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Tapas bars and wine shops in Valencia, Tarragona and Girona

Shannon Apr 24, 2009 06:46 PM

I've been cutting and pasting a lot of info from this board into my Spain file for an upcoming trip to Valencia and Catalonia - but we are mainly into two things: 1) tapas and 2) wine. So if anyone has any tips for good tapas places and/or wine bars and wine shops in these cities, please let me know.

We will also be a couple of days in Morella, and will be cruising around a lot of Catalonia in late September early October. In case there is a festival we shouldn't miss. :)

Thanks in advance.

  1. Shannon Jul 27, 2009 04:51 PM

    I'm bumping this up because we will be there in 2 months and though msmarabini has covered Valencia nicely I am hoping someone has some info on Tarragona and/or Girona.

    If not, I'll definitely report back should I find anything notable.

    Msmarabini, if you are around September 20-22 we should get together.

    I cannot wait to get back to Spain. I feel like I am in the home stretch now...

    1. msmarabini Apr 26, 2009 09:00 AM

      An absolute must visit is the Mercado Central...open everyday until 2pm - ish. Closed Sundays. Great selection of fruit, veggies, and fish and meat...and more beautiful than the it's sister in Barcelona. I wouldn't eat at the bar in here, but I do all my food shopping here.

      Places to avoid: all the restaurants around Plaza de la Reina, Plaza de la Virgin, and the restaurants on the beach at Malvarrosa....all tourist traps...and though you will find locals eating at the restuarants at Malvarrosa beach...they all offer pretty much the same and the quality is average (at best). A lot of places serve tapas that are made hours ahead and simply reheated in the microwave...or another example, the famous "ensalada valenciana" will have lettuce, tomato, eggs boiled til they're gray, asparagus (from a can), corn (from a can, carrots (from a can, too!), and olives (from a can)....you'll know when you look at the plates that these are places to avoid.

      In Valencia, you should try paella, as it was "born" here...but I really dont know where to suggest. I have never really found a place that is consistently good...sometimes it will be too oily, other times too salty. Honestly, the best I've had in my 4 years here (so far) were cooked over fires and made by friends...not eaten in restaurants. It is quite popular to go to a little town just 6 km south of Valencia called El Palmar for paella. It is in the middle of a nature reserve and the town has probably 100 paella restuarants to choose from. Might be worth a look...we usually go to one there called The Establiment...but it's not always consistent...however the quality is high. Oh, and if you go for paella, it's normal to wait about 40 minutes for it, because it is cooked to order...so it's always a good idea to order some starters, and expect to make an afternoon of eating.

      I can also make recommendations on Italian food in Valencia (my husband is Italian), cocktail bars, Argentine steakhouses, the best sushi, and other places ... just ask!

      7 Replies
      1. re: msmarabini
        Shannon Apr 26, 2009 10:17 AM

        msmarabini, thank you, thank you, thank you. I had already cut and pasted some of your info on another thread into my file, now I will add this. We will be there for 5 days, staying in the Carmen area and your posts, I can already tell, will be way more valuable than any guidebook could be. If you are around in September, I'll buy you a drink!

        My mom (who I am traveling with) and I LOVE pizza (I lived in Italy for a year and miss the pizza something terrible) so if there is any good, authentic pizza around, that's one tip we would definitely utilize.

        Thanks again.

        1. re: Shannon
          msmarabini Apr 26, 2009 12:49 PM

          For good authentic Italian pizza, you can go to La Forcola, which is only a short walk from the Carmen, outside of the Torres del Quart, on Calle Borrull, 29. www.laforcola.es. It's owned by Italians, has a wood-fired oven, and everything is very good...i have had twice the pizza forcola with fresh mozzarella, jamon, rucola, and cherry tomatoes, and parmigiano. Also the carpaccios are very good (i love the swordfish -emperador and the carpaccio vitello tonnato -veal with tuna sauce), I've also had the spaghetti con telline (which is like spaghetti alla vongole...only telline are local valencian clams). My husband likes the gnocchi with gorgonzola ....they melt in your mouth...only problem is that gnocchi portion is small-ish. We only just discovered this place a couple of months ago, but have already been four times...it's really really good...and the pizzas are authentic.

          The very popular vegetarian tapas bar I mentioned before is Tasta Olletes. www.latastaolletes.com. Really good fresh food that sings on the palate...and service tends to be good too.

          You mentioned Morella. We have a friend from there and have been a few times to stay on weekends. He said that Meson del Pastor is the best restaurant or La Fonda Morena...I have been to both, and enjoyed them...food is very home-style...hearty portions...heavy on the meat. Casa Roque is another popular place, but he said it's inconsistent. In Morella the lamb (cordero) is very good and cerdo (pork) and ternasco...and they do a lot of dishes with truffle (trufa). My favorite thing in Morella however is something you get at the panaderia and is called Coca. It's very typical and looks like a thin crust pizza but without the cheese. The crust is not pizza dough...but something else...still, very tasty. And for breakfast, it's typical to have flaons...which are like empanadas stuffed with requeson cheese and honey.

          Hope this helps! (sorry to have monopolized your post)

          1. re: msmarabini
            Shannon Apr 26, 2009 06:36 PM

            Thanks msmarabini - I really appreciate this and we will definitely go to La Forcola! The pizza Forcola is similar to my mom's favorite when she used to visit me in Italy (except the ham.) We are staying at the Cardinal Ram in Morella which supposedly has a good restaurant too. Can't wait to try the flaons - that is way up my alley. You rock!

            1. re: Shannon
              msmarabini Apr 28, 2009 09:10 AM

              No worries! I really hope you have a good time...and in the mean time...if I discover something new...I'll let you know. We should catch up for a copa when you're here...that is, if i'm in town.

              1. re: msmarabini
                Shannon Apr 28, 2009 07:01 PM

                that would be great to meet you if you are in town. And I am sure we are going to have a great time - it IS Spain after all. :)

                1. re: Shannon
                  f
                  foodfechter Apr 30, 2009 09:04 PM

                  msmarabini,

                  thanks so much for all this info! I'll be in Valencia at the university for a study abroad this summer for almost 2 months, and this information will be immensely helpful to me! Being in college and much more of a foodie than anyone else I'm going with may make it hard to get to some of these places, but I'll try to do what I can.

                  I'll be there from may 15 until June 26. I can't wait.

                  Thanks again!

                  1. re: foodfechter
                    msmarabini May 2, 2009 12:49 AM

                    It's hard being a foodie in a group where everyone else is just happy with whatever....I know what you mean. 2 months in valencia...you're going to have a great time! Besides paella, Valencia is also known for it's night-life and a lot of the famous euro-djs pass thru here for a trial run on their way to Ibiza for the summer. But 2 months in valencia and you will probably sometimes want to eat something other than spanish food (i love it...but i cant eat it every single day...it's too rich...and -this may come as a surprise-it does get monotonous after a while). So if you'd like rec's for good burgers/pasta/pizza/sushi/indian/gelato/bocadillos/etc...just let me know and I'll be happy to share my experiences.

      2. msmarabini Apr 26, 2009 08:37 AM

        Finally someone is coming to Valencia! I live here and know lots of good places to eat (and avoid)...but never get to share much because everyone asks for Madrid or Barcelona suggestions! Tapas in Valencia...I've posted these places before, but are worth repeating: Casa Montana (pronounced Montanya...my computer doesnt have the n) which is not far from Malvarrosa beach on Jose Benlliure, 69. (closed on Sun, open lunch 12:30-15:30, and dinner 20-23:30). They do all the usual classic tapas..but the quality is excellent, and if you're into wine...there is a massive selection from all over the world. The atmosphere is also cool...the place has been around since 1836. www.emilianobodega.com (website). Also just down the street at #26 is Casa Guillermo, the king of the anchovies, it's a local institution and has the best anchovies ever...in all sorts of ways.

        Another tapas favourite, this one not far from Mercado Colon is Casa Vela, on Isabel La Catolica, 26. (closed Sundays). We always call ahead to book a table, because the place is small (ph. 963516734)...and is also a deli. Excellent quality. We always get the Ensalada Casa Vela, which has lettuce, juicy red tomatoes, burgos cheese, tuna, dried tuna fillet (mojama) and anchovies; then instead of tortillas they do these excellent scrambled eggs with potatoes (revuelto)...go for the Bellota jamon...it's the best we've had anywhere (but is 20 euros for a large plate), and the solomillo (which is beef fillet...but is served cut into pieces so you can share it as a tapa). There's a great wine selection...in fact, the wine is hanging all over the walls. We always drink a red from Ribera del Duero called Haza.

        In the Carmen area, a really good & very typical tapas experience is to go to Tasca Angel which (I dont have the address on me at the moment, but can post it later). This is a place that you will most likely eat standing on your feet, because it's always packed to the rafters...but they do the best Sardines, cooked on the griddle and served drizzled with olive oil, garlic, parsley, and lemon. YUMMY! Also good are the skewers with pork & peppers & onion (called brochette). You're probably better off with a beer here. They dont speak english here...as you'll find in many places around valencia. Dont follow the guidebook reccomendation on the classic Carmen tapas bar, El Pilar...we've tried it...very low quality on the food...bread is stale, bravas were fried 2 hours earlier and reheated, etc. Also in the carmen near the Plaza del la Virgen is Seu Xerea 2 (on Conde Almodovar) which does more "tapas elaboradas" or more unusual-gourmet-style tapas. Quality is great but you will pay for it. www.seuxerea.com (the original restaurant of same name is next door...but is out of my usual dinner budget). There is another place in the Carmen that does vegetarian tapas - with unusual choices...like croquetas with carrot & apple, or spinach & feta, hummus, excellent salads, fried brie with bluberry jam, etc...I will post the name later...i dont have it with me now.

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