Tapas and Paella in Barcelona
Yes it’s true, you can easily eat your way through the beautiful city of Barcelona. Have you tried authentic Spanish tapas before? How about traditional Paella? If you haven’t tried either get both on your “foodie bucket list” immediately. I promise you won’t be disappointed! I admit I’m slightly biased since I lived in Spain while studying abroad in college so Spanish cuisine was something I was exposed to for the first time many moons ago. It is one of my favorite types of food. I love how tapas dishes are small and meant to be shared while at the same time they are bursting with flavor and quite rich. Albondigas (meatballs in spicy tomato sauce), tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette with with potatoes), pimientos de padron (small green peppers fried in olive oil), gambas (prawns sauteed in a variety of sauces). Those are just a few of some of my favorite tapas dishes.
Having recently visited Barcelona I wanted to share some of my favorite dining spots in the city with you.
Cal Pep came highly recommended to us from a few friends so we had to try it. It’s extremely popular so be prepared to wait in a line to get a spot at the counter which is definitely where you want to sit to get the full experience. You will get the chance to chat with the servers, cooks or even the owner Pep himself. They have a set menu deal or you can be adventurous and choose your own tapas. You will find every authentic tapas dish at Cal Pep. I recommend the grilled squid and butifarra (sausages and white beans). Cal Pep is in the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter).
We hit up Taller de Tapas our first night in Barcelona. The crowd of people standing outside led us to believe we’d have a very long wait but much to our happy surprise we were seated within 15-20 minutes. This is considered quick in Spanish time. (Remember to bring a lot of patience with you when you travel to Spain). They also had counter seating but it was limited and I recommend dining at one of the many tables in the restaurant. Again we had some delicious dishes with the chorizo dish being the highlight for me. Also located in the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter).
This place was buzzing when I arrived for lunch on a weekday. Because it’s located in the busy and central Eixample District you get many locals enjoying their lunch break here and also the tourists as well. I was quite impressed with how the manager and staff handled it making sure everyone was seated whether it was outside, at the bar or one of the tables in the main area of the restaurant. I was seated at the end of a table sharing with a party of three on the other end which was fine with me. The Spanish people are very friendly so this isn’t a problem at all. Service was good and very efficient which contributed to the quick turnover of tables during this peak time. I tried my first Pimentos de Padron here (small green peppers fried in olive oil) and I loved them! This is a great spot to get a quick bite or enjoy a more leisurely experience with a group of friends.
Our dining experience at Comerc 24, a Michelin star restaurant, was more like a culinary adventure. It is tapas cuisine with a gourmet and creative flair. Think of it more as fine dining tapas dishes. Carles Abellan, a well-known Spanish chef, opened Comerc 24 and has taken great pride to create an entire dining journey for his guests. The ambiance is contemporary and comfortable. Even though it is more on the fine dining side you aren’t sitting in a stuffy atmosphere which is refreshing. We chose the 7-course degustation menu and there is also a 12-course menu if you really want go over the top. Some of the dishes were the most creative I’ve ever tasted in my life. Comerc 24 has an impressive wine list with an in-house Sommelier who is very knowledgeable and more than happy to assist you in selecting your wine for the evening. If you’re looking for a special and memorable dining experience different from anything else you’ll try in Barcelona I recommend Comerc 24. You will find this exquisite restaurant in the Born neighborhood.
Now on to my other favorite traditional Spanish dish – PAELLA! If you haven’t experienced traditional Spanish paella it’s a must-try.
The first thing I noticed upon entering the dining room of Cheriff was the cozy, intimate feeling of the restaurant. It wasn’t too crowded with just the right combination of guests. While they had a good selection of different types of paella on their menu we knew we were going for the traditional paella with seafood. Beautifully flavored rice with mussels, fresh calamari rings and prawns combined with vibrant flavors creates a mouth-watering paella dish! If you’re not a seafood lover ther are variations with chicken as well and other things so you still can give it a try. Cheriff is located in the Barceloneta neighborhood of the city.
Straying away from your typical restaurant experience we have the magnificent Mercat Boqueria. Conveniently located on La Rambla street this couldn’t be easier to find and filled with spectacular fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts, sweets, juices and more. I guess I expected your average outdoor food market experience but this tops most I’ve been to throughout my travels. This is a great place to go to get food for a delicious picnic at the gorgeous Parc Guell. In addition to the never-ending food stalls there is also a well-known tapas bar in the market, Pinotxo Bar. La Mercat Boqueria is a must-do during your culinary adventure in Barcelona. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
If you want to be adventurous with trying different restaurants while visiting Barcelona I say go for it! Tapas bars line the streets in every neighborhood so pop in and take a look around until you find one that tickles your fancy. My one piece of advice would be to avoid the dining choices located along La Rambla as they are targeting tourists so they are over-priced and the quality isn’t as good either. Your best bet are the little local places you find wandering around the little lanes around the city. Better yet ask some locals. They usually are happy to share some of their favorite more authentic places with you.
So relax, eat, drink and be merry while you enjoy your culinary adventure in Barcelona! If you’re interested in ideas for what to see and do in Barcelona check out my “Best of Barcelona” piece on The Trend Tribe.