Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Spain/Portugal >
Sep 21, 2011 06:14 AM

Cuisine Types in Barcelona

Hello all. I´m looking for a quick "101" primer on the cuisine types in Barcelona for a trip this winter. I know the local is Catalan cuisine, but I´m also reading about restaurants that specialize in tapas, pintxos, Valencia (paella). Can someone briefly explain the major types of Spanish cuisine in Barcelona, along with some examples of popular dishes, and perhaps a mention of 2-3 popular restaurants that specialize in that cuisine, say, in Ciudad Vieja? And I can do searches with these restaurant names to get other ideas and information.

I also read about restaurants where you stand up to eat, like at a bar. Can you elaborate a little on that? Much thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Being a big sophisticated cosmopolitan city, Barcelona has every type of cuisine imaginable. The local cuisine is Catalan. To give a very very brief summary of the types of restaurants that serve Catalan cooking:
    The places are NOT necessarily recommendations but examples.
    Traditional Catalan: it is what the name implied, restaurants that serve traditional Catalan dishes such as escalavada, snails, salad of bacala, canelons, arroz, suquet, duck with figs, escudella of meat. Simple everyday places may also serve some form of traditional food. Example: Ca I'sidre, Ca Estevet, Fonda Gagi, Can Lluis, Senyor Parellada.
    Modern Catalan: these restaurants re-intreprete traditional Catalan cooking using modern cooking technique and different ways of presenting a dish. The term "modern" is use very loosely as some restaurants may just tweak a traditional dish by serving a traditional dish with a foam sauce or a dish that have been manipulated so much that is unrecognizable from the original. And there is freedom to use new ingredients. Example: Drolma, Gaig, Sauc, Cinc Sentits, Alkimia, Hisop, L'Olive.
    Tapas: tapas are small dishes served in either standup or small tables. Barcelona did not have have a tapas tradition and are only been popular in the past 20 years or so. These places take the concept of small dishes and adapt Catalan cooking to it. Now, tapas can be a simple piece of marinated anchovy on a roasted red pepper, a bunyol de bacala to an elaborate composed small portion of suquet. Tapas has evolved into almost anything in Barcelona. The food can be traditional or modern. Places can be a tiny closet or a big barn. Traditional tapas: Paco Meralgo, Quimet e Quimet, El Vaso, Cal Pep. Modern: Comerc24, Santa Maria, Tickets.
    Pintxos: places that adapted Catalan food to the Spanish Basque pintxos way of eating. In Barcelona, pintxos eating is pretty much striped down to a simple form: small pieces of food either serve on bread, skewers, shell, etc, nothing more elaborate. Good places tend to be standup or bar stool: Taktika Berri, Ondoa Berri, Euskal Extea, Sagardi, Irati. There are also barn like places that have pictures on place mats, etc. One will recognize it by the Spanish Basque spelling.
    Restaurants do not always follow this strict category and there is overlapping. Some restaurant will have a tapas/pintxos bar in the front and a sit down dining area in the back. Places in Barceloneta serves mainly rice dishes (the baked rice is traditional Catalan while paella is not) and simple platter of seafood.
    Then there are other regional Spanish places that have a strong history in Barcelona. Examples are the Galician places (many specializes in seafood) such as Botafumeiro, Rias de Galicia, Els Pescadors, Rincon de Galica. Then the old time bars as Bar Celta and the siderias and the asadors.
    The above is a simplification in the broadest sense. A forum such as this is not the best for broad subject as this. Advice for a quick 101 primer is read the food/restaurant section of a good guidebook such as Time Out Barcelona. Many food people sneeze at guides such asTime Out but I think it does a very admirable job in giving a brief but good picture of a city's dining scene. Better yet, take a look at Colman Andrews' Catalan Cuisine.
    There is also no 'Ciudad Vieja' in Barcelona. Part of the old city is the Barri Gotic and great eating places are very limited in this part. Search this board for all the great recommendations that knowledgeable posters have taking so much time to write. Barcelona central is not big and the metro is very good.

    5 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      "There is also no 'Ciudad Vieja' in Barcelona."

      That's not quite true.

      1. re: PBSF

        Thanks a lot, PBSF. Yea I was searching through the boards and got a little disoriented on the cuisines. That was extremely helpful. I hope others find the quick primer of use in the future.

        1. re: PBSF

          This is a good summary except you sell Barceloneta short. Yes, there are plenty of places in Barceloneta for rice and platters of seafood but they're always full of gaudy older tourists and businessmen. It's the small bars and restaurants that make the neighbourhood. These little places serve typical bar stuff - patatas bravas, pescadito frito, croquetas - but also traditional Catalan dishes like esquexada, botifarra with beans, various salads and bean dishes, and you can count on fresh for simple seafood cooked a la plancha or fried all over the neighborhood (and drinks - lots of good vermouth). Every place I've eaten has had something special going for it - everything at Cova Fumada and Can Maño, stewed pulpito at Cal Chusco, the perfect bunyol de bacalla at Cal Papi, anything fried at Jai Ca, canned and preserved seafood at Bar Electricitat and there's more.
          I'd argue that Barceloneta is possibly the best place in the "tourist" areas of the city for simple everyday food. (and for great Asturian bean dishes, try El Furacu in Eixample)

          1. re: caganer

            If my post sell Barceloneta short, that was not my intention. My post is just a very brief summary/generalization of and a sliver of what Barcelona has to offer. It was not meant as a primer on different neighborhoods or to shortchange any particular neighborhood. La Cova Fumada and Can Mano are two of my favorites places for inexpensive everyday food and I have mentioned them in many previous posts. If one go down to Barceloneta on a Sunday midday, there will be tons of local families eating platters of seafood and arroz. And I don't mean places right on the Joan de Borbo. I only mentioned Barcelonetta because so many places serve these two categories of food and they are so packed during Sunday middays, and not necessarily my recommendation. You are correct that the small bars and restaurants that make the neighborhood and if a visitor has extra time, they are worth a visit. I did mention some traditional simple traditional dishes in my post and thank you for adding yours to them.

            1. re: PBSF

              No offence taken, as I said, it was a good summary and I agree that Barceloneta isn't the best bet for a Sunday lunch/dinner at all. For a few drinks and snacks on a Thursday night or a simple meal to escape from meal after meal of haute cuisine, however, it's a great idea.