Dining with teen - Madrid, Seville, Barcelona
My daughter and I will be in Spain the last week in August (I know, not the best time to be there, but the school schedule is an issue). We're staying at a hotel near the Santa Ana neighborhood in Madrid, on the Gran Via de las Cortes Catalanas in Barcelona, and on the Calle Trajana (near the Plaza del Duque) in Seville.
My daughter is 17, and -- like many teens -- she is not a very adverturous eater. She's not big on fish, but she'll eat basics like salmon, and will try paella. Many of the meals in Spain seem quite different than what she's used to.
Any restaurant and food suggestions? I'd like to take her to good places for dinner with nice atmosphere and unpretentious service. We really don't want to get dressed up...
...which begs the question: What are the dress codes for these restaurants?
I think any 17 year old, after having been in Spain for awhile will loosen up - if not, try our '$1 a bite - just try it' method - think I'd modify what worked for a 10 year old to 3E a bite for a 17 year old.. - go to Cal Pep in BCN - she'll get swept up in the seeing & ordering & hopefully just go for it & have a great time. At 17, they should be looking for adventure & not freaking out about food - and seriously, this is the time to get her experimenting - should have happened years ago, but the wanting to be cool & worldly at 17 factor will be in your favor - should work out fine.
I don't have any recent experiences with 17-year-olds, so I don't know exactly how
unadventerous we're talking about here, but ... One thing to keep in mind is that
Spanish food really isn't all that different from American: lots of ham and cheese
and fish and rice and lamb. Just prepared exceptionally well with often much higher
quality ingredients. So it might turn out that she really likes to eat.
Because of the weird spanish eating schedule, you'll actually have two opportunities
every day for a sit-down restaurant meal. At 2 in the afternoon, simply walk into
any appealing-looking restaurant that happens to be nearby and order something
off the menu del dia. Then again at 10pm.
Between these times, you can graze at any of the ubiquitous cafe/wine/tapas/bars
conveniently located every fifteen to twenty feet along every street everywhere. If your
spanish is ok you can talk to the guy about what's good; if not just point. It's possible you'll
end up with a steaming plate of freshly fried organ meats, but probably not.
The tortilla mentioned above is available everywhere. Potato, egg, onion, and olive
oil. The classic spanish culinary set piece. At its worst it's pretty good and at its
best is just transcendent. Have as many of these at as many different tapas bars as
As far as specific recommendations around where you're staying in Madrid, you'll
be in the thick of the tourist zone. Which is actually pretty ok. For lunch I like
Taberna Alhambra about halfway up Calle Victoria. Another decent lunch, right
on the Plaza there's Restauante Miau. The albondigas ("meatballs", what kid doesn't
like meatballs?!?) I had there not too long ago were fantastic. And if all else fails,
you'll immediately notice La Suiza pastry shop on the plaza. While you're daughter
is chowing down on sweet things, order a carajillo at the bar.
Madrid: I'd second Finca de Susana-lot's of "normal" food. Also-if you're looking for salads or burgers, but want real food, consider Ferran Adria's Fast-Good. Take a look:
Also, one of my favorites, Arce (call to see if they are open and for a reservation)-the chef speaks to each diner to decide what he'll make for you-so he can tailor the meal to your daughter's likes and dislikes and you can still have a fine meal (he speaks English, if that's an issue.
I think your daughter could find something that she likes at a place like Taberneros (near the Plaza Mayor at calle Santiago 9, Madrid - 915 422 160). I've taken finicky teenagers there before and had good results--and there is still plenty of interest for a more adventurous mom/dad. They have a good mix of small plates, main dishes, and excellent wine by the glass.
I don't think they take reservations, so go early for dinner if you go on a weekend (around 9:00)--though the end of August is very sleepy here, which is good for getting tables.
The Cava Baja/Cava Alta spots are good, but not if you are starving and looking for a relatively peaceful sit-down meal (understandable after a day of tourist activity). And a lot of places close for the last weeks of August.
One exception is La Camarilla, which tends to be more serene. There's a good ice cream spot across the street--Giangrossi. There's also a good Argentine pizzería with outdoor tables (I'm guessing that it won't be as freakishly cold as it is today when you are here) across from Mercado de La Cebada in La Latina--Croccos.
There's an interesting Swedish/Argentine place near Plaza Santa Ana--Olsen.
Two things I cannot imagine an unadventurous eater not liking are:
Tortilla Espanola (a potato-omelet type thing served by the slice...no relation to the mexican tortilla)
Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes slathered with garlic/paprika mayonaise that you eat with a toothpick or small fork)
Bocadillos - sandwiches with various fillings (ham, chorizo, tortilla slices)
Gambas a l'ajio (sp?) Garlic shrimp with bread to soak up the sauce.
In Barcelona go to the Bocqueria Market on the Ramblas and order anything that looks good from one of those counters that serves food. At least you can see what you are getting and the shrimp there are very fresh.
The only thing is, the shrimp come with the head on. You may have to remove it for your 17 year old.
You're welcome. You and your daughter are visiting three of the most wonderful and cosmopolitan cities. Where you are staying can't be more central...just get good maps and stroll. There are places to eat everywhere in the center of these cities. My list is just a guide...drop into places that look good to you and enjoy. Tapa and pintxos are inexpensive, especially in Seville, so it is no big deal if everything is not great. Spanish food is so varied that there will be plenty of choices for both you and your daughter.
If your daughter is not very adventurous with food, I would skip the recommenddations on any of the top places.
The following are moderate and casual places that might suit her. The food is good (but not top notch) and the atmosphere friendly and lively. As for proper attire, Spain is very casual. One rarely sees jacket and tie even at the most upscale restaurants. A nice top with jeans or slacks is perfectly fine, but skip the sweat pants, track suits and one rarely sees shorts in restaurants. Except for tapas/pintxos places, lunch is usually around 2pm and dinner doesn’t begin until after 9pm. Tapas/pintxos are very informal, just drop by and order as you go and leave whenever you choose. Some gets very crowded so a little polite aggressiveness is called for.
Café de Academia (Barri Gotic), traditional Catalan cooking
Senyor Parellada (El Born) large, lively mix of tourists and natives, extensive menu of good Catalan dishes; I usual recommend this place for people who are not looking for the ultimate food experience but want somewhere welcoming and comfortable.
Mama Café (El Raval), one of the newer places that serves salads, some international dishes as well as traditional Catalan food.
Meson David (El Raval), old inexpensive standby.
Origins 99.9% (two locations, El Born has seating inside, one near the Universitat has pleasant outside seating as well as inside) eclectic menu with salads, sandwiches, hot dishes, desserts, a wonderful informal place.
Tapas/Pintxos: there are numerous tapas or pintxos (Basque style tapas) in Barcelona
Taller de Tapas (two locations, the one in El Born is better) large selection of tapas, attracts a large number of tourists but the tapas are good. There is a menu and table sitting. Easy to negotiate.
Tactia Berri (Eixample) the best Basque pintxos in Barcelona, very crowded with a few tables.
El Xampanyet (El Born) very popular for tapas and cava
La Cerverseria Catalan (Eixample), one of the best traditional tapas place.
Avoid places on the Rambla except in the Boqueria where there are some very good food stalls; Escriba is an excellent pastry shop on the Rambla for breakfast and coffee. Avoid restaurants in the Placa Real
Madrid restaurants: Placa Santa Ana where you are staying has some food restaurants and tapa places:
Finca de Susana, fun inexpensive restaurant with decent Mediteranean and Spanish food, attracts a good amount of tourists so it gets crowded early, no reservation, get there around 7pm or set for a long wait.
La Trucha (2 locations near Placa Santa Ana, the one on c. Manuel Fernandez y Gonzalez is the one to go) combination tapas bar and restaurant. Good traditional tapas as well as full menu.
La Toscana, tapas
Cerverceria Cerventes, tapas
Casa Albert, tapas
Cava Baja: a great area for tapas hopping, my favorites are but one can’t go wrong with most places.
Delic, tapas and excellent American style desserts; Casa Lucas,
Taberna Almendio,El Tempanilla.
Must have hot chocolate and churros at Chocolateria San Gines, even in the heat of August. Open late afternoon through the night.
Avoid the places in the Placa Mayor, terrible and overpriced.
Seville: this is tapas heaven rather than for sit down dinner. Depends on how one feels about bull fighting, an unique experience is eating at one of the toro restaurants.
There are many tapa places and tascas in the Barrio Santa Cruz. My experience is that the more crowded the place is with the younger set, the cheaper the beer and the worst the food . Otherwise, you can’t go wrong by strolling and dropping by: my favorites are: Las Menias, Casa Robles, Tasca Las Teresas
In the center of town, I also like Manola Leon, La Flor de Toranjo, Enrique Beccera but these are more for the food than atmosphere.
Hope this is helpful. If you have any specific questions or like recommendation for more upscale places (at least for food), happy to answer. I’ve posted many recommendations on top food places under PB as well as PBSF. Just search the site if you are interested. Have a fun trip.