08002 Barcelona, Spain)

In contrast to La Terminal we found this microbrewery just off Las Ramblas. We found it before La Terminal and were excited to see a brewery since we both like to drink and brew our own beer and enjoy trying different microbrews. The bartender was originally from Denmark and the place had only been open for a short while. When we arrived, there was only one other couple there. They had a very interesting selection of beers from different areas around the world. I tried a sour beer, which was a first and it had an interesting, pucker your lips kind of taste. The beer here cost significantly more than the beer at La Terminal, being about 7 Euros a beer. It was cool to see and after being there for just a short time the place filled with people and became more of a happening, loud, laughing scene.

These places are just a taste of what Barcelona has to offer. Some things to think about when choosing where to eat and drink in and around the city:

  1. Tips are generally included on your bill and the people there don’t expect a tip on top of that. We learned that the hard way. Not only did we eat at a bit of an overpriced tourist trap, we left a huge tip, one you would expect to leave in America but is totally unnecessary in Barcelona. Lesson learned. Don’t do as we did.
  2. Try to speak the language, even a little. Trying goes a long way and people really appreciate that and it’s fun. This goes for ordering food and drinks as well.
  3. Go out to the Gracia area, this tends to be more of a local’s spot and you are more apt to find more reasonably, if not super cheap, places to eat and drink that are just as good, if not better than the ones in the other areas of Barcelona. The Gracia area has an entirely different feel from the rest of the city. You can tell immediately that you have left the comfort of the tourist locations and stepped into the real Barcelona. It’s more natural and raw, there is nothing fake or over dramatized about this area. You can feel the dust of the ages in the air as locals hang out at tables outside drinking and laughing with friends. There are so many restaurants to choose from in this area and little bars stuffed with people at night that my recommendation would be to stop in and try a little something at each. Have a beer at one place, a couple tapas at another and keep moving, this is the best way to really experience the scene in the Gracia area. It’s a fun and lively place and bustling with people everywhere, crammed into little bars yelling over one another while hanging out with friends. It’s absolutely wonderful.
  4. You might find a place you really like and decide you want to eat there again but may never find it again, thanks to the crazy, winding streets in places like the Gothic Quarter and the Born area. This happened to us at the first place we ate at in the Gothic Quarter. We loved that restaurant. It had some of the best octopus, pork knee and other specialty dishes you cannot find just anywhere. The unfortunate part is that we didn’t get the name of it and while wandering around the Gothic Quarter, which we did every day, we never found it again. All I have of the place are the food memories and one photo.    
  5. Eat as the locals do. The locals dine late. Though apparently, from my research they have a light breakfast, a large lunch and a small dinner. However, dinner is usually not until 10pm or later. We would head out for dinner any time after 10pm and there would be loads of people out eating tapas (or small plates).
  6. Another “eat as the locals do” recommendation that we loved during our stay is to pick up a bottle of wine, stop at a local bakery for some fresh bread and La Boqueria for some delicious Iberic ham (jamon) and cheese. Take it back to your hotel and enjoy a snack on your balcony. We did this every day, always stopping at the same little bakery, which was open all the time, even late at night, called Maxi Pan. We would cut up some meat and cheese and drink a bottle of Rioja or Catalan red wine bought from an outdoor farmer’s market. It was always one of my favorite parts of the day and a good break from the insane amount of walking we did.

That was our food and drink experience in Barcelona. Like I said it’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a good start when your new to the city. Where have you eaten in Barcelona? Is there one place that stands out most to you? Did you stumble upon some really amazing locals spot that you want to share? Tell me about your experience, I would love to learn more.