Barcelona Sampler - Modern Catalan, Tapas, Local Family, Fantastical
My new wife and I are finalizing our itinerary for 6 nights in Barcelona from August 31 to September 6. It will be our first time in Barcelona, and we'd like to sample a range of what the city offers. We'd like to taste the best of Modern Catalan, one or two of the chef-driven bistronomia spots, a night or two of tapas, a couple of easygoing spots that are popular with local families (probably for lunches), and one fantastical molecular place. We're coming from Chicago, where we've eaten at both of Grant Achatz' restaurants, and enjoyed the theatrics of Homaru Cantu's Moto, but where we prefer the market-driven, small plates, innovative but not molecular restaurants that are everywhere now in Chicago. We'll do one or two meals at 500 euros for two (with wine pairings), but would like to keep the rest between 150-200 euros for the two of us. Price isn't the key factor though. We'll be staying at the Hotel Neri, but we'll travel anywhere (by taxi, foot, or public transit).
Here's what we have so far, please offer comments, edits, and additions.
First Night: Tapas crawl to ease our way into the tastes and rhythms of Barcelona
Second Night: Hisop, because its philosophy and the write-ups on this board sound like our favorite kinds of restaurants
Third Night: Open
Fourth Night: Sauc, for Modern Catalan in an environment that Hounds have described as warmer and more accessible than some of the other options
Fifth Night: Open
Sixth Night: 41 Degrees
We are drawn to Hisop and Sauc because we tend to like places where the food is sophisticated, but the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. Along these lines, we are also thinking about Coure and/or Gresca. Should we add one of them, or replace Hisop or Sauc with one of them?
We decided on 41 Degrees because we thought we'd try one place that's over the top in an almost circus-like way.
We are wondering if we should add Cinc Sentis.
We don't care about Michelin stars.
And we would love your recommendations for one or two neighborhoods/areas in which to do our tapas evenings.
And for places for low key lunches, especially in neighborhoods that will be enjoyable for a stroll before and after lunch, because of the scenery or the opportunity to witness the life of the city.
Many thanks in advance!
Since Hisop, Sauc and Ticket filled three of your five dinners, I would hesitate to add Gresca, Cinc Sentits, Alkimia or Coure because they are pretty much similar in their approach to food. There are slight differences between them but not enough for variety sake. Some suggestions:
Traditional Catalan restaurant:
Inexpensive: Bodega Manolo, Canet, Casa Delfin
Everyday: Can Mano, La Cova Fumada, Sant Joan, Sureny
More upscale: Cafe de l'Academia and the expensive Vinya Roel
La Paradeta for no frill seafood; like the El Born location rather than the Eixample
Envalira in Gracia for Galicia and Northern Spanish food
Taktika Berri, the back room for Basque; the bar has some of the best pintxos in Barcelona
The previous post by Luna2308 has some excellent suggestions; place in the Boqueria is breakfast and lunch only. For as for the first jet lag night, unless you have a bundle of energy I would save the tapas.pintxo crawl for another evening and just concentrate on one place. I agree with Luna2308 that PacoMeralgo is a very good sit down tapas places (not really good as part of a tapas crawl). Lots of good seafood, egg dishes, bomba, one the best pa am tomaquet and nice simple desserts. It is convenient if you are staying in the Eixample.
Areas for tapas/pintxos: El Born (my first choice) for the most fun; Barri Gotic for atmosphere with the area around Placa di Pi/Josef/Catedral and down c/Merce with the old time Galicia bars. Eixample is rather vast; might concentrate on the area around the first couple blocks of Rambla de Cataluny/Carrer Deputacia/Arago (skip the places on the first couple blocks of Pg de Gracia); if you want to venture a little further out, definitely Sarria-Sant Gervais or Gracia. I would search as many tapas/pintxos places have been mentioned on earlier posts.
As for lunch, I would try to stick to where you will be sightseeing at rather than trying to criss cross the city for a particular place. The above mentioned Quimet y Quimet is very good withvery simple tapas; no hot food as it does not have a kitchen; consists of good cheeses, cured meat and high quality canned seafood and other products; I like it very much but probably not worth making a special trip to Poble Sec for it.
If you are looking for a Sunday lunch, the place to be is Barceloneta for seafood and rice dishes; lots of options; Kaiku, Can Ros are couple of good choices
Except for Vinya Roel, none of the above are expensive at all.
Luna & PBSF-
Thank you for your generous and thoughtful replies. PBSF, I'm so glad you commented, since much of my thinking has been influenced by your posts on this board. You write with such rich detail about the culinary opportunities of Barcelona, it's inspiring!
A couple quick follow-ups. Are Hisop and Sauc too redundant of each other? From everything we've read, we have our hearts set on Hisop. Should we let Sauc go and replace it with another kind of experience?
For our first night, the recommendation for sit-down tapas makes good sense. What do you think, between Paca Meralgo, which I understand to be more traditional, or Commerc24, because it's forward thinking and also supposedly a fun and high-energy spot. We want to have both a tasty and fun first introduction to Barcelona. (Also we could walk to Commerc24 from our hotel, then walk around Born before or after.)
Also, can either of you shed light on prices at Commerc24 (how much is their tasting menu? how much should we allow per person if we don't do the tasting menu but want a full meal, with wine?)
Many thanks again for your wonderful suggestions.
Although Hisop and Sauc are both thought as 'modern Catalan", they are quite different. The food at Sauc is more substantial, earthier, a real depth of flavor and a bit more traditional. That is what makes Sauc unique and the reason I like it very much. Now that they moved to plush Ohla Hotel, the service is more polish and also more expensive than Hisop. Unless one is very hungry or has a big appetite, best to order the shorter tasting menu. The food at Hisop is lighter and a little more molecular. If you have the time and budget, I would do both. Can't think of two better places for modern Catalan food.
I like both PacoMeralgo and Comerc24 but in terms of a tapas place, they are polar opposites. PacoMeralgo is straight forward traditional tapas and relatively inexpensive for the quality of the food. I don't think I've ever spent more than 45 euros for two with a couple glasses of wine (granted I am not a big eater). It is informal and bustling. One doesn't have to dress up; just go and have a great time. Comerc24 is fun and lively for a highend restaurant. It is dressy but not in a coat and tie sense. The food requires more attention and focus to appreciate. I would want to order the Festival de Tapas tasting menu which for me probably too much to deal with when jet lagged. If you are staying nearby and does not want to venture out of Born, you can sit at the counter and order just a few items to share if your energy level is low (still reserve but same day is usually ok; just drop by, they speak English). Like most sit down restaurant in Barcelona, evening does not begin until 9 and later. Otherwise, Born probably has the most concentration of tapas/pintxos places in Barcelona. The whole area around c/Argenteria/Santa Maria del Mar/Placa Montcada/c. Banys Vells is one big party in warm evenings. No problem finding something lively and good to eat. Personally, if I am tire and jet lagged, I would just stay in Born rather than make a trip up to the Eixample. Save PacoMeralgo for another day.
The last time I ate at Comerc24 was March of last year. The Festival de Tapas menu was around 70e. Individual tapas about 8 to 15. For a dinner with a decent appetite, probably need about 5 per person. The dessert course (no a la carte choices) was 12. A simple decent wine around 20e, glasses around 6 each.
Thanks for all these suggestions. I'm keeping both Hisop and Sauc, making reservations at both Paco Meralgo and Comerc24, and looking forward to a couple nights of crawling through the party in the Born. I'll report after our trip in September. Thanks again for your helpful replies.
First of all, you've come to the right place, there is so many amazing regulars here on the boards that have a wealth of information and great tips for Barcelona! I've certainly gotten many of my ideas where to eat from these boards the last few times I went to Barcelona.
Check out older posts, most of the topics/restaurants have been discussed many times.
Personally, I loved Hisop, went there a few months before they got their first Michelin star (and like you, I don't care that much about it most of the time). I had had dinner a few nights before at Cinc Sentits and although I did enjoy it, I liked Hisop even more.
We also had the lunch menu at Alkimia one day (it was about 36 Euros p.p. at the time) and did like it a lot, too. Also, sightseeing-wise, it's not far from Sagrada Familia, Hospital Sant Pau and we took a taxi to Parc Güell after.
As for casual tapas dinner I second the opinion of many posters here that Paco Meralgo is great. Fun, lively, yummy food and easy to reach by taxi in the evening. You definitely should reserve though as it's always full. Paco is also one of the few sit-down restaurants as far as I know that is open 7 days a week, so it's great for the nights that a lot of restaurants are closed (Sunday, Monday).
Two of my favorite lunch spots are La Boqueria, simply a can't-miss on anybody's list I would say. Just wander around the market and then try to score a bar stool at one of the great food places like Pinotxo or Kiosco...
Another one of my favorites is Quimet i Quimet, great mix of locals and tourists alike, stand-up only, small and crammed and oh-so much fun. Have a few montaditos and maybe a small (or big!) seafood and/or fish combo.
If you want to do some sightseeing as well, it's walking distance to the cogwheel train up to Montjuic where you can take great walks and visit the Fundacio Miro, fortress, botanical gardens etc. From there take the cable car across the harbour down to Barceloneta, beautiful views included!
As for tapas/pintxos crawls, you are staying in the heart of the old town and will be surrounded by amazing places everywhere.
Less than 10 minutes walk from your hotel is the Borne area with lots of amazing bars and pintxos places like El Xampanyet, Euskal Etxea, Sagardi and many others.
Definitely worth spending an evening there and exploring and tasting the neigborhood.
I'm sure you'll get even more tips from some of the real Barcelona experts on this board, but I hope I could help a little.
No matter where you'll end up eating I am sure you will have an amazing time!!!