Barcelona in October
- Tom Armitage
Over on the "Not About Food" board, Neil Anderson asked
for suggestions about Barcelona in connection with his
forthcoming trip there in October. As it happens, my
wife and I are also going to be in Barcelona from
October 8 through October 15.
Neil, there is lots of good information on Barcelona in
previous Chowhound posts. Use the search feature
(chowhound.com/search/search.html) and check them out.
In January 1998, for example, Jim Leff noted that his
favorite place to eat in Barcelona is Liar del'all i
oli in Badelona. There is also a terrific post by
Kathryn Callaghan in June 1999.
If any of you have some additional suggestions on
places to eat in and around Barcelona, please share.
For Jim Leff: I took your suggestion, and have in hand
the book, "The New Spaniards," along with some other
interesting sounding books on Catalan culture and
history. I've never been to Barcelona before, and I'm
psyched. Any and all other suggestions on how best to
experience the Catalan culture will be greatly
There's a restaurant called The 7 Doors, in catalan I
believe it is Las Sete Portes which is fantastic. We
were there on 2 separate trips to Barcelona, but have
not been there since 1993. Nice classy restaurant
with catalan cuisine. About $40 pp but that was then.
To explore Barcelona proper you don't need a car, if
you want to go south or north (along the coast to the
Costa Brava) you will need a car but I do not know how
the weather is in October.
re: Jim Leff
Jim said that you should visit Zaragosa and I second that. In fact, ALL of Aragon is spectacular, especially the pyrenees. I live in London and go frequently. For some reason, Aragon isn't on the tourist map, but it has great food, good wines and a really beautiful, diverse countryside with everything from arid seeming deserts to hilltop villages reminiscent of Tuscany (except without the people). That's my 2p...
Tom, ditch the other Catalan books and read the
Catalonia section of The New Spaniards. I REALLY know
this culture; have been to Barcelona almost 20 times,
have many friends there...and the author gets it just
precisely right (just as he does in the rest of the
book; it's an extraordinary work)
Expect language problems, stemming from the
Catalonians' relentless nationalism. They don't know
English, but many won't speak Spanish with even the
friendliest of tourists--though everyone's fluent.
They'll rattle on in Catalan at you, completely secure
in their righteous confidence that, since you're in
Catalonia, you SHOULD be speaking Catalan. In a very
abstract way they're right, of course, but unlike other
small-but-proud cultures (say, Sweden, Holland, Poland)
they're in a bit of denial about their culture's scale
in the world. My advice: speak Spanish and cut the
words in half. It sounds just like Catalan and everyone
will be charmed. Also say "mol bey" (rhymes with "whole
day") a lot.
Unless you have specific interests, you needn't travel
widely in Catalonia. If you check out Barcelona and get
out to one or two of the pueblos (villages), you'll get
most of the flavor. I won't go so far as to say "if
you've seen one pueblo, you've seen them all", but the
differences can be subtle unless you really travel
widely. The thing to bear in mind is that the pueblos
are the true repository of Catalan culture. Barcelona's
the center, but it's very cosmopolitan. It's best to
take a train everywhere in Spain, including the
Pueblos. Be sure and go far enough so that you're not
just following commuters back home.
Do try to get to the Dali museum up the coast in
Figueras (for godsakes, make it a weekday, as weekends
are mobbed), but don't bother further north, it's a
Try to catch cultural stuff in Barcelona. Theater,
dance, street performances. Gaudi stuff, of course (but
don't spend too much time at Sagrada Familia unless
you're really fascinated). And don't spend tons of $$
on food; the fancy restaurants with their New Catalan
Cuisine are pretty dull. Hang out in bars in
neighborhoods like Gracia (get out of the Ramblas area
if you want to eat well). Wander around and get bites
here and there. Don't EVER order paella...it's hardly
ever good even in Valencia (I do know one place);
Barcelona's a total paella disaster.
Ah, here's a primo tip. Spanish horchata is made from
tiger nuts (unlike ricey Mexican horchata), and it's
delicious. Best place in Barcelona for it is at an ice
cream shop at the corner of Valencia and Bruc. It's got
great ambiance (might be closed in the fall,
though...horchata's got a short season). Also check out
the seafood restaurant ("pescador") a few blocks
east...used to be real good, though a bit pricey.
For a great ultracheap bite in a run-down Dickensian
atmosphere, hit Pollo Rico on calle St. Pablo, a few
blocks off the ramblas.
And there's a great hot chocolate-and-churros (fried
crullers) place, I forget exactly where. On your map
locate Plaza del Pi, go there, go in Plaza del Pi, have
a beer and ask around. It's a short walk north from
Also, have a beer outside of Glacier in Plaza Real
(also a wonderful shwarma or falafel nearby on calle
Escudillers, the most dangerous street in town, right
near the plaza). If you see a waiter with a bushy blond
beard, that's Ramon. Tell him to spread the word...I'm
busy writing these days but hope to get back there some
time. He was bartender when I packed the Pipa Club for
a solo concert one night many years ago. They no longer
play music at Pipa Club these days, alas...
Best advice I can give you: always go where old people
go. Seek to hang with old people. People 40 and under
don't remember Franco much; they're often rather
generic Europeans, with culture consisting mainly of
cell phones and rock and roll. There are of course
exceptions, but Europe has been blanding considerably
over the last decade, and Barcelona's ahead of the
I'll throw one other thing out there, out of left
field. No travel book, no Spaniard will ever recommend
a visit to Zaragoza. It's the Cleveland of Spain. And I love it...the friendliest people, great food (they make friend calamari sandwiches!), private eating clubs open till 4 am feeding some of the most serious chowhounds in Spain. A great contrarian location. And a good stop-off point if you're traveling to/from the Basque country
re: Jim Leff
big piece in the times travel section (sunday, 9/12)
about the latest Barcelona restaurants. It's been a
while since I've been there, and the writer (Jacqueline
Friedrich, who's guide to Loire wine/food is highly
regarded) makes some priceier places sound great (also
a few moderate finds). So my suggestion to shun high
end might be outdated. Take a look at this article if
you get a chance.
re: Jim Leff
Barcelona is a great food town - and it is home to one of my favorite restaurants.
The name of the place is "Can Jordi" (roughly "House of Jordi"), and it is a tiny, somewhat intimidating little dive down a backstreet near the harbor (I forget which one.) Look up the address and go. Expect nothing more than the best, cheapest food in Barcelona.
re: Jeffrey Shore
Thanks for the tip, Jeffrey. Your post couldn't have been more timely. I read it on October 9 in Barcelona, shortly after I arrived here. I immediately set about trying to locate Can Jordi. I found a restaurant named "Casa Jordi," which of course also means House of Jordi, and went there today for the afternoon meal (the term "lunch" wouldn't do the meal justice). The restaurant I went to, however, is located off of Avinguda Diagonal in the heart of downtwon, not near the harbor. The address is Passatge de Marimon, 18. This is a short, narrow little street mid-block between two regular streets. You enter the restaurant at street level, and then walk upstairs to the dining room. The atmosphere is comfortable and cozy, and the room wears its age gracefully. The food is traditional Catalan. Although the prices are fair for the good quality of the food, it is far from the cheapest plase in town. It appears to be a place where a lot of local businessmen were eating. Does this sound familiar? There were enough differences between this restaurant and the one you described (name, location, price), that I began to think I'd gone to a different restaurant than the one you recomended. What do you think?
In any event, the food was very good, and I'll be giving a more detailed decription of it in my "Notes on Barcelona" string.
re: Jim Leff
I cannot speak Spanish, but I found my knowledge of French useful for menu reading-it seemed to me that many Catalonian words were close to French ones. I was with my sister in Barcelona, and she spoke adequate Spanish then (it's very good now) albeit with a South American accent (everyone thought we were Argentines ). And we went to a great bar in Barcelona- Boadas on Taller-off the top of the Ramblas to your right as you face the ocean. This place was a 1950's time capsule- tiny with dark paneled walls and a bartender in a short red jacket. There were photos of the very glamorous proprietress in a series of cocktail frocks with various celebrities and unknowns (to me anyway) all over the place and everyone was smoking like crazy and drinking the same house drink. The crowd was a real mixed bag, too and I truly felt as if I were in a foreign country. The hip designed-to-within-an-inch-of their-lives places we went to uptown in Barcelona could just as well have been in New York or London and the crowds were as homogenous as the decors. This place was another story altogether.