Last year I returned to Barcelona for Spannabis 2023 and along with indulging in copious amounts of the most fire cannabis, you know I had to seek out deliciousness in the form of food as well. As I prepare for my next trip I want to share some gems that are a must see on your next trip! From fine dining to market bites, here are some of the places I ate and drank during my last trip to Barcelona.
Traditional Tapas (& More)
Tapeo El Born
Hiding in the center of Barcelona's El Born district you'll find Tapeo El Born, where classic Catalan flavors are celebrated to new heights. Around the corner from La Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, just down the block from Museu Picasso and MOCO Barcelona, and directly across the street from a Catalan staple El Xampanyet this is the perfect place to pop in for lunch after an afternoon of soaking up the neighborhoods vivid culture. Chef Daniel Rueda, formerly of La Dama and Comerç 24 - once considered to be one of the top 10 restaurants in Barcelona - began Retaurante Tapeo in 2001 with a location in the Gracia neighborhood as well as El Born. Along with his wife, the pair are dedicated to providing their guests with delicious food and an unforgettable experience. The dimly lit interior was illuminated by the large floor-to-ceiling window that surrounded the bar, where I chose to sit. The beer selection was limited, I went with an Alhambra as they didn't have any Estrella or Don Miguel. The menu was small, but intriguing. I was undecided between the tempura asparagus with spicy aioli or the braised beef cheek over parmesan mashed potatoes. I decided to get both, naturally. While the asparagus was tasty, it was nothing special. The tempura coating wasn't staying on very well, and it was clear that it was put on the menu to appease tourists. The beef cheek on the other hand was divine. The beef was tender and flavorful, hearty but not overpowering. The potatoes were pillowy and savory, the sharpness of the cheese helped cut the richness of the beef and bring balance to it all. While I didn't get any pictures here, I knew this would not be my last time enjoying that dish - as it is apparently a classic Catalan preparation.
Bodega Fermin was once a traditional Catalan liquor store where patrons could bring their own bottles and buy wine straight from the barrel. Well, it still is! They've just added craft beer and vermouth to the menu. Right across the street from Plaça del Poeta Boscà in the Barceloneta neighborhood, this quickly turned into one of my favorite places to hang out. Bodega Fermin really set that standard for tapas for me. The simplicity of the kitchen, which consisted of just a few toaster ovens and jars of preserves, blew me away. The beer selection was amazing, featuring craft beer from all over Europe, which has gotten so much better since my last trip to Spain over 5 years ago. Pictured below is some of the best pan con tomate I have ever had in my life, the flaky maldon salt makes a world of difference, paired with some tinned fish and house made olives. Followed by roasted eggplant and brie with jam and pickled herring with cornichons and mustard. While there wasn't a ton a variety in texture, aside the crunchy bread, the flavors were captivating enough on their own. The menu is full of classic and delicious small bites that are perfect for sharing. Don't come here expecting to find patatas bravas, this is a place for people who know and love food.
Los Caracoles looks just like any other old stone building on an unassuming corner of the Gothic Quarter. Unless you happen to be walking by when they are roasting whole chickens in the window - you won't miss the smell. Then you'll look up and see the large wrought iron snail and the words "Los Caracoles" above it. The establishment is nearly two centuries old and it's menu is just as timeless. Upon entering the building you walk into a bar area where the host leads you back through the kitchen, which consists of a couple large, stone, wood-fired ovens and stoves making the temperature quite hot, and into the sprawling dining area. The walls are covered with photographs and newspaper articles about the restaurants many accolades. The menu was large but we were up for challenge. Pictured below are fried padrón peppers with flaky sea salt, snails in a red sauce - a house special, braised oxtail with mashed potatoes and paella with snails and rabbit. These are just some of the dishes that we ordered, but everything was delicious. One thing I love about Catalan food is the way the ingredients have a chance to shine. I highly recommend this place if you want to feel transported in time. While there are a lot of snails on the menu there is enough variety on the menu for everyone to find something they'll enjoy.
Torres Del Paine
Also tucked away in dark corner of El Raval Barrio, a name that stems from the Arabic word Rabad meaning neighborhood or district - which reflects the heavily Middle Eastern and Indian immigrant population in the area - you'll find Cera 23. I arrived upon opening, as it was my last night in town and I didn't want to be out too late. As I sat down it brought me so much joy to see a group of women running the kitchen. Being able to watch them work in the open kitchen next to the dining room was one of my favorite parts of the experience. The dining room was large and there were many tables that began to fill as the time passed. I enjoyed beef tataki with seaweed, enoki mushrooms and spicy avocado cream, oysters with ponzu and caviar, and baby scallops in a red sauce with peanuts that reminded me so much of Mexican pipian, which a sauce made from dried chiles, spices and toasted seeds. The combination of salty and sweet were perfectly balanced throughout this meal. It ended with a serving of braised beef cheek and mashed potatoes, which again were nothing short of divine. Cera 23 takes the sensibility of Mediterranean cuisine and packs it full of flavor.
Cassette Bar has been one of my favorite places since I first visited in 2017. It was my first time staying the Andante Hotel, an awesome budget friendly hotel with great walkability, when I found this place across the street and fell in love. While I don't drink liquor, the selection is great along with an excellent wine list and growing beer selection. The atmosphere is quirky and inviting. Like most places in Barcelona, the bar is not the biggest but has a decent amount of tables as well as some outside seating. I was pleasantly surprised to find Lagunitas IPA on tap and enjoyed many of their dishes like this salmon tartare with avocado and strawberries, tuna tataki with wasabi mayo and stuffed mushrooms. The menu is slightly elevated but approachable, with flavor combinations that are interesting but make sense. Between the laid back atmosphere, friendly staff and trendy music choices, I can't see why anyone wouldn't make this a stop on their next trip to Barcelona.
Inside the Axel Hotel there's a place where Japanese and Peruvian fusion meet the Spanish palette, at Nikkie 103. Located in Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample, or 'Gayxample' as some know it by, is one of Barcelona's safer and wealthier neighborhoods. From the same restaurant group as Ceviche 103 and La Turuleca these guys are masters at elevating Peruvian dishes. There are two cozy and well lit dining areas with lots of bamboo and natural elements. I sat in the lower dining area where the bar was, but the sushi bar was upstairs at the ground level where those passing by could watch the sushi masters at work. I went with something adventurous and something traditional. My first bite was this tuna nigiri with foie gras and a red fruit compote, it tasted like raspberries and pomegranate which contrasted perfectectly with the richness of the tuna and foie gras. I followed that with the Tiradito Nikkei - corvina sea bass in leche de tigre, aji amarillo, and crispy corn covered in hot sesame oil. Truly some of the best ceviche I have ever had. Had to pair the meal with a classic Sapporo and a cold glass of Coke, but the drink menu was fantastic as well.
In the heart of Barcelona's historic district and one hidden alley away from Palau Güell you'll find Bar Cañete. The name shines in gold letters on the window of the sliding wooden door. Inside your are greeted with the words "Fuck Your Diet" hanging above the long wooden bar that looks into their open kitchen. A sentiment not taken lightly here. This is one of those restaurants that is always busy, but reservations are allowed. That being said, we showed up around opening and got a seat at the bar (the last ones). Our party of 3 was perfect for the corner of the bar but there is a dining area in the back with tables suitable for larger parties. At this point in our trip we had eaten our fair share of cured and raw red meat and were in need of something light. We started with this green bean, parmesan and pine nut salad. It was the freshness we had been searching for. Then we had one of their daily specials, ostrich egg over mashed potatoes with tons of fresh black truffle. I had never had ostrich egg and I loved how rich it was. Then we had a tomato salad with tuna and anchovies, which are made with tinned fish and is common, and quite yummy! We got a few other things but what stood out to me was the razor clams or 'navajas' which means razor is Spanish. They are literally alive in front of you before they are cooked and served, perfect amount of char and brine.
I am really fortunate to have enjoyed some really special meals in my life but none of them compare to dinner at Enigma. From the creative mind of Albert Adrià, former pastry chef of the world-renowned elBulli and younger brother of chef Ferran Adrià, this one-Michelin-star restaurant opened its doors in 2016 in the Sant Antoni neighborhood, just a few blocks away from Plaça Espanya. Dining here was an experience like no other. We were happy to have found some reservations with relatively short notice. We reached out prior to our dinner to let them know someone in our party had some dietary restrictions and they were more than happy to accommodate. We arrived at opening, as we had one of the first reservations of the evening. Walking into the restaurant was an experience in itself. Everything was grey and the ceiling was covered in a material that made us feel like we were walking through a rain cloud. We were the first people seated and the entire kitchen was lined up to greet us. I had the joy of attending this dinner with a few other restaurant industry folk, so we really appreciated all the little details. Dinner was around 3 hours long and we did not take our time with each dish, as they were only 2 or 3 bites each. There were roughly 25 dishes that we paired with their Spanish Tour In 7 Wines tasting which explored the countries 7 different wine-making regions. The effort and attention that went into every aspect of the meal was mind-boggling. Perfect execution from the front of house to the back. Below are just some of the dishes we tried including squid "napkins" with caviar and iberico ham fat, broad beans with soy burrata and black truffle, gelatinized chicken stock and coconut cream with fresh uni, wagyu beef tartare with foie gras and pistachio cream, and shiso leaf and beetroot with orange sorbet, just to name a few. The meal ended with a dessert trio that was actually the original mignardise from elBuli, which was served alongside a photograph of the brothers. There was a floral marshmallow, candied ginger with lime gel and a double chocolate truffle. I don't need to elaborate much more, it was truly an incredible experience. Everyone should enjoy a meal of this caliber at least once in their life.
At the top of La Rambla Del Raval Chef Antonio Romero and the team at Suculent are making a name for themselves. After an impressive career as a station chef in some of Europe's top kitchen like Spain's elBulli and France's Maison Pic, he started Suculent in 2013. Born in Nules, Castellón in the Valencian region of Spain, Chef Toni is in his element, using his dishing to showcase all the Mediterranean has to offer. With a focus on textures, specifically broths and juices, there are two seasonal menus for guests to choose from, as well as an a la carte menu. I opted for the Suculent menu with the wine pairing, which was about 15 dishes and 4 glasses of wine. The restaurant was small, no bigger than the bar and a couple of small tables behind me. There are not many reservations available per night, and walk-in options are very rare. I was dining alone, I had a seat at the bar next to servers station. The host was energetic and fun, the bartender was focused and knowledgeable. The first few courses were small and light. A cuttlefish and iberian pork jowl tartare with almond milk, "escabeche" oyster, roasted duck croquette and a red prawn ceviche with avocado and corn. As the menu progressed, the dishes began to feel heartier without feeling heavier. Including braised beetroot in "burre blanc" with tons of black truffle and red mullet with fennel in bouillabaisse sauce, to name a few. Just about everything came covered in sauce or sitting in some type of broth or juice, including dessert - shaved mango with tapioca and mint. Between the elegant dining experience and wonderful combinations of flavors and textures, I cannot wait to see what's new on the menu next time I am in town.
Not far from Catedral La Seu, more commonly known as Catedral De Barcelona. Inside the Hotel Neri, tucked up against Placa De Sant Felip Neri is a Restaurant. From chef Alain Guiard, co-owner of a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand award winning restaurant La Mudana, this place embodies the term "creative cuisine." One thing about this city is how easy is it to walk down the same streets over and over and discover something you never noticed before. We came in for lunch, there were kids from the neighboring school playing in the square outside the restaurant. They would wave and laugh and run away when we waved back. When the kids aren't in school the square is used as outside seating. The menu at a Restaurant was enticing and exciting. with items that felt very Spanish, like the duck croquettes and grilled octopus, and and items that felt more like fusion, like the lobster crudo and bbq pork sliders on brioche buns. Plus, with options like fried cod with spicy aioli and steak tartare with frites, there is something everyone can enjoy on this menu. Along with sizable selection of beverages, from wine to cocktails to craft beer.
A Quick Bite
Pizza Circus is reminiscent of the late night slice spots I came to love during my time working in the North Beach district of San Francisco. The pizza is creative, the slices are big and price tag is cheap. There is some standing room inside but this is a great place for grabbing a slice for lunch outside or on the way back to the hotel after a night of fun. Located on Carrer Nou de la Rambla between La Rambla and Avinguda de les Drassanes, it's pretty centrally located so keep your eyes peeled for it while you're out and about.
Mercat de la Boqueria
Where locals and tourists mix, Mercat de la Boqueria, or Mercat de Sant Josep, is right on La Rambla between the water and Plaça de Catalunya. There are tons of food options here, from quick coffee shops to tapas bars to fresh seafood, plus tons of fresh fruit and juice - there's something for everyone. Some of my favorites are Ramos Boqueria for all things cured meats, MAS for cheeses and my all time favorite quince paste and Carmen for fresh oysters and uni and more delicious seafood options like salmon and tuna tartare with avocado.
Let's Grab A Drink
Kælderkold Craft Beer Bar
A part of the Ølgod family, Kælderkold is another craft beer bar with a variety of drink options and small bites. The bar is long and narrow with a separate room in the back with more seating, making it much larger than meets the eye. Both locations serve flights for those looking to sample a few different beers. Just across Las Ramblas from La Boqueria I love stopping in here for a break from my sightseeing.
Garage Beer Co x Warike
Garage Beer Co is one of Barcelona's staple microbreweries with brewpubs all over the city. While El Raval offers tons of food and drink options, I do like to stop at Garage Beer Co x Warike for some beer and bites, this time Peruvian street food. The facade is pretty unassuming, making it easy to miss, but inside the bar is fairly large with lots of wood elements and dim lighting. This place is great for kicking off a night of drinking or or grabbing a post-dinner craft beer.
One of the bars that lines Plaça George Orwell is Bar Oviso. The atmosphere is that of a neighborhood bar, with a youthful atmosphere and an all-encompassing drink menu. I was happy to find some unfamiliar IPA's on tap here, while my friends ordered a couple of Aperol spritz. The interior is large with paintings of birds and lions and other wild animals covering the walls. The tables and low and made of wood while the large bar is lined with tall cushy bar stools. It's easy to spend hours here. With seating outside, it's a great place to enjoy the sights and sounds of the Gothic quarter without breaking the bank. We didn't try the food but the offerings seemed simple and delicious.
La Violeta Bar
When I walked into Nevermind, I never felt more at home. There was loud music, there was graffiti, there were stickers on stickers on stickers covering almost every surface of the bar, there was cranky bartenders and even a skate spot in the back with it's own bowl, although it was filled with youngsters drinking and not skateboarders. This place is reminiscent of the Mission District's dive bars we know and love.
What a great trip, I can't wait to tell you all about what I eat in 2024!
stoneyxochi. 33 year old California native. proud pothead, Mexicana and woman.