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A Day in La Rioja for traditional Riojan fare?

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I'm basically taking a day to check out La Rioja on the way from Madrid to San Sebastian by car. Which doesn't give us a lot of time to really absorb the area. I've been doing some research, and while there are a few temples of high-brow cuisine around the bodegas (wineries), I'm inclined more for good quality Riojan cuisine, for the best value. We're driving up from Madrid in the morning and eventually staying at Hospederia Monasterio de San Millan (a hotel converted from a monastary) in San Millan de Cogolla in the Rioja Alta area, which seems just a little out of the way of what most people consider the epicenter of La Rioja in that area between Haro and LogroƱo. While I could be happy simply eating at the hotel restaurant (though I've come up with nothing with an internet search), I wonder how long it would take to drive from San Millan de Cogolla to, say, Haro or Elciego for wider choices of eating. So far, my top couple choices include Dinastia Vivanco in Briones since it looks like a one-stop place for a bodega, museum, and restaurant. Here's their restaurant website: http://www.dinastiavivanco.com/museo/...
I'm also considering Vieja Bodega in Casalarreina since it looks like a good place to stop for lunch on the way to the heart of La Rioja. It seems they have an inexpensive lunch menu (though it's not mentioned on their website): http://www.viejabodega.com/#
Santo Domingo de la Calzada seems like it's a short trip from the hotel, so I may just take my chances at a restaurant there, but I haven't found any descriptive information about anything there. I've also read some glowing comments on Echaurren in Ezcaray, which, according to their website (http://www.echaurren.com/ ) is the first restaurant in La Rioja to get a Michelin star. But that start belongs to the modern cuisine restaurant; I'm more inclined to visit the traditional wing, headed by the mother of the chef of the modern wing. So, my choices are still wide open. I wonder if anyone has some comments about these restaurants or comments on places in the towns nearby. Or just some practical suggestions about driving distances and what to expect in late March. Thanks.

I should note that I've gotten a lot of good info through Maribel's Guide: http://maribelsguides.com/
This was referenced in another post on the Spain board.

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  1. Hey there... Dinastia Vivanco in Briones is such an incredible museum, you should definitely try to check that out. We did not eat in the restaurant but it looked beautiful.
    I am sure the food at both the paradors of Santa Domingo Calzada or Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda (which is right down the street) is good; we stopped in the bars there and they are both amazing places.

    We had a great meal in Laguardia at a place called "Marixa" - it's on the road around the city walls. Fantastic patatas Riojana there... but that may be a bit out of the way for you.

    If you like caramels then make sure you go to the little shop next to Yuso Monastery and get some of the coffee caramels they make in Logrono. They are awesome.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Shannon

      Shannon, thanks for your reply. Dinastia Vivanco lept closer to the top of my list of things to do in La Rioja. I've been reading more on Santo Domingo de Calzada, and it's looking like a place I'd like to visit. I'd like to think that this is just a "feeler" trip for a longer and more leisure-filled trip sometime in the (near) future, so as long as I get some kind of typical Riojan experience, I'll be happy with that. After reading up on the many wonderful places, I know I'm going to want to spend at least a week seeing all the towns and villages.

    2. My wife and I stayed at the parador in Santo Domingo de la Calzada about five years ago. The parador is very cool to check out and have a drink at. The restaurant was very good, but nothing spectacular. Classic Basque dishes with the waitreses wearing the traditional Basque outfits.

      There was a bar right next to the parador where we had great raciones--nothing fancy, but very good.

      Logrono was our favorite stop in the Rioja. The main street--I think it's something Laurel was great. No cars, and lots of restaurants and bars. Had a great/cheap menu del dia that was more more fun than the over-priced parador.