Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Spain/Portugal >
May 12, 2010 08:25 AM

Tips for picking a restaurant at random in Barcelona

Hi everyone,

While during my upcoming visit to Barcelona there are definitely places that I know I want to hit for a bite while there will be times I have to chose a place at random.

What advice would you give to try to minimize a bad experience?

I can think of two off of the top of my head:

Avoid most places directly on Las Ramblas and on Passeig De Gracia near Placa De Catalunya.

Avoide places with plastic Paella signs or boards advertising their Sangria.

Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Just off the Rambla in an alley is Los Carricoles its over two hundred years old and is a real trip.

    2 Replies
    1. re: CrissyB

      Los Carricoles has not been good for a while, sorriest.

      As for advice to minimize a bad experience:
      My number one advice would be: don't choose your resto at random.
      The best for me is still to do research on boards such as this one.
      On tourist-crowded cities like Barcelona, or Paris, or Rome, I never just show up and walk into a restaurant off the street. I take my food too seriously to leave it to chance. Why not open my mouth on the Ramblas and pray that a winning lottery ticket drop into it?

      Ceci dit, there are a couple of universal rules: is the place crowded? Does the place display a local language menu only?

      1. re: Parigi

        Oh trust me Parigi I am doing my research, but I am preparing for the contingency that my wife and 12 year old daughter will NEED to eat something and we happen to be out of position, so to speak.

    2. I can't think of any other good general advice to give. The Barri Gotic can be problematic, especially on c/Ferran. Also Pg Joan de Borbo in Barceloneta and area around the Sagrada.

      7 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        So I can cull from that unless the place is a know performer, walk a some blocks away from a major tourist site and look around.

        After visiting Sagrada I was thinking about grabbing lunch somewhere in Gracia.

        1. re: SmokinActuary

          There is a tradeoff: randomness for convenience. If it is an informal inexpensive lunch, just pick somewhere nice and convenient and lower ones expectation. Who cares about being touristy if the wonderful outside terrace table is what is welcoming at the moment and even the cheapest cava can taste great. No big deal as one is not looking for gastronomic high. The Gracia neighborhood is quite a stroll from the Sagrada.

          1. re: PBSF

            I was actually thinking about checking out this restaurant "Famen" after the Sagrada, then take the bus up to Parc Guell

            1. re: SmokinActuary

              Some of my favorite meals while traveling have been in little places I have never heard of after much research. I read menus del dia in local language, carrying a food dictionary for this purpose, look for happy locals, go in and sniff deeply. I also ask workers at museums and other sights where they have lunch and have been graciously escorted by some to little holes in the wall. Foodie havens none, but often great adventures giving a real feel for a place. I ask at my hotel about places in neighborhoods I expect to be in. I also carry some small snacks , especially when I travelled with my young son, so we didn't ever have to eat immediately. I also print out a list of local markets so I can buy food items if no restaurants look good, or if lines are too long where I had hoped to go. I plan an d research but keep my eyes open for the unexpected too,

              1. re: magiesmom

                Thanks magiesmom for the good advice! 70 days to go and I can't wait.

                1. re: SmokinActuary

                  Smokin: you are welcome. I have followed your posts here and on TA and hope you will report back in both places as we travel in Sept!

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    I knew I was being followed! ;-) I have to say I have been a pretty active poster there. My wife thinks I am obsessed and my research will spoil the experience. I agree with on the former but not the latter! LOL

      2. Not a fancy place but one can get a quick good affordable breakfast and lunch <dinner too, the one I would have b'fast at every AM had a dining room upstairs> at these cafeteria type places.

        Click 'restaurantes' for locations:

        14 Replies
        1. re: Quimbombo

          SmokinActuary, I'm following you too on TA,although I use a different name there. I am also traveling with a child this summer and I do a ton of research for our trips because we like to eat well and often, stay out of trouble, avoid any major inconveniences (like showing up at a museum or restaurant on its day-off) and enjoy/learn as much as possible given a limited amount of time and energy Plus, I just like to research!

          For our Sagrada Familia sightseeing, we are having lunch at Alkimia. Given that you have been to Barcelona before and may not feel like committing your time/money to a MIchelin-level lunch near the Sagrada Familia, I suggest Can Joseph. Crans and Doffcocker (from TA) have mentioned it before. Here's a link so you can read up.

          1. re: Aleta

            Actually I have never been to Barcelona before, but since I have read so much about it that I may come across as having been there. I just love the research too!

            I thought Alkimia may be too cutting edge for my 12 year old, Can Joseph looks good though. I remember reading about it on that website. Thanks for the reminder.

            1. re: SmokinActuary

              Well, you sure fooled me, Smokin! Enjoy your trip! Here's a short list of places where you might pick up some snacks to tide you over until the next meal (these are from my list of nosheries in the vicinity of L'Eixample):

              Escriba Bakery
              Cafe Viena - for the (in)famous jamon iberico flauta
              La Boqueria of course
              Other mercats, including the Mercat de la Concepcio if you are staying up near
              Passeig de Gracia
              Colmado Quilez, corner of Arago & Rambla Catalunya (for canned goods, cheese, cured meat, wine)
              Jamonisimo, vacuum pack ham, ham-tasting
              Cacao Sampaka for chocolate-related treats; there is also a café with hot chocolate, pastries & sandwiches

              1. re: Aleta

                So many places, so little time!!!

                We are staying at the Suites Avenue right across from La Pedrera so we will be hitting a lot of places in L'Eixample.

                Cacao Sampaka is a must!!!!

                1. re: SmokinActuary

                  Suites Avenue! Lucky you! It should be very cool to look out onto the street (and maybe La Pedrera) from your apt. You are very close to another snack place: Bubo. There's a review on the spottedbylocals website that I linked above.

                  1. re: Aleta

                    Unless Bubo opened a new branch in the Eixample, it is no where near Suite Avenue. Bubo is located in El Born near Santa Maria de Mar. It is a designer dessert take out place with a small bar next door which also serves non traditional tapas.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      Thanks PBSF. I just checked the Bubo website and there are 2 locations (Buboborn and Bubobruc) plus a 3rd one called Bubobar. The Bubobruc location is at Bruc 150 - it's really up near Diagonale.


                      1. re: Aleta

                        Thanks for the info on Bubo. I haven't been too impress with their desserts or the food at the bar. Please report back if you visit them during your trip.

                        1. re: PBSF

                          I wasn't planning to go there really. From the website, it looks like a French style patisserie and I've eaten so many delicious pastries in Paris that I am overly discriminating. I only offered it as a snack option for SmokinActuary, who will be in the neighbourhood of the Bubobruc.

                          I will be visiting Escriba, however. Partly for the architectural value of the building and partly to see the fantasy cakes. What's your opinion of Escriba?

                          1. re: Aleta

                            Escriba probably come as close to a good French style bakery in Barcelona. Their breakfast pastries are buttery and very good; try the pine nut coca. I also like their traditional Catalan cookies such as panellets. One of my favorite bakery is Forno de Sant Jaume though the pastries are more in the Spanish style, less butter and heavier than the French. Somehow this style hits the spot when I am Barcelona.

                            1. re: PBSF

                              PBSF, could you provide approximate coordinates for Forno de Sant Jaume? Thanks also for your recs on Escriba.

                              1. re: Aleta

                                Forno de Sant Jaume is on Rambla de Catalunya between Gran Via and c/Duptacio. There is a small adjacent counter for sit down coffee, etc. Forno de Maure on c/Ferran has a traditional Catalan breakfast pastry call chuka, a fried round yeast dough pastry dusted with cinnamon sugar. Great when it is still warm. The rest of the pastries are decent. If you are interested in traditional Catalan types of cookies, Pasteleria Brunells on c/Princesa and c/Montcada is very good. Oriol Balaguer, one of the the best pastry chef in Spain, has a shop on Placa Sant Gregori Taumaturg 2. Also excellent chocolates.

                                1. re: PBSF

                                  So the Forno de Sant Jaume is actually in L'Eixample, near Metro Passeig de Gracia. Good for us! Thanks again, PBSF. I had heard of Oriol Balaguer but the shop is not close to any sightseeing so I doubt we'll pass by. I've added the other names to my "Bakery List".

                    2. re: Aleta

                      Suites Avenue was having a sale and I got a two bedroom apartment overlooking La Padrera at 40% off the rack rate, or 700 Euros for 4 nights.