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Visiting BCN for the first time - what are the must-try restaurants?

I'm visiting Barcelona for the first time next month and have been doing some perusing of the boards to find restaurants to add to my list for my stay.

I'm gluten-free, but I don't want to let that completely dictate where I go - although restaurants sympathetic to GF diets would be great. :)

I have a reservations at 41 Degrees for drinks and am hoping to get a walk-in spot at Tickets that same night (a girl can hope!), but other than that I don't have anything planned.

Pretty open to trying anything, but have a particular fondness for pork and wine. Not really into tasting menus, unless they are all about swine. I really would like to have some great seafood, tapas and wine while I'm there and I don't want to visit the touristy spots if it can be helped.

Any recommendations? I'll have a car so I'm not limited by location in any way.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. If you've been perusing the board, I am sure you've got plenty of recommendations already. Since you are open to trying anything, there is nothing holding you back in picking any of them. Seafood and pork are the stables of most Catalan menus. One can order a la carte at just about every restaurant in Barcelona (Cinc Sentits and Espai de Sucre might be the two exceptions). Chowhounds would never recommend touristy spots though it doesn't mean places will be devoid of tourists. Guess whose eating at 41 Degrees and Tickets; none of my Barcelona friends have been because they can't get in.
    If you have a car, drive it to El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona or Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mar or Can Fabes in Sant Celoni. Those are the must-try restaurants.

    16 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      Thank you! El Cellar de Can Roca looks fantastic, do they only do tasting menus? Also, random question, are a lot of places closed on Mondays? I arrive Monday AM and want to be prepared in case I need to hit up a market. :)

      Any thoughts on lunch?

      1. re: Syphrite

        "do they only do tasting menus?"

        No

        "Also, random question, are a lot of places closed on Mondays?"

        Yes

        1. re: Syphrite

          If you decide on El Cellar or Sant Pau, reserve soon (NOW) as they are small and always booked solid. Can Fabes is easier for lunch. Don't just take my simple recommendation. A "must" for me might be trash to you. Who knows if we have the same taste. Do some research on all of them as they are unique and require a good budget and most important 3 hours of your time. The restaurants own webpage always look fantastic. Lots of info on the web by some of the most knowledgeable people regarding to high-end dining. Read between the lines and don't put too much credence on stars, ratings and numbers. Bad to choose one that doesn't fit your expectation.
          Monday? many good sit down are closed Sunday/Mondays; eat tapas/pintxos as most are open; if you are interested in particular places, the best is to contact any place yourself. That you get accurate info. Don't worry, nobody has ever starve in Barcelona, regardless what day of the week it is.
          Anyt thoughts on lunch? I am book for today; that is very vague, Be more specific, what area in Barcelona (you don't want to hop down to Barceloneta if you are in Parc Guell just for lunch)? how much time you have? budget? standup? ambience?

          1. re: Syphrite

            I contacted El Celler de Can Roca back in early July for a reservation in early September and could only get on the waiting list and since I haven't heard back, looks like I'm outta luck. So, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to get reservation now for next month.

            1. re: syoung

              It is inevitable; before they move to their present location and the third star, then the San Pellegrino List, one could get a reservation on the same week. I've been there in the old location for lunches and there were usually couple of tables not taken. Even early last year in April, I got a lunch reservation calling couple weeks ahead. Now even Moo will be packed. Also maybe because El Bulli has closed.

          2. re: PBSF

            What is best way to get to the last three you mentioned if you don't have a car? Or should I look forget about it? (Sant Pau, El Celler and Can Fabes)

            1. re: burgeoningfoodie

              There are about 2-3 trains per hour to both Sant Pau (then a 5 minute walk) and Girona (El Celler de Can Roca, then a 10 minute cab ride). IIRC both depart from Barcelona Sants and take about an hour. I drove to Can Fabes - but I'm guessing there's a train there too.
              The issue is RETURNING to Barcelona - as trains finish late afternoon-early evening. Hence lunch is the only real option.
              Cost of train is insignificant in scheme of things!

              1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                All three are easily reached by the Renfe train from central Barcelona (Pg de Gracia and c/Arago or Sant). Can Fabes is in Sant Celoni, a non-descript town 20 minutes from Barcelona and 10 minute walk from the train station; El Celler is in Girona, a beautiful town worth a morning visit on its own and about 25 minute walk from the station. Walkable but might want to taxi since El Celler is technically in a suburb of Girona. They are both on the same train line. Sant Pau in Sant Pol de Mar, is on the coastal train is about 45 minutes from Barcelona and the restaurant is about 5 minutes from the station. Since the return train does not run late enough for dinner for all three restaurants, lunch is your only option. As earlier posts have pointed out, the menu for all three are the same for both meals. If you are considering El Celler or Sant Pau, I would reserve now and hope. Can Fabes is much easier. Below is an earlier link on how to get to El Cellar, also applies to Can Fabes.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/529264

                1. re: PBSF

                  Thank you both. Yes I was worried about the return. Here is to hoping. Maybe if I tell them it is our honeymoon they'll make room :-p

                  1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                    And if you're not familiar with the train stations in Barcelona, allow time to find your way about to the correct platform - plus time to buy your ticket.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      Noted. It seems that coaches/bus travel from Girogna at the very least right?

                      1. re: burgeoningfoodie

                        I didn't check bus travel - was staying at Sants station anyway!

              2. re: PBSF

                Thanks for the recos. I had some really good meals while in BCN . Great tapas at Tapac 24 (the omelet with potatoes & chorizo is incredible). An amazing meal at Tickets (will post about later, including how Albert Adria spilled water all over me and then later on in the evening we had an awkward hug - good times) and drinks at 41 Degrees. A good meal, but really not floored at Alkimia. And some miscellaneous stops that were more about being hungry and wanting something immediately than for another reason, ie. Taller de Tapas.

                Overall really lovely and enjoyed my time.

                Currently in Valencia though and am struggling on where to go. Only here for one more night, but cannot seem to find THE place to have paella despite crawling these boards and the net. Seems like no one can agree on any one place. Thoughts?

                I ate at restaurante Neptune tonight, was so hungry and didn't want to travel far. It was ok, but certainly not the best.

                1. re: Syphrite

                  We visited Valencia earlier this year and I also gave a thorough review of the board to try to find THE place. Went so far as to tweet Jose Andres and ask a friend to contact a friend in Alicante. The friend in Alicante said "oh, just go anywhere, all the paella is good in Valencia". Jose Andres tweeted back with the answer of Restaurante Levante. We ended up with 3 paellas in 3 days. All were delicious, but none stood out head and shoulders above the rest. We stayed in the city and did not venture out to la Albufera or Benisano (original Levante location) as we had originally intended.

                  Casa Roberto – A quaint old-school place we found full of local groups (mostly men, one couple). We ordered paella de mariscos as our first authentic paella. It was delicious. Beautiful head-on shrimp. Lots of seafood and shellfish.

                  Restaurante Levante (Valencia) - The new outpost of the original Levante location in Benisano. We requested the traditional paella Valenciana and it did not disappoint. The chicken & rabbit were incredibly flavorful and the whole dish was delicious. Ok, maybe it did disappoint just a little. When the waitress brought the pan to our table she made mention to be sure to get the “socarradito”, but sadly there was none. It was still an excellent dish, as were their croquettas. I particularly enjoyed the tuna croquettas. I don't know if they cook over wood as the original location does, but given how good the chicken & rabbit were, I wouldn't be surprised.

                  La Pepica – Anchors one end of “Paella Mile” (Paseo Neptuno) on the beach. I did not go into this with high hopes, but was very pleasantly surprised that the paella a Banda was really excellent. And, we finally got some socarrat in a pan. They also have an open kitchen so we were able to really appreciate the high heat that is needed to cook paella properly.

                  Good luck with your paella search tomorrow!

                  1. re: MesaChow

                    Thank you! We walked down paella row and we were spying on everyone's dish, I could not see any soccarradito on any pan whatsoever and this was what I thought was the holy grail of paella. =\

                    I'd like to get out of town so I may head over to Levante in Benisano tonight. We'll see. :)

                    Can you recommend any other restaurants in VLC? Am heading to Casa Montana for lunch today, but I'm open.

                    1. re: Syphrite

                      Given the time difference, I'm probably too late, but check out poster Erica's comments on Valencia. She explored more non-paella places than we did this spring.

                      I hope you report back if you end up in Benisano! Buen Viaje!