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Jan 5, 2009 05:20 AM

Barcelona / San Sebastian in May

My wife and I (avid foodies) will be visiting Barcelona-Zaragoza-Laguardia-San Sebastian
in May staying an average of 2 nights in each location. I have been reading reviews of
restaurants until I am totally overwhelmed. I have always been able to count on Chowhound
for the best no object (coat and ties are out). Please help me select
"do not miss" restaurants in these areas. We will have a car with GPS so that is not
an issue. Thank you so much for your help.

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  1. hola jdmmdm, you're planning to see the same cities we hope to visit later this year. If you haven't looked at the majbros blogspot, the majumdar brothers post here and are avid Spain food travelers, so I'd consider their opinions worth considering. From all the sources I've looked at I'd guess that it would take special talent or bad luck not to eat well in those cities and two nights barely scratches the surface. The smallest of them, Laguardia, is very compatible to a tapear as I recall, with many tapas bars in a compact district, if your definition of restaurant includes those.

    1. I think best restaurants in Catalonia are just outside of Barcelona, but with just two days, I would not spend the time to venture outside of the city. My best meals in Barcelona have been at Abac and Drolma. Also very good and less expensive are Alkimia, Cinc Sentits, Olive, and Hisop. My favorite among this group is Sauc. Rais de Galicia has the best seafood. There also many good tapas and pinxtos places scattered through the city.
      As for San Sebastian, one must do an evening pinxtos crawl in the Parte Vieja. Some of my favorites are Gambara, La Cepa, La Cuchara de San Telmo and Bergara. Most are good so just stroll and choose whatever looks tempting. Around San Sebastian are also some of the best restaurants in Spain. Etxebarri and Akelare are musts. I also had an excellent meal at Fagollaga. Others have recommended Martin Berasatequi and Mugaritz but my two dinners there were disappointing. If you do not want to drive or take a long taxi, Arzak is in San Sebastian, just a 5 minute taxi ride from the center. Check this board for posts on Barcelona and San Sebastian.
      Spaniards dress very stylishly but are less formal than other northern European countries and one does not need a coat and tie even for the best restaurants.

      8 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        PBSF, I came across a place called Marisqueria Funicular for inexpensive, good seafood. Do you have any thoughts on it?

        1. re: Shag Waits

          I have not been to Marisqueria Funicular. Maybe Butterfly or another Madrid resident can help.

          1. re: PBSF

            I believe it is in Barcelona on Carrer de Vallhonrat.

            1. re: Shag Waits

              Sorry, forgot that this thread was on Barcelona and San Sebastian. I've not heard of it. I don't over to Poble Sec much.

              1. re: Shag Waits

                Couple inexpensive seafood/marisqueria that I like are La Paradeta on c/Comercial (the small street on the far side of the Mercat del Born; don't get confuse with the nearby c/Comerc) and El Barkito on c/Corsega 225. Great seafood are expensive, therefore, I find most inexpensive marisqueria not worth regardless how cheap they are.

                1. re: PBSF

                  Thanks a lot for the recommendations. My wife just informed me that she would prefer a restaurant close to the water. What is your opinion of Salamanca?

                  1. re: Shag Waits

                    I have never been to Restaurant Salmanca or have any of my friends. I would be leery of any of the places that lined the harbor of Barceloneta, especially on Passeig Joan de Borbo. You will know what I mean if you stroll down this passeig. The nicer view of the Mediterranean is around the corner on the Playas which actually has a beach. Unfortunately there aren't any places to eat in this area. The harbor and Barceloneta is very popular for families for Sunday lunch and strolling. Great for a stroll and people watching if you are there on a Sunday. There are indeed some good restaurants (mostly on the expensive side) in Barceloneta. Can Majo, Merendero de la Mari and L'Elx al Moll are pretty good but not great but none are right on the water.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      I really appreciate your time in addressing my questions. We shall heed your advice and avoid Salamanca as well as inexpensive marisqueria. Let's say price is not so much of the deciding factor. We thought about Rias de Galicia but it looks too formal. We're just looking for a casual place with good seafood for a weekday lunch.

        2. PBSF makes some great recommendations, but if you want to round out your experience with some high-end traditional Catalan cuisine to contrast with all the cutting edge modernism, you would do well to try La Dama in Barcelona. We had a superb meal there that was every bit as enjoyable as Alkimia and Cinq Sentits.

          1. Plenty of good suggestions here in San Sebastian and Barcelona. I’ll chime in with a few in Laguardia, where we spent 3 nights while visiting the Rioja Alta/Alavesa region in the spring.

            Laguardia is such pretty and laid-back hill town which, like almost all towns in Rioja, is wine-themed. We can’t wait to go back and visit the region.

            Castillo el Collada – this is a pretty and quite elegant small hotel by the walls of the highest area of the hill town of Laguardia. A somewhat formal restaurant by small-town standards offering good Riojan specialties and very well-priced (CHEAP) local wines, a lot with pretigious labels, that will normally cost in the hundreds in US restaurants.

            Hector Uribe – located in the much smaller town of Paganos which is about 15 minute drive downhill from Laguardia towards Haro. A favorite by local winemakers, this very small gourmand restaurant offers a terrific bargain of Euro 33 chef’s full tasting menu, helmed by the up-and-coming Hector Uribe. If you decide on this, you will have to reserve as far ahead in advance for a table.

            If you plan on visiting wineries with restaurants, Dinastia Vivanco in Briones provides an excellent value prix fixe lunch, complete with a bottle of wine, at about Euro25 per. The Riojan bean stew with morcilla still lingers in my memory up until now. The restaurant is as elegant as the main winery building . You must reserve in advance.

            You can google them for phone numbers and contact information.


            1. My wife and I are doing Barcelona and San Sebastian for 10 days total at the end of April, beginning of May. I have also been scouring the boards and have my wish list that needs to be pared down.

              PBSF, thanks for your prolific posting. I am taking your recommendations to heart. As a former San Francisco resident, I love that Delfina is in your top 5.

              1 Reply
              1. re: uddmiller

                Wonderful. Please post your experiences when you return.