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Mar 30, 2010 12:36 PM

Barcelona in early May, 2010.

My wife and I will be traveling in early May to Barcelona, where we will spend four days.

First, at the risk of boring respondents, a few words about us. We are seniors; we tire more easily than before and our dining habits are in transition. We expect to eat our main meal in early to mid-afternoon and "snack" with some wine in early evening . We visualize a routine similar to a trip to Venice a few years ago (main meal early and "chichetti" later).

We prefer to eat traditional dishes of Catalonia, not generally available to us in the U.S., as distinguished from molecular cuisine or modern interpretations of old dishes. As for price, we would like to limit our costs for a main meal for two with wine to under E100.

First, for our mid-afternoon main meal, we have in mind the following restaurants for moderately-priced traditional Catalan cuisine: Can Bertram, Goliard, Cova Fumada, Can Lluis, Cometacinc, Cafe de l'Academia and Sant Joan. For somewhat more elaborate traditional Catalan cuisine, we have in mind Fonda Gaig. We would most appreciate any suggestions to add to or subtract from this list, or suggestions as to order of preference.

For seafood, we have in mind Mar de la Ribera, La Paradeta, El Barkito and Can Lluis (for fiduea). For rice dishes, La Mifanera looks promising. Additions, deletions, rankings?

For tapas or pinxtos in the evening, we have in mind Paco Meralgo, Ciudad Condal or Cerveceria Catalana, La Vinya Del Senor, El Xampanyet, Euskal Extea, Takita Berri, Tzakolin or El Irati and Quimet y Quimet. At the Boqueria we will check out Bar Pinxto, El Quim and Kiosco Universal. What are we missing or should we avoid?

Finally, a question about Cal Pep. A number of their dishes--particularly seafood--sound delicious, but we will not be bullied into buying far more than we have any interest in eating. Is there a good time to go there during the lunch hours to try a few main dishes, split a salad and have a few glasses of wine without being pressed to try everything?

Thanks in advance for your comments and suggestions.

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  1. Hello Sernoff,

    I´ve been to several of the restaurants you mention. The Fonda Gaig is traditional food in very posh surroundings uptown. It´s nice if you want to treat yourselves although expect a hefty bill of 100€+ with wine, dessert etc.

    Cafe de lÁcademia serves good food and isn´t too expensive. I think it´s closed at the weekends.

    The tapas places are all basically good although I normally avoid Basque tapas in Barcelona. Paco Meralgo is particularly good, it is located uptown and caters to a more genteel clientele. The food quality is excellent, the price is higher as a result.

    Ciudad Condal is bustling and fun but doesn´t offer much choice food-wise. It specializes in small sandwich baguettes and the odd pre-prepared salad on the bar counter plus a little fried seafood dishes.

    You´ll be pressed to try all sorts of dishes any time you go to Cal Pep, ditto Pinotxo in the Boqueria. That´s how they function so if you go just be prepared to stand up for yourselves and say NO! or go with the flow, say yes, and don´t worry about it.

    I would recommend somewhere not on your list called Casa Delfin. It´s on the PAseo del Born, 36. This is a very traditional restaurant that has been given a small facelift last year and the food is wonderful. They specialise in wild Mediterranean fish cooking and Catalan rice dishes. It´s a great find which will soon be in all the guidebooks.

    Bon profit!

    2 Replies
    1. re: bettybop

      bettybop: Thanks for your helpful reply. We will check out Casa Delfin when we are in Barcelona. Who knows, maybe we'll swagger into Cal Pep at 3:00 and ask for several specific racions that many have raved about, a couple of glasses of wine or cava, and a check! Thanks again.

      1. re: sernoff

        Allow me to defend Cal Pep here. :-)
        Neither Pep nor his waiters bully. I think there is misunderstanding on both sides, esp with the language barrier, and diners feel as though they should continue to eat. They may actually be more pressured by themselves than by the restaurant.
        I find the food at Cal Pep excellent, and Pep is a really funky host. A couple of times he did make a point of making me try things I thought I would not like, and I liked his preparations and appreciated the experience all the more.
        He creates an ambiance, plus the counter format, which makes all the diners feel free to talk and laugh together and even taste each other's tapas. Quite a few times in my experience, the entire counter was like one big tasting commune, LOL.
        But of course, if you are full, say so. -- I feel funny even saying this to fellow adult hounds.

    2. We're going to Barcelona, too! We are going to be there for the few days of the Formula One race plus a couple days to relax. Where did you get such a great list of restos? I want to do some more research.

      In addition, we have about a week at the end of our trip. Do you recommend another good food city that we should visit (must be transportation accessible as we aren't renting a car)? Some people are saying Valencia for paella, and others Sevilla for general ambiance. Do you have an opinion?


      4 Replies
      1. re: JojoSF

        JoJoSF: I sure hope it's a great list. If so, most of the credit goes to Chowhound posters. I pay particularly close attention to the views of posters who live in the city I am visiting. When I get a preliminary list of spots together I google them to see what turistas like me thought.

        Parigi: I thought my inquiry made clear that we are aging foodies who eat less and at different times than once was the case. On re-reading it, I am inclined to agree that the use of the words "bullied" and "pressed" were inartful at best. If they suggested Pep might be a greedy ogre, they also suggested I am a cheap wimp. I meant no more offense to him than to myself. I herewith modify my response to bettybop: My wife and I plan to visit Cal Pep around 3:00 one afternoon to enjoy several of the dishes that so many have found memorable and a few glasses of wine. If all goes as expected, we'll leave most satisfied and having expressed our gratitude to the cooks and servers. In light of my unfortunate wording above, it might be wise to use a nom de plume to make a reservation there. Your comment was appreciated as will be any further thoughts you have on the restaurants that I mentioned. They always command my close attention.

        1. re: sernoff

          Sernoff I think you will have a great time wherever you go. If you go to Cal Pep at 3pm, it is peak hour. The joint jumps between 2pm and … 4pm. Therefore even though you think you are "aging foodies who eat less and at different times", you will be right with the "in" Born crowd...
          When I want to avoid the wait, I actually go shortly before 1pm, which means a little before it opens
          If you are tired of the wait, try the nearby Euskal Extea which is also on your list. I would give its frontal neighbor El Xampanyet a miss. The rest of your list is a good one. Of all the Boqueria stands, my fave is El Qim. I love chipirones and razor clams, and El Qim makes them best there. Again try to go either earlier or later than the general Spanish meal hours, in order to find a seat easily.

          "In light of my unfortunate wording above, it might be wise to use a nom de plume to make a reservation there."
          Don't worry about the name Sernoff being noir-oeufé there. Another funny thing: Nom de plume is something that the French don't say. They say "nom de guerre". Go figure.

          1. re: Parigi

            Many thanks Parigi for your timing advice. We will go to Cal Pep shortly before 1:00, with a reservation in hand. That may work well for us, for Pep and for the "in" Born crowd. I am in your debt, having been confused before your post as to whether the best time for "us" to go to this particular restaurant would be at the beginning or the end of the "lunch" period. It seems to me that our little dialogue makes a point too often missed by posters: spell out adequately what your desires, needs, budget, are and someone can warn you away from a mistake you might have made in planning your--often brief-- visit to their city. If you do a little research on this site before you post your inquiry, informed repondents can better respond to your request. Always better not to accidentally insult the restaurateur in your initial posting(s), as I did. Thanks also for your comments on Euskal Extea, El Quim and El Xampanyet. You have added a lot of value to my plans, for which I am grateful.

            1. re: sernoff

              Mon plaisir.

              "We will go to Cal Pep shortly before 1:00, with a reservation in hand."

              Cal Pep does not take reservations for the counter seats, which is why I go around 12:45 or 12:50, minutes before it opens, to make certain we have a place at the counter. It has a very small back section, which one can reserve very much in advance. But the back section is frankly not as fun as the counter area.

              "spell out adequately what your desires, needs, budget, are and someone can warn you away from a mistake you might have made in planning your--often brief-- visit to their city."

              How true. Posters often throw a dream out there, not that I blame them but am just saying they don't necessarily allow others to understand what they want. The say: "I want a unique or wowey or the best meal in Paris/Barcelona/Berlin/Beijing." It's often so abstract an idea that the locals or travellers don't know how to advise.

      2. A great way to enjoy El Xampanyet is to go later, 11 p.m. or so, sit down for cava and dessert, which can be simple as a plate of cookies. At that time it is packed and noisy but lots of fun.

        A nearby alternative for tapas is Sagardi, which is up Carrer de l'Argenteria from the Santa Maria del Mar church.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Likelivingthere

          Likelivingthere: By 11:00 we'll be in bed. Earlier in the evening we'll do a seniors' tapas crawl to a number of places close to Santa Maria del Mar, including Sagardi. Thanks for your response.

          1. re: sernoff

            If you´re going on a tapas crawl in the Born I would include Xampanyet (for a glass of bubbly wine with a little plate of tinned seafood delicacies ) Taller de Tapas (at the bar, which is always fun for a nice glass of wine coupled with anchovies, Jamón and fried artichoke shavings) and then head to calle Reina Cristina, 3 to a restaurant called Carballeira which sells the best pulpo in barcelona (after the Butafumeiro!). This is about 5 minutes walk from Taller de Tapas on the road behind Set Portes. It´s a traditional style Galcian restaurant, the first in Barcelona, wonderfuly atmospheric and serves delicious fish dishes.

            1. re: bettybop

              Having looked at photos of some of Carballeira's dishes--simple and elaborate--on their website and a traveler's posting, it looks like a must go, albeit an expensive must go. Is it in the price range you posted above for a luncheon at Fonda Gaig, or higher? The pulpo looks divine and the scallop dish looks even better. Amazed that I haven't seen mention of this restaurant elsewhere.

              1. re: sernoff

                Fonda del Gaig would be more expensive but it depends what you eat as fish is quite pricey. Carballeira ios not a foody restaurant and that´s why it´s probably not talked about so h on Chowhound. It´s very old school and packed with charm. You can have tapas at the bar (standing only) , or reserve a table. I´d ask for a table in the bar area as it´s the most atmospheric. Another fantastic fish restaurant is Casa Delfin on Paseo del Born , 36. This has been revamped but is very in keeping and respectful of it´s history (It used to be the local restaurant for all the market traders when the Born housed Barcelona´s main market) I went yesterday lunchtime with several friends and we had a black squid paella with aiioli for only 7€ each. It was the best black paella my friends have ever tasted. This restaurant is new on the block but will make waves for people who fancy classical Catalan cooking, occasionally with a twist, and at amazing prices, something not easy to find in Barcelona.

        2. "The possibilities are endless" All too common an expression but the range of foods and quality eating places in Barcelona is second to none in our experience. Grupotravi have a great range of restaurants and may be worth seeking out thier website. There are also classes and tapas tours aplenty if you would like to join a group perhaps and venture into some of the backstreets or visit some of the less known tapas bars and establishments.

          1 Reply
          1. There's a wonderful little taverna on Carrer de l'Esparteria in El Born, with these big medieval looking doors. Can't for the life of me recall the name. It's a wonderful little spot for some wine and interesting Catalan meals (my favorite is the plate of various breads; try the angulas if you're so inclined). Enjoy!

            8 Replies
            1. re: fatgaleats

              BETTYBOP: I'm just in the market for black squid ink rice (arroz negro?). Do you recall if the one at Casa Delfin was a regular item or daily special? Thanks.

              1. re: Aleta

                It was definitely a daily special but I´ve been several times at lunch time and they always have a speciality rice dish such as arroz caldoso or the like. It changes. It has a very Catalan atmosphere and this is reflected by the food. Lots of people eat the rice in this restaurant. I think that in the evening they are more expensive, but not much.

              2. re: fatgaleats

                The medieval doors sound like Sagardi on Argenteria. On Esparteria … could you mean the Tinaja?

                1. re: Parigi

                  sernoff, love to hear your reaction to cafe de l'Academia. It's been on my radar but have not gotten there. Hear the lunch is a great deal. The do not open until 9 for dinner and are closed weekends.

                  We had a great lunch at Pirineus, off of Portal del Angel near the cathedral. Even though it's near tourist central it seemed like a local clientele (Sunday) and the food was fresh, tasty and reasonably prices.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    given the address and the description of the doors it is definitely la Tinaja. Great spot.

                    1. re: buspirone


                      I went to BCN last summer and used a lot of chow recs. We ended up at L'Academia on our last night and it was our best dinner. We weren't even going to go there, it was an alternate put in place when the tapas bar we intended to go to was too packed to enter. I would say don't miss L'acadmia! I think its closed on weekends though. We had amazing jamon there, the best of our trip, a sensational raw salmon dish, a fabulous creamy rice with shrimp and mushrooms, and two desserts. Their house wine was freaking delicious at 16 EUR a bottle ( Can Grau Vell Dell Academia), Wish I could buy it here. It was also pretty romantic, the setting.

                      Went to Cal Pep! You know what , it was pretty fun and it felt like a quintessential Barcelona experience, though there is a looooonng line of tourists and waiting in that long ling with them might make feel like less of a chowhound and more of a rick steve's follower. That aside, some of the food was awesome. The barberechos are very interesting, and was good to try a dish you just can't get in the states. They had the best tortilla espanola of the trip, hands down. Yum. The fritto misto was pretty cool except too much there, too many tiny fried fish when really i just wanted more of the fried calamari which was maybe the best fried calamari ive ever had. Yummy fried artichokes. They were out of the squid dish that we wanted so we got the sepia and garbanzo....not my favorite. We were too stuffed to get the crema catalana but it looked amazing. I would save room next time for that dessert.

                      As for the service there, if you tell them you know what you want, they're totally cool with that. It's pretty clear to me that the reason they steer people towards stuff is there is no time for bumbling tourists who want to spend twenty minutes deciding or asking about every item on the menu. I read some reviews that they try to upsell you here but I found the opposite- I was actually told by the server that I was ordering too much and to pick between the last 2 dishes I ordered. They also gave us a free shot of some liquor after eating. It wasn't cheap, but considering how much we ate/ordered, it was definitely reasonable. Maybe 30 euros a person? We had three beers each, too!

                      Lunch at Bar Pinxtos in la boqueria was our other favorite meal, maybe tied with L'academia. You have to wait for a stool at their tiny counter top. We had croquettes of two type. Amazing. A bacalao fish dish. Incredible. A beef cheek salad dish, yummy. A garbanzo beans dish that made me rethink garbanzo beans entirely. I have never thought of sauteeing them in olive oil with spices, which i now frequently do. They get kinda molten when slow cooked, so yummy, sorta like refried beans in mexican. The menu changes daily, i believe, the best thing to do (especially if your spanish isn't great) is just to get up and look at what the offerings are today, point at what looks good and be sure to get lots of croquettes too. The meal was kind pricey! it all adds up, but it was sooooooo good. Everything had so much flavor (and olive oil!) And we were driving cava at lunch time, 4 EUR a glass.

                      Our other dinner was Can Majo. This was on a Sunday when many restaurants are closed. This was our paella dinner, I found it on a blog of "best paellas in Barcelona" by someone who calls himself the paella professor. Loved the atmosphere, old and wooden and cute, in Barcelonetta district. The sangria was awesome and i thought a very good value. It was strong! We had a baked goat cheese with roasted vegetables and balsamic drizzle appetizer that was awesome, the photograph of it is pretty mouth watering. The paella was great but I have no other basis of comparison, can't say its best in town but it certainly made us happy. We also had our best crema catalana here, so so so good.

                      The other big meal was Inopia. It was a little too hyped in the mario batali show "on the road again spain". Gwyneth was maybe going for a second Oscar with all her moaning over the food. It was great but not the best meal we had. Just good, solid tapas bar. Really loved the pineapple with molasses. That place is also a small bar with little bar tables and stools, its not a sit down restaurant at all like it appears in the show. Get their early to avoid the long lines.

                      The other great thing helado (gelato!) on pricess street near the Picasso Musem.

                      1. re: sarahbeths

                        Correction: The paella meal was Can Ros (can majo was the one that was closed.) My bad.

                        1. re: sarahbeths

                          Thanks very much, sarahbeths, for your extensive report.