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Apr 10, 2012 08:14 AM

Barcelona April 17th through 22nd

We will be in Barcelona for 5 nights (April 17-22) and are hoping for some suggestions.
Tapas, Catalan style restaurants and sushi is what we'd like most. We will also have our 2 intrepid young diners with us - 4 yr old and 18month old, who are very good in restaurants.

When last in Barca we dined in Cinc Sentis and it was fantastic, also had tapas at Bar Pinxo in the market.

Below are a few places I was thinking of...I'd love to hear if we should cross any off our list, and if we should add something to our list. We would prefer not to spend too much, as I don't think we have to do so to eat well in Barcelona. (50 - 60 Euro for two). Wouldn't mind a recommendation for one meal that is more expensive, but only if it's really good.

sushi - Nakashita in El Born
Sant Joan -
Tapac 24
bar pinxto or El Quim
Tickets - any suggestions on how to get in?
Fonda gaig -
Los Caracoles - in Barrio Gothic - should we go or not?

Many thanks!

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  1. In my opinion Los Caracoles is not worth a visit. It's one of those big, once great, restaurants/semi-tourist-traps that every big city has. "Resting on it's laurels" would be the cliché description, I guess.
    Pinotxo does snails just as well (caracoles are snails), as do most good restaurants that serve snails, otherwise the thing to get there is rotisserie chicken, nothing special really. Nice, old atmosphere, if in an over the hill touristy way.

    1 Reply
    1. re: caganer

      thanks! sounds like Los Caracoles is what I want to avoid

    2. Sant Joan is lunch only and no weekends. You should be able to eat at most pintxos/tapas places for 50 to 60 euros for two. Exceptions are those that serves molecular style/fusion such as Tickets, Comerc24, Santa Maria. For seafood, go to La Paradeta or the little more upscale Mar de la Ribera in El Born. For everyday cooking besides Sant Joan, try La Cova Fumada or Can Mao or Can Mano if one truly want to eat with locals in Barceloneta. El Convent and Ca Estevet in El Ravel. All are much better and cheaper than Los Caracoles which I have not been. It truly has a reputation for catering to visitors and tour groups because of it's historical ambience in the Barri Gotic; definitely not for the food as the earlier poster wrote. Fonda Gaig is a good restaurant serving updated traditional Catalan cooking but it is not inexpensive, about 50e for 3 courses. "Only if it's really good" depends on the individual. It is not 'expensive' by Barcelona standard and I don't think it will 'blow anyone away'.

      12 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        Thanks for the feedback and suggestions.
        Is lunch at Cafe de L'Academie to be avoided(touristy) or a good place to go? I will try Can Mano - for us, part of the joy of traveling is eating with the locals. We may pass on Fonda Gaig. In Barcelona one can eat so well without spending lots of money (as in our home in SF, CA).
        Again, thanks for the suggestions!

        1. re: weezy1074

          Can Maño is great but be prepared to wait for a table on the sidewalk outside and don't expect there to be space to stow strollers or highchairs - it's a tight, crowded space. La Cova Fumada is the same story. I eat at both a few times when I'm in town, though. I think they're worth the wait.
          If all that is too much for/with kids you might try Cal Papi, just off the square in Barceloneta as are Cova Fumada and Can Maño. All serve very fresh, simple, mostly local seafood and not much else besides otatoes, beans and a few salads. The food at Cal Papi is just about as good, the menu is a more extensive, and it's much more spacious.

          1. re: caganer

            A very late reply, but Cal Papi was a perfect choice! The food was so fresh. We had some sort of cod buneloes or something. mmmmm! Almost like tempura cod, but so fresh and delicious! Thank you for the recommendation!

            1. re: weezy1074

              Great, glad you liked it. Those buñuelos are great. I'll never look at fried fish the same - fish & chips is ruined for me since I found those.

          2. re: weezy1074

            Cafe de L'Academia is situated right in the middle of the Barri Gotic as well as near the Parliamentary building; its gets fair amount of visitors but by no means ' touristy'. Pleasant ambience and good food. It is true that one can eat well in Barcelona without spending lots of money. But like San Francisco, great ingredients do not come cheap and same for labor. Can't expect great food at a bargain in most cosmopolitan cities without some compromises. Can Mano is one of those simple, inexpensive places that one can get good everyday food; not everything will be great and some can be a bit heavy and douse with olive oil; more like sausage with bean, fried sardines, braise squids, simple pork cutlet; a full meal for two with their house wine can be had for about 20euro, so don't expect high quality seafood, etc but everything will be fresh and cooked to order. I prefer these places to the more expensive kiosks in the Boqueria.
            Smart to skip Los Caracoles. Stop by on your stroll in the Barri Gotic to check out the place. It has history. Have a great time.

            1. re: PBSF

              "[G]reat ingredients do not come cheap and same for labor. Can't expect great food at a bargain in most cosmopolitan cities without some compromises."

              I disagree.

              First, great ingredients do come cheap. Quality is not the only determinant of price. Freshness should be the first criteria for determining the quality of any seafood. Perfectly fresh, merluza, squid, monkfish, sardines, mackerel and many other fish species are brought into the Barcelona docks 6 days a week. All are pretty cheap, just take a look in any market if you don't believe that. Really only crustaceans and some molluscs are expensive in Barcelona. Gambas and langostinos and the like are really expensive in Barceloneta too - you do pay for what you get. (Never order any cheap crustacean in Barcelona, it's probably frozen.)

              As for labor, each of the three Barceloneta restaurants mentioned are family owned and operated businesses. Notice the three generations of ladies in the kitchen at Cova Fumada? Labor economics don't apply to gramdmas in the kitchen and granddaughters waiting tables. Besides, restaurants whose equipment consists of a plancha and a fryer don't need highly skilled chefs. The point is to cook the food as simply as possible.

              The main compromise made in these restaurants that enables the low prices is in atmosophere and service- that they aren't paying what the Michelin starred places do for rent, a professional front-of-house staff, fresh flowers, nice stemware, china, etc..

              As for things being doused in olive oil, that's because it's traditional in Catalunya to dress simple seafood with olive oil, parsley and garlic. That's what one should expect of anything cooked "a la plancha," really.

              1. re: caganer

                Maybe we have a different definition what is cheap. Yes, crustaceans are expensive; so are many fish: tuna, swordfish, wild seabass. And I don't agree with you that monkfish is cheap; not the last time I shop in Barcelona. There are still some inexpensive seafood out there: sardine, mackerel, squid, anchovy, many farmed fish. But try buying tuna, swordfish, wild turbot. Good olive oil, vinegar, dried beans are not inexpensive. I don't expect more because ordinary olive oil, decent vinegar are what most everyday cooking is all about. But there is a big different if one is using the finest olive oil rather than simple everyday oil.
                And for labor: being family owned certain help cut down the cost, so is the lease or ownership of a property. But if one truly top notch food, one has to spend more on labor. At Can Mano, there are two women cooking for the whole dining room, serving probably 150 covers for the evening. They are excellent but they are pumping out dishes after dishes. I happen to love olive oil and don't mind swimming in a dish and it not a criticism of the cooking. Just a comment for those who might prefer a little less.

                1. re: PBSF

                  And a different definition of top notch. I think anything of high quality, cooked well can be top notch. I don't need sauces and garnishes or someone to fold my napkin for me to consider a meal top notch. I can get that at home. I go to Barcelona because nowhere in the US has seafood that can match the quality. When the raw ingredients are that good, I don't see the need for chef-y embellishment.
                  Feran Adria could not do a better job frying a salmonette than the ladies at Can Maño.

                  1. re: caganer

                    I am not knocking these places. I like them.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      But when you suggest that one should not expect "high quality seafood" when visiting the places mentioned it does indeed seem as if you are knocking them. Serving simple, high-quality seafood is their raison d'être and why they are well known.

                      But I'd not interested in defending them, I'm interested in debunking this notion that in Barcelona one must eat in expensive restaurants to enjoy high quality seafood or that there is some correlation between the market price of a good and it's inherent quality. Scarcity and demand don't make things better, just more expensive.

                      1. re: caganer

                        Thanks very much for the discourse. I am from SF, but am currently living in Dublin, and am very frustrated at the prices charged in restaurants for food/service/quality that just doesn't measure up. Understood, that this is in part, because we were spoilt for choice of restaurants in SF.

                        Don't get me wrong, I would love to visit a Feran Adria restaurant, but I don't think one needs to spend lots of money to eat well. Part of the challenge of visiting a city like Barcelona is finding good quality restaurants that aren't terribly expensive. Having been to Barcelona a few years ago, I think (hope) this is still the case. I agree fresh/organic/and sustainably farmed ingredients generally will run more than not. I want to eat well and see if I can do so without eating each meal in expensive restaurants. I'll weigh in upon our return. I look forward to trying some of the suggestions and hope to find a gem along the way. Thanks.

              2. re: PBSF

                PBSF, thank you so much for your suggestion of Cafe de L'Academia. It was rustic inside, as if it had been serving diners for centuries. I had the lasagna - it was made with sausage and morcilla. How extraordinary it was! It was a deconstructed lasange made with 3 types of sausage, including morcilla. My husband had something else (for his starter) that was equally excellent and inventive! We will definitely put this on our list for return visits! Thank you so very much!