foodie on a budget in spain--need recs!!
i'm a voracious foodie, excited to dig into the tastes of spain! will be traveling in october, major stops including barcelona, cordoba, san sebastian, seville, madrid, granada, toledo... unfortunately i'll be on a pretty tight budget, and want to splurge on the right restaurants.
any reccomendations would be appreciated- restaurants, sights, markets, etc. thanks!
The provinces of Jaen and Ciudad Real, between Granada and Toledo, are great for tapas. They are free pretty much everywhere with each drink you buy, and you can pay for extra if you don't want to drink too much. They can be really varied and substantial as well - not just a bowl of crisps or nuts, like you get in most bars in Madrid.
Just a comment: there are plenty of bars in Madrid that have good free tapas beyond chips and nuts. Boquerones (fried and en vinagre), patatas bravas, tortilla, pimientos del padrón, various tostas are among the most common. Pretty much any neighborhood place will give you free tapas if you order a caña (beer) or glass of wine. But, if you order another dish at the same time, you might not get the tapa.
Raciones are a great deal if you are in a large group (as most do here) but don't work well when you are just a few people. It's not usually on the menu, but you can generally order a "media ración" (half plate) or even a "tapita" of some of the raciones. This is a much better way--at bars--to get a taste of a lot of different things, if you are in a small group. Or you can just keep ordering "cañas" (small beers) and see what comes for free and then supplement from the menu. You will always get better free tapas standing at the bar than you will sitting at a table. The above goes for Madrid and most points south.
In Madrid, I would recommend a splurge at a marisquería (restaurant that specializes in shellfish).
Hey, the major recommendation I would give you, as a foodie living in Spain on a teacher's salary, is to look for "el menu del dia". Forget about raciones, it's too expensive. Look for restaurants that have a good menu del dia (1st and 2nd courses, dessert, bread, and a glass of wine or beer) for lunch and a menu de degustacion (tasting menu) for dinner. In Madrid or Barcelona, you shouldn't pay more than 14 euros for the first and 30-35 euros for the second. In the rest of the cities it should be cheaper. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best way to really get a variety of good Spanish food and eat what the locals are eating. Ask the waiter what their best dish is. Granada is the best place for cheap eats, you can have dinner off the tapas that come free with 3 beers. In Barcelona, be sure to check out the Boqueria market on the Ramblas... I could spend a week there.
There many great posts on Spain on this board. Just scroll down and you will find loads of information. I've posted quite a few threads on eating in Barcelona, Madrid, San Sebastian and Seville. Many are high-end recommendations but there are also many for simple restaurants and tapas/pintxo places.
For Granada, there are many inexpensive restaurant and tapas places just south of the cathedral and also the area east of the Placa Real, especially on c. Neva and ajacent streets.
For budget eating, tapas and pintxos places are perfect. All the places you are visiting are filled with them. Just drop in on any that looks good. They are especially inexpensive in Andalucia. Below are a few links but there are a lot more.