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FINALLY going to Spain- need a list of must eats

i will be heading to San Sebastian (2 nights) and Barcelona (3) nights in early June. I need the restaurants that I absolutely have to try. Would love to hope from tapas/pintxos location to location, sampling the best- not too concerns about money, but also don't want to go completely overboard. I know that some of the San Sebastian restauranants have the canned oysters and such that are like $175. I can skip that- I am someone that loves the simple ingredients that are great and fresh and treated well.

Thanks in advance.

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  1. My favorites were La Cuchara de San Telmo in San Sebastian and Cal Pep in Barcelona, both low attitude places with high-end food. And the are both really tiny places, too, but personal space is always compromised in Spain, anyway...

    1. There is a wealth of information on SS and Barcelona on this board if you search or just browse.

      The tapas bars in SS are generally excelent, though the standout for me was Aloña Berri in Barrio Gros. I also liked Casa Senra nearby. I have more notes on SS tapas here ->
      The website todopintxos.com is also a great resource, with addresses, maps, specialties, and even "routes" to follow.

      In Barcelona I enjoyed Paco Meralgo (a classy tapas bar; beautiful seafood) and Dos Palillos (Asian-style tapas from former El Bulli Chef de Cuisine Albert Raurich), and also Cuines Santa Caterina, but I don't know that I'd describe any of them as "have to try" places. These are my Barcelona notes ->


      1. Fiirst, make sure to see the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao (easy excursion) for food for the eyes and soul......then have lunch at the downtown restaurant that has Michelin star or 2 depending on which edition you have...(think it was Gorrotxa.....popular w/locals)
        Enjoy some Roda I or Roda II wine

        1. I searched around and have looked at magazines and such, but what neighborhood do you think in general is the best foodie neighborhood in Barcelona? Trying to plan a hotel and would love to stay in a place populated with great restaurants/tapas bars.

          THanks again.

          2 Replies
          1. re: offthebeatenpath1

            Did you happen to come across this thread which asks the same exact question?

            Best Barcelona Food Neighborhood

            1. re: Frodnesor

              you are a much better searcher than I...Thank you, that is perfect.

          2. I spent a week in SS 2 years ago and did not have a bad meal or tapa. My faves;
            1- Asador Ganbara, had a great lunch, neck of merluza, If memory serves me right (and it may not) the dining room is in the basement. 2-Astelana, great tapas of fois 3-La Cepa, mushrooms of course + 4-La Cuchara de San Telmo, canoli of morcilla. Hard to find, around the corner from where you think it is, off a little square. Worth it. In SS drink Txakoli, don't know if you'll find other whites but....I prefer the Txakoli from Getaria over all others. Also, they love their Jamon + their Rioja here. Many, many places in Spain serve canned goods. No, it's not like the US, the stuff is usally good. However, I dont recall any of that in SS and no tapa places that were big $. SS does have some Tapas places that do really great inventive plates, that's the culture there. Don't worry, the ingredients are great and there are places that just serve simple dishes,grilled mushrooms (in season) etc... Go for sit down meals @ lunch and tapa hop @ night in the old 1/4.

            1. The one thing I prefer to eat in all the world is roast baby lamb--cordero asado. But only in Spain , and roasted in a wood fired oven. It's one of the dishes one cannot--to my knowledge-- ever enjoy in the USA because here lambs are never slaughtered that young.

              As with all my dining away from home, I like to eat what is not available to be eaten at home.

                1. re: CMT

                  Thanks. I saw that this weekend. I just hope now everyone doesn't flock to Barcelona, although I have a feeling people already knew it was there.

                2. In Barcelona. Sit at the counter in the Bocqueria market and order the shrimp with the heads on. Best shrimp I ever ate. Can't believe nobody else mentioned it.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jcmods

                    I wish I could, believe me, but I have two allergies to food- cranberries and shrimp. Trust me, if my throat didn't close up as a result, I would consider taking the risk.

                  2. Regardless of your choice of restaurants, I would implore you to eat some fresh fruit even if you have to buy it at a street market, take it back to your hotel room, and slice it with your nail file. I have never eaten better fruit than we had during the month of May in Andalucia: unbelievable strawberries, cherries, sweet pineapples, perfect melons, and some nifty little apricot-like fruits called "nisperos" (medlar fruits, had never seen them before).

                    34 Replies
                    1. re: Querencia

                      Oh - the melon that looks like a green football w/ white flesh. Wow is that one good. And the giant grapes! Don't forget you can buy a cheap knife at a hardward store as soon as you get into town if you don't want to pack one. Leave it in the hotel room when you leave - it will get put to good use.

                      1. re: Querencia

                        Yes- I watched quite attentively the Mario Batali on the Road Again special and one of the things they showed were the unbelievable fruit markets- Coming from NY where there are so many great restaurants, I have learned when traveling not to necessarily look for the best restaurants in each city (b/c they are often similiar to many of the NY restaurant offerings), but instead find the places that specialize in ingredients that aren't necesarily fresh or even available in NY.

                        1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                          Hey there offthebeatenpath1! I recognize you from the Manhattan board.

                          Here's the short list of stuff I'm looking forward to during our trip in July (and hopefully bring some of this back to NY even though customs won't allow jamon, fruits, vegetables, rice):

                          jamon iberico de bellota
                          blood sausage
                          croquetas of all sorts
                          Spanish cheese with quince paste
                          spanish tortilla
                          pan con tomate
                          padron hot peppers
                          chocolate and churros
                          lots of seafood (esp shellfish: a thousand different kinds of clams, squid, octopus, langoustine, lobster, cuttlefish, crab, shrimp, anchovies...)
                          chocolate bars
                          canned mussels, clams, etc.
                          marcona almonds
                          saffron (is it cheaper in Spain than the US?)
                          cava sangria (a friend just went to barcelona and said he drank this a LOT)

                          1. re: kathryn


                            I pretty much had the same "diet" when I was in spain last september!

                            I would not "spoil" cava, even cheap one, prepared to make sangria.

                            1. re: Maximilien

                              It seems like sangria is really more of a novelty and tourist drink in Spain...

                              Maybe I'll just stick to regular cava, ha.

                              1. re: Maximilien

                                sounds like the world's perfect diet to me- won't do too much good for my waist line, but it's vacation- Thanks kathryn- I have a pretty nice list of restaurants and am really excited. I keep putting off actually making reservations because I feel like I just want to stroll down all of the streets and stop in for tapas or pintxos anyplace there's room, especially in san sebestian. I did, however, succumb to make reservations at Moo and Commerc 24.

                                If you figure out how to smuggle some ham back, let me know. I know it may be dumb, but I think I am going to just relax in Barcelona and not try to be such a planner (unlike paris, which I think I have mapped out by the second).

                                1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                  In San Sebastian, we're already reserved for the heavy hitters: Arzak, Mugaritz, and Asador Extebarri, with a sidetrip to the restaurant inside the Guggenheim, with the rest of the time supplemented with lots and lots of pintxos (looking forward to Alona Berri and La Cuchara de San Telmo after reading tons of reports).

                                  For Barcelona, I think we're going to reserve at Hisop and Cinc Sentits, ut leave the really crazy fine dining for San Sebastian. Everything else will be more flexible - but I've got down a list of names/addresses/hours that includes Paco Meralgo, Bar Pinotxo, Kiosko Universal, Quimet y Quimet, Cal Pep, Tabac24, or Inopia dependent upon what we feel like on any given day.

                                  I've been reading reports of people getting caught with ham at the airport - I guess they have jamon-sniffing dogs, it's tourist season, officials are on the lookout for people coming back from Spain since it's a highly desirable item, sigh.

                                  My friend who travels to Spain a lot thinks it is not worth the effort since the Euro to USD conversion rate isn't too bad right now.


                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    I suspect it's pretty easy to train a jamon-sniffing dog. In fact I already have 2 at home.


                                    1. re: kathryn

                                      You have quite a few Barcelona places that I don't. Here is my Barcelona list. I am trying to decide about Arzak- Have heard some people LOVE it and some people say it's ok (perhaps becaue the expectations are so high). I am just looking forward to the great fresh seaside ingredients.

                                      Barcelona List
                                      Comerc 24- I have a lunch reservation
                                      Moo- Dinner reservations
                                      Then I will probably just try my luck with these places depending on where I am museum wise.
                                      Montesqueiu Restaurant
                                      Espai Sucre
                                      cafe de l'academia
                                      can majo
                                      Bar Pinoxto (in what will probably be a long afternoon of soaking up the boqueria)
                                      Patisserie Escriba

                                      Then whatever else looks tasty. Like I said, trying not to stress too much on the barcelona leg of the trip, which is a tough thing for me because I hate not planning and feeling like I may be missing something.

                                      1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                        I was somewhat underwhelmed by Moo on a prior trip.
                                        I very much enjoyed Arzak - even if every dish wasn't perfect, the experience overall was wonderful.
                                        You may want to consider adding Dos Palillos to your Barcelona list.

                                        1. re: Frodnesor

                                          you know, i was really excited when a friend of mine whose judgement I trust said they went to Moo a couple of months ago and were blown away by the creativity and use of ingredients- but I have read from others that, while good, it wasn't knock your socks of good- but, it seems like it has that spanish inventive flair that is worth trying.

                                          Thanks for the Arzak post- it seems that is the general sentiment. It is very enjoyable, but doesn't necessarily wow you, but then again, I don't think that is the intention of the place.

                                      2. re: kathryn

                                        I highly recommend Cinc Sentits. The tasting menu there was probably the best meal of my life. Also in Barcelona I'd recommend Casa Calvet, which is in a Gaudi-designed building in L'Eixample. Very good. In San Sebastian, you may want to consider Kursaal, which is one of Martin Beresetegui's restaurants, in a nice spot to the north of the city where the river meets the sea. Another good tasting menu, but not as over the top creative as Arzak or El Bulli or some of the others.

                                        1. re: rfabs

                                          how much is the tasting menu at cinc sentis? i can't find any prices.


                                          1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                            I wrote and asked and they said to me:

                                            We offer 2 tasting menus and a prix fix at lunch and dinner. The 6-course Essència is 46€, the 8-course Sensacions is 65€ and the 4-course "prix fixe" is 65€.

                                            1. re: kathryn

                                              Thanks.- Great to know. That is really quite reasonable.

                                              1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                                Definitely! I was looking around for some nicer, upscale lunches (saving dinners for more casual places) and found that Cinc Sentits, Alkimia, Hisop, Gresca, and Moo were the most reasonable.

                                                Hisop is only 25€ for lunch! Gresca is around there, too, 18-20€ I think? Moo is pretty affordable as their 45€ lunch includes coffee and wine. Alkimia was 32€, 54€, or 68€ dependent upon the menu.

                                                Whereas Gaig is something like 80€, Abac is 125€ for the tasting, Comerc 24 is 62€ or 84€ for tasting menus.

                                                1. re: kathryn

                                                  i am actually going to moo for dinner, but definitely thought about doing it for lunch. In the end, i decided on Comerc 24 for lunch and Moo for dinner. That will sort of be my splurge day. There are definitely good deals to be found for lunch. I am planning on making a reservation at cinc sentis and gresca on friday for lunch and dinner.

                                                  1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                                    Regardless, your trip sounds amazing so far! I trust you shall report back to the Chowhound hive mind?

                                                    1. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                                      In case it makes a difference, Commerc 24 is the same price/menu for lunch and dinner. Since many plan lunches at pricier spots that offer less pricy lunch menus, figured I would mention it.
                                                      One poor dish out of them all(too novel, being wacky to be wacky, what can go wrong when making "new" dishes for their own sake).
                                                      That is one out of many, the rest were good to really good, possibly excellent.
                                                      Staff was cool, space is cool.

                                                      1. re: dietndesire

                                                        Yes - from what my emails to the restaurant lead me to believe is that Gaig, Abac, and Comer24 have the same options for lunch and dinner (no menu del dia or affordable lunch prix fixe).

                                                        1. re: kathryn

                                                          i did know that about comerc24- i found the dinner menu at moo to be more enticing (even though it's more money), which is why I opted for dinner at moo and lunch at comerc24.

                                            2. re: kathryn

                                              Any thoughts on a place near the Hotel Arts on the waterfront that is reasonable? I have Can Majo on my list, but Iam thinking someplace less expensive and casual in that area for lunch.

                                              1. re: kathryn

                                                Great choices! Hopefully you've spaced out the SS heavy hitters so you'll be able to enjoy them. We had Extebarri scheduled for lunch and Arzak for dinner, and had to cancel Arzak because we were stuffed after eating an absolutely amazing lunch at Extebarri (we let the chef create a menu for us, and it was incredible). Definitely in the Top Three meals of my lifetime. Mugaritz was good, the ambiance wonderful and the service superb, but the food didn't wow us.

                                                In Barcelona, we enjoyed more casual dining, with Cal Pep and Kiosko Universal providing delightful meals. Superfresh grilled seafood, just cooked through, with some olive oil, parsley, squeeze of lemon...absolute perfection.

                                                Only downside is there are smokers everywhere!

                                                1. re: rcinsf

                                                  My itinerary in San Sebastian is to put one big fine dining meal for lunch so we can digest and then have dinner (and upscale/downscale how much we eat!) at a tapas bar.

                                              2. re: offthebeatenpath1

                                                Would love to see your plans for Paris: we just got back from Spain, and I want to surprise my husband with a 10th anniversary trip to Paris: if you can, send me stuff at sherijorden@gmail.com

                                                1. re: Shooley

                                                  Shooley- Here is my rough itinerary for Paris (i know, this is a Spain Board).- It was much more military like, but my friend insisted on not being so regiments- in fact, he had his way, we wouldn't plan a thing and I would go nuts. Originally, I Tuesday, I had lunch reservations at Le Bristol, but decided to just enjoy the time more by strolling around and sampling the simple Parisian things- crepes, chocolates, etc. I did a lot of research though, so if you need suggestions, let me knkow.

                                                  Arrive in Paris via train from London at 11:45

                                                  -1:15p- Lunch at Brasserie Lipp followed by a short stroll over to Laduree for some macarons
                                                  - Musee D’orsay- 62 Rue de Lille, 7th
                                                  - Walk to the Eiffel tower and shop/look around, etc (etc. meaning eat )
                                                  -Musee du Quai Branly time permitting- 37, Quai Branly
                                                  - 7:30p- dinner at Bon Accueil Au (14, Rue de Montessuy, 7th)
                                                  -Drinks at l’Hotel (13, Rue des Beaux-Arts, 6th)
                                                  - SLEEP- I am staying at the Hotel Michelot Odeon- I tend to stay at nicer brand name hotels, but wanted something with more Parisian character and it is very reasonably price

                                                  -Breakfast at Gerard Mulot
                                                  -Stroll around the Jardin du Lexembourg (maybe stop at Bread and Roses for a little bite as well)
                                                  -Metro over to Musee National Picasso (5, Rue Thorigny, 3rd)
                                                  -Do a nice walking tour of the 3rd for lunch (breizh café for crepes, Pozzeto for gelato, Au Levain du Marais for bakery, La Chocolaterie Jacques Genin for chocolates, Ble Sucre (a little out of the way in the 11th, but I will need the walk) for madeleines- This will really be our eating through Paris time
                                                  - Stroll around Notre Dame for a bit
                                                  - Head all the way over to the 14th for a long dinner at Le Regalade with old friends- 34, Rue des Plantes

                                                  -Breakfast at Le Bar du Marche- 75 Rue de Seine, 6th
                                                  - Sadly head to the airport to head to Barcelona

                                            3. re: kathryn

                                              Great list, only things not on your that are on mine are octopus in Gallicia, churros fresh made everywhere with hot chocolate, baby lamb/pig/goat, and blue cheeses in Asturias. Is it true you cannot bring back rice anymore? Always bring a sack or two of Bomba on return.

                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                You can bring back Fabes from Asturias, One the best pulpo we had was in Ourense, for atmosphere the best pulpo was at the Sunday market for breakfast in Padron. It's worth a detour.

                                                1. re: MOREKASHA

                                                  l go to Padron for the peppers alone, no detour. Thanks

                                                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                    Deluca, stop scooping the best of all the world's edible delights.
                                                    Your cup runneth over.

                                          2. While in San Sebastian, give kalimotxo a try. Sounds disgusting, but is actually quite good.

                                            1. Probably too late - but Espai Sucre in Barcelona is an absolute MUST! http://tinyurl.com/l6j74h

                                              1. well, after much planning and research and dreaming of food, I had to cancel my trip at the last minute, which was horrifyingly disappointing. So, now i am starting all over again and planning to go at a less than ideal time in december.