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Aug 8, 2007 11:19 AM

How do you order in Spain?

A few years back, on my first solo trip, I went to Malaga, Cordoba and Granada. Amazing experience, but I had a lot of trouble ordering in the more 'bar' like places. A few occasions worked like this: there were servers milling about, but often I couldn't get their attention. I would sit, and no one would come to me. In one instance I stood at the bar, and still no one would come to me. Menus seemed to be a very occasional thing. Now, I know I was showered and well-dressed so I don't think I was putting anyone off. So what is the procedure in these places? Restaurants are obviously more straight forward, so I mean the smaller places.

I am off to Barcelona next week and don't want to be paralyzed, not knowing what to do. My spanish is next to non-existent, of course. Do you order at the bar and then someone brings it to you?

Thanks for any help!

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  1. One has to be aggressive but polite in tapas/pinxtos places, otherwise, you'll be ignored. For pinxtos places, ask the staff behind the counter for a plate and give your drink order. Then just help yourself to whatever is on display. The hot items come out of the kitchen in waves; stay near the bar and just grab it off the big tray. The popular hot items get taken in a flash. When you are ready pay, just tell the staff behind the counter what you've drank (or take the empty bottle back) and show him your toothpicks. Don't thrown them away as it is the way to keep tab on how much you've consumed. They'll add up the tab for you to pay.
    There are some sit down tapa places in Barcelona such as Taller de Tapas, that have menus and function more or less like a small plate restaurant. Just ask for a few translation, order or point to the menu items. For tapas bars, it helps to know a few tapa items by name and also words for lamb, pork, shrimp, clams, etc., so you can order, Otherwise, just point to whatever other people are having. Many places will have a short list written on a blackboard. For both tapas and pinxtos, one usually pick a couple items, eat, then eat a few more if one like the place. If not, move on to another place. No one is offended if one only has a drink and one or two items. Some places, the staff will keep tab on what you've consumed, other, it's the honor system.
    I find that English is more common in Barcelona than in Andalucia. I don't speak much Spanish and no Catalan and find Barcelona very easy to navigate. Hope this helps.

    1. It really depends on the place. If you are standing at the counter or near it, you order from whoever is behind it. But if you are sitting at a table across from the counter, you may have to order at the counter and bring it to your table or wait for someone to come around for you order and bring it to you---it just depends on the set-up of the particular place (if I'm in doubt, I just ask the person behind the counter "¿pido aquí?)".

      A lot of places will only give you the menu if you ask for it (¿puedo ver la carta?)--if it's a tapas place, it's probably also posted somewhere on a wall where you can read it--as is the wine by the glass selection. If a place is busy, a waiter won't usually take your order unless you've already established eye contact and expressed the desire to order. They'll come back around when it's your turn--or if you are persistent.It willl probably take longer than you are used to. Settle in, there's not as much of a hurry to turn tables and move people in and out here...

      2 Replies
      1. re: butterfly

        Please....por favor
        Thank you .....gracias

        I'd like what he's having .......Quisiero lo mismo....(and point)

        I don't comprendo or no entiendo....

        And a smile......

        1. re: shallots

          >Quisiero lo mismo

          Small correction: Quisiera or quiero or, better yet, pon(ga)me (*quisiero* no existe). The trick is to order quickly. If it's a busy place, dispense with the verbage and just order as fast as possible.

      2. Thanks, all! Just didn't want to be unwittingly obnoxious, so this is a great help.