BCN next week- Help with my food itinerary?
Hello Barcelona Chowhounds-
My wife and I are fortunate enough to spend 9 days in BCN starting this weekend. I am somewhat bewildered by the vast array of deliciousness available, but have slogged through this and other boards trying to assemble a plan of attack. I like to keep some flexibility, but I also fear missing the boat due to lack of reservations and general trend towards disorganization.
This is my current plan -- I would LOVE any suggested additions or subtractions, as well as any advice or help around logistics and reservations. I would especially love any suggestions for good low-key local places to supplement all the high end Barcelona's Greatest Hits. Mil Gracias!
Saturday Lunch: Flexible, not sure when exactly we'll arrive
Saturday Dinner: Requested reservation at Comerc24, looks good and near our place
Sunday Lunch: Cafe Viena (thin options on Sunday, and NYT says world's best sandwich?)
Sunday Dinner: Cerveceria Catalana or Euskal Etxea (we have online res at Euskal, how hard to get into CC?)
Monday Lunch: Rez at Alkimia
Monday Dinner: ??
Tuesday Lunch: Day trip to Montserrat
Tuesday Dinner: Requested late rez at Hisop, still waiting on confirmation
Wednesday Lunch: Anima if I can get a rez
Wednesday Dinner: ???
Thursday Lunch, Dinner: Day trip to Terragona (any recommendations?)
Friday Lunch: ??
Friday Dinner: Reservation at Cinq Setis
Saturday / Sunday: Still open; we're thinking about going to Girona one of these days, not too late for a reservation at El Celler de Can Roca? Worth it?
I'd like to add Gresca and maybe Tapac24 or Inopa (now Lolita?) for dinners but haven't managed to go for reservations yet (hard by phone with time and language difference; and they don't do on-line as far as I can tell). Also maybe Cal Pep for lunch (same situation). And of course we'll do lunch at the Boqueria at some point -- is it open on Sundays?
Thanks for any help anyone can provide!
I love to pair up our meals and sightseeing. For ALKIMIA, I suggest either a morning at La Sagrada Familia, followed by lunch (5-10 min. walk over) or a dinner - before or after which you can gaze in awe at the illuminated towers. The chicken canelones in almond cream sauce is one of my favourites but I honestly liked everything I ate there.
MONTSERRAT is going to be a long day. Make sure to bring a scarf or sweater. We only talk about food here on CH so for more info, see Tripadvisor Barcelona. The cafe in the complex is not bad. We took the first train at 7:36 am from Barcelona and fueled up at the cafe in preparation for a hike around the mountains.
GRESCA is another favourite. The chef here is committed to "bistronomia", therefore they may use some ingredients that are less expensive. That calls for a lot of creativity! You can ask your hotel to make a reservation for you.
EL CELLER DE CAN ROCA: We took the train for lunch there. It's a short taxi ride out of the city. The dishes were interesting and, for the most part, creative and delicious. The service was inconsistent and,at the end, non-existent. After a 3hr lunch, we reminded the restaurant several times to call a taxi and print up our souvenir tasting menu. We ended up missing the train and getting back to Barcelona around 6pm.
I understand that you would like to sightsee in Girona. If you can take an early train and be satisified with 2-3 hrs of sightseeing before a 3 hr lunch, go for it. Otherwise, take a 1hr train along the coast and have lunch at SANT PAU. We enjoyed our meal there much more. The chef/owner is Spain's only 3-star Michelin female chef and her restaurant reflects her sensitivities. Very artistic, painterly, slightly Asian approach to food. Excellent and gracious service.
Our trip report, including links to pictures, for your kind perusal:
Thanks so much everyone! The BCN chowhound group is amazing, so knowledgable and thourough! If any of you ever come to Seattle I will be happy to return the favor!
I was wildly optimistic about Can Roca (booked through November), I'll take a look at Sant Pau. Otherwise, I totally agree about trying to pair up attractions and meals -- I'm just starting with the meals and then attaching the appropriate things to do; because we have such a long stay, easy for us to do (plus we're big slackers and only usually do 1-2 things per day).
Anyway, thanks for the help, I will definitely try to stop stressing out about pre-arranging all of our reservations and just look to take advantage of my early-eating tendencies to get to the head of the line!
Nevertheless, if dinner in places like Gresca and Hisop interests you, do make a reservation as they are quite small. Since you're staying for a good stretch of time, you can be flexible if a particular night is booked. Barcelona is very international and just about everyone speaks a little English in the centro. If they don't, they understand some. It is very easy to navigate; you'll have a great time. Tapas/pintxos places are informal and fun; with a glass of wine or txakoli, everyone is having a good time. Another plus is that they serve through most of the afternoon.
Nothing wrong being a slacker on vacation; one or two things a day can be just as rewarding as jumping around at many sights. Do save some evenings for tapas and pintxos crawl in El Born and the Barri Gotic. Many are clustered together, making it easy. Also take in a place that specializes in rice. Many are in Barcelonetta, especially for Sat/Sun lunch where you will find local families hitting the harbor stroll. Just stay away from places right on the Passeig Joan de Borbo. You'll know to avoid them when you they try to tout you. Kaiku, Can Ros, Can Ramonet are pretty good. 7 Portes is historical but it is a bite more expensive. Many rice preparations do not have seafood. Paella or arroz with chicken and chorizo or with rabbit or with quail are equally popular.
Just to add the endorsement for Sant Pau. I too preferred it to Can Roca (although Can Roca is also excellent). On-line reservations too.
And for Gresca, I found they spoke good english and I called twice - both times about 30 mins before they opened service (once lunch to reserve, once evening to confirm). Just be aware that, theoretically, if you want the daily tasting menu, it should be ordered in advance.
And there's no real sightseeing in Sant Pol de Mar (where Sant Pau is located) - a sleepy seaside town. So Girona has more to do if you make a day of it (but check those train times).
Again I agree with PBSF on all. Would just like to add:
1. Café VIena. Totally agree it is NBD. Sometimes those NYT hyperboles are really baffling. Even if I happened to be sightseeing next door and were hungry, would I go there? No. One is in Barcelona, which means there has to be something better, much better 5-minute walk away. Such as a lunch stall in the Boqueria market. Such as El Qim. Another good quick tapas place nearby is Bilbao Berria in front of the old cathedral.
2. "Sunday Dinner: Cerveceria Catalana or Euskal Etxea (we have online res at Euskal, how hard to get into CC?)"
Cerveceria Catalana may be a better lunch spot than dinner spot. The vibes, the atmosphere are nicer at lunch. Between visits of 2 Gaudi buildings, it is great to drop in the conveniently located CC. If you avoid the Barcelona rush lunch hour, you won't need to reserve. This means arriving before 12:30.
Euskal Etxea is a great evening spot. You can choose to reserve for the sitdown restaurant part, but I prefer the stand-up pintxos counter for the fun atmosphere, and also because the pintxos there are so good. It is fun at lunch too and is a good backup for those who are sick of the wait in nearby Cal Pep.
3. I recommend the same avoidance of rush hour for your lunch at Cal Pep which does not take reservations. Arrive shortly before it opens and you won't have to wait long.
4. As PBSF explained, you may want to review your restaurant plans and consider the eateries near your sightseeing spots, instead of visiting Corner A and then commuting across town to lunch at Corner B, and then the next day visiting Corner B and commuting across town to lunch at Corner A. As I pointed out above, Cerveceria Catalana is just right for lunch on a day when you are visiting all the modernista buildings nearby…
Couple of general points: don't sweat about reservations for inexpensive and tapas/pintxos places. In fact, most tapas/pintxos places mentioned on this board such as Euskal Etxea, Quimet y Quimet, Taktika Berri, Sagardi, Bar Mut, Man e Teca, etc. are stand up/stool and do not take reservations. Same for Cal Pep and probably Tapac24. Many inexpensive places such as Anima and Sant Joan also not take reservations except maybe for a large party or not far in advance. Locals are very casual about reserving. To make sure, show up around 12:30 for lunch and there is always a table available.
Pick lunch spots that are convenient to your sightseeing. It is a waste to jump from sightseeing to a lunch spot across town. There are tapas/pintxos places and informal places all over the centro, therefore, one will never be hungry. Just have a couple of places in mind for each main sights and drop in for a simple lunch. Making too many lunch reservations ties you down and make things more complicated than need to be.
Sunday Lunch: Cafe Viena is mostly take away sandwiches. No big deal as the NYTimes has put it in the map. I would go there for a snack and save a nice leisurely lunch for other tapas/pintxos places. Many are opened Sunday afternoons.
Sunday Dinner: if you reserved a table at Euskal Etxea, it must be the sit down restaurant in the back which serve decent Basque food. The front popular pintxos bar does not take reservations.
Cerverceria Catalana is a huge tapas barn like place seating more than 250. Usually, there is never a problem getting a table. I have never reserve.
Saturday/Sunday: is El Celler de Can Roca worth it? that really depends on budget and your expectations, etc. It is one of the best restaurant in Spain and one of the most molecular. Since you have such large amount of time in Barcelona, Girona itself is worth a visit and easy by train. El Cellar is closed Sundays and Mondays. If you don't plan to drive, lunch is the only option (and leisurely lunches are a favorites with Spaniards) as trains do not run late enough for a return to Barcelona. Of course you can stay overnight and do dinner. Before making a decision if it is worth it is to read some highend dining blogs to get a sense of the food, ambience, etc. Blogs such as highendfood, AndyHayler, Gastoville provide detail reviews that do not appear on this site. Keep in mind that these diners parse food to minute details but one does get a sense of what a restaurant is about.
Boqueria is NOT open on Sundays.
Most of the sit down places on your list are what is known as molecular/modern Catalan cooking. If you are looking for more places: excellent traditional Catalan food which is harder and harder to find as molecular and new chefs have transformed the city's dining scene. Try Fonda Gaig or if one really want to splurge, La Dama. Nice and inexpensive/moderate is Senyor Parallada (reserve downstair). Simple inexpensive places such as Sant Joan, Goliard, Can Mano and La Cova Fumada, Can Lluis, Foxos. For these, don't expect fireworks as these are everyday simple cooking. Many have a menu del dia at lunch for 11e or so.
Below is a link to an earlier post that might help sort a few things out