Local secrets to eating in Barcelona
January 1, 1970
by Eira Scheper
Barcelona is not just a city worth seeing, but also worth tasting! One of the many ways this Spanish city will make its way to your heart is definitely through your stomach. I’ll reveal you all the secrets I learned from living in this city as a local for my whole life and from guiding my international friends around.
You ever heard of Tapas?
They’re cheap, they’re great for sharing with friends and they go perfectly with beer or sangría. From patatas bravas to pulpo a la gallega, there’s something for everyone, even if you are vegetarian! My personal favourites are croquetas, usually filled with ham or prawns, and tortilla de patatas. But, right now it’s harder than ever to find good tapas places where they don’t take advantage of you, especially if you’re a tourist. That’s why I am going to share a local secret with you: stay away from the main streets on the beach or las Ramblas. You will find the best quality tapas for every budget in Poblesec, as crazy as it sounds. It’s an area that’s close enough from the city centre, about 15 minutes walking, but not really crowded.
Paella by the sea
In the case of paella, you will find the best ones on the main walks around the main beach, Barceloneta. But not every spot that claims to have “the best paella in Barcelona” is to be trusted. I see people commit the same mistake over and over: they trust places where paella shares the same menu page as their pizzas and hamburguers, and that’s just a big red flag. If you have the time to take the train 20 minutes to Castelldefels, you will find delicious and good price paellas there, but if you don’t have that much time, my absolute favourite places are El Pintxo and La Gavina. They might be a bit pricier, but they won’t serve you chicken paella or some other weird thing they made up. Paella should always have only fish and shellfish!
If you’re visiting Barcelona, you’ve probably heard of Spanish ham or jamon serrano, right? And if not, you’re missing out on what I consider the absolute most delicious dish we have and the main reason I can’t be a vegetarian. When it comes to jamon, if you’ve never tried it before, probably any cheap place will already blow your mind. But if you want to try the good stuff, you’ll have to be willing to invest a bit more and go to Vinitus or La Cerveseria Catalana, both at Rambla Catalunya. A nice platter of ham for two will probably cost you around 15€ including the bread and it will give you the real mediterranean experience.
Time for vermut!
Vermut is what we Catalan people call getting together with friends just before lunch, at around 12pm (because our lunchtime is at 2pm), having some snacks like olives and potatoes and a few beers. I consider it to be the Spanish way of brunching, even though for a lot of people it’s the perfect excuse to get drunk on a Sunday right before they have to have lunch with their family. I’ve had vermut all over the city and I have to say that my favourite spots are all right in front of the beach if it’s sunny or around Plaza Catalunya when the days are colder.
Look, if there is one thing you have to know about Spanish culture is that we like to drink, celebrate and party at any given ocasion, be it at 11am or pm. And aside from beer, sangría is the way to go, especially if it’s warm outside. A mix of wine and orange juice that tastes so sweet you won’t even notice that you already drank 5 glasses of it. That’s why it’s important to drink a bit of water in between, because sangría hangovers are probably one of the worst I have experienced. If you want a cozy place for good food and sangría that is not in the middle of the touristic area, Chill Bar close to Passeig Sant Joan is one of the most amazing places.
Spanish Beers 101
Since we Spanish people love a good party, we also know how to make good beer. If you are a fan of this amazing drink like I am, let me tell you a secret: there are amazing beers and then there are beers not worth trying. If you visit Barcelona, Moritz is our local beer and, in my opinion, one of the best I have ever tried. But since it’s not found at every bar or supermarket, Estrella Damm and Estrella Galicia are also really good options as well. The most important thing you have to remember is to avoid Mahou and San Miguel. You will basically be paying for something that tastes more like water than beer.
Vegans and vegetarians also welcome!
Even though the local cuisine has a lot of meat, fish, cheeses, etc… in the past few years, Barcelona has become one of the cities with more vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Some of them like Flax & Kale (my all time favourite) has international and healthy dishes, but there are other options like Sésamo where they found a way to create vegan and vegetarian tapas, which my LA vegan friends are in love with. And even if you have not dietary restrictions, these places are a good place to give your stomach a rest from too much bread and fried dishes.
If there is something I have missed when living in the US or Asia for a few months, it has definitely been the amazing local food we have in Barcelona and Spain in general. The dishes are not just great, but the quality of the food is also as high as it gets compared to other countries. When you visit Barcelona, either plan a lot of physical activity or try to hit your hotel’s gym every few days if you don’t want to bring back a food baby.