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Aug 5, 2014 11:10 AM

Barcelona Report

Chowhounds has been my go-to resource for food related travel research, and I've had many great meals based on recommendations in these pages. Finally, I have an opportunity to give something back to this community! I recently spent two weeks in Barcelona; here's a brief report on my discoveries.

I'll warn you in advance that places like Tickets are not up my alley; I was really looking for more casual experiences and to mingle with locals with a few notable exceptions as you'll see below. My idea of a great food day is a stellar menu del dia , eaten in good company, and a hearty slab of tortilla and a glass of rioja before bed.

San Antoni/Poble Sec
These neighborhoods were revelations for me. The vibe around C/Parlament & Viladomat was exceedingly pleasant. Hard to go wrong with a drink and a snack at Vinito or the Nostalgic. If you want a taste of where the neighborhood is coming from you'll pop into the Gol for a caña. Bohemic and Cafe Cometa were my favorite upscale places.

Cross Parallel and wander through the throngs of people and bars on C/Blai. The whole scene is pretty garish but it's good for "el ultimo." I visited Quimet Y Quimet twice during my stay in Barcelona and I have to say that it is utterly worth fighting the crowd for place at the bar. I also found myself repeatedly at the cafe Retiro. It's been around for ages and sits at the crossroads between Poble Sec and the Raval.

I had decent but inauthentic vegetarian meals at Sesamo, and Teresa Carles and I'm not sure I'd go back to either place. Cera 23 was lauded in reviews but mediocre in person.

We had a great lunch at OFIS [right next to SIFO bar], and very pleasant meals at Candela Raval, cafe Mendiazabal and Biblioteca. Visit Bar Bodega Agustin for a caña in the company of locals.

Barri Gothic
The BG still has a few places worth visiting although the whole scene is getting very very tired. The tiny wine bar Zim is totally worth seeking out, as is La Plata which is still chugging away. Galician bar La Celta has reopened across the street from its former location and now has a second bar in the Born on C/Princessa. Cafe Babel is tucked away in one of the coziest corners of the neighborhood, and I still have a soft spot for Pisamorena near the post office.

Bodega La Palma epitomizes the experience I was after in Barcelona and it didn't let me down on this trip. Just around the corner, PLA is still a good more upscale option. We also had a great lunch at Casa Bella near Drassanes, and an expensive but worth it lunch at El Quim in the Boqueria.

I know it's slightly pathetic, but I think Irati is my favorite of the touristic basque bars in the BG or Born, although I'm certain that all these places [including Sagradi and the Taller de Tapas] have their food made in one central kitchen.

Born/St Pere
Xampanyet can be an intimidating bar to throw yourself into but it is so worth it. La Vinya del Senyor is often mentioned here and it remains one of the more touristic destinations that I'd recommend in a heartbeat. If you want something more authentic, grab a snack and a glass of wine at Lanima del Vi.

A little further out, we had great lunches at 1932, El Atril, Candela and the Rincon de Galicia.

Such a pleasant neighborhood! We had a fun evening at basque bar Gasterea where the staff is hilarious. Also great experiences at Gata Mala and Rabipelao. Long standing vegetarian place L'illa de Gracia has closed and has been replaced by Cafe Godot, a more generic lunch spot with a good lunch menu del dia.

We had a great seafood lunch at La Bombeta. Surely but friendly waiters and a mixed crowd with plenty of locals.

Barcelona: I already miss it. Hope somebody finds this helpful.

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  1. Thank you so much for the great post. Many wonderful inexpensive places hardly ever mentioned on this board. And different neighborhoods to explore.

    1. Brilliant report — concise, enthusiastic and a good many places not often namechecked here. many thanks for taking the time and effort to share.

      1. Thanks for this post. But I'm wondering why you were looking for Basque food in BCN.

        1 Reply
        1. re: c oliver

          I wasn't per se. But some of the Basque bars in BCN have a nostalgic pull for me, even if the experience is somewhat inauthentic.


        2. Thanks for the report. Heading to Barcelona in 7 days and still putting the final touches on my restaurant hit list. Are Restaurant PLA and Bar de PLA owned by the same people? Any insight on one vs. the other?

          12 Replies
          1. re: NYCFoodNWine

            PLA and Bar del PLA are owned by the same people. PLA in the Gotic is a sit down restaurant serving traditional Catalan food. Bar del PLA is a tapas place in El Born.

            1. re: PBSF

              Thanks PBSF. Can you offer reviews for either?

              1. re: eags25

                I like both. Since we usually stay with friends in Sarria, we don't go don't to the Gotic much, therefore, haven't been to PLA in a couple of years. The decor is best describe as warm modern with an excellent friendly staff. Lots of locals in the evening for the Gotic. The menu is typical format: beginning, seafood, meat, dessert. The food is mostly traditional but there are lots of modern accents: tartare, sesame, curry, sous-vide. I think the menu changes every few months; last time in Autumn, we had a salad of bacala, tuna cooked rare al la plancha, pork cheek and wild mushrooms. duck with pear confit. I believe they also offer a set menu for about 40 euros.
                We eat at the BAR whenever we do the El Born crawl. Very informal tapas place with a bar and some high table sitting. Traditional tapas with a few large plates. Mostly share tapas at their bar: jamon, sardines, bomb, bacala fritters, escalivada, gambas plancha. Except a few tapas by the piece, most are actually half portion, big enough to share. Never had any of their large plates. It is not inexpensive but the quality of the ingredients is good. El Born is full of tapas and pinto bars; it is probably our favorite. We usually start at La Vinya del Senyor, Euskel Etxea, El Xampanyet, Tapeo, Bar del PLA and Mundial Bar. Not all the food is great but they are our favorites for a night out.

                1. re: PBSF

                  Perfect. Thanks so much. Do we need reservations at any, some or all of those places you listed or just walk around and eat/drink as available?

                  1. re: NYCFoodNWine

                    Since PLA, the restaurantt is more or less a full evening dinner place, I would reserve. I believe Bar del PLA also take reservations. We never do because we are generally more or less on a tapas/pintxos crawl, therefore, we just drop by and always able to squeeze in at the bar. If you plan to sit down and have leisurely time, reserve, maybe early around 8pm. Even sitting at the tables, you are not obligated to order any set amount. That will leave you with plenty of time to hit other places. At prime time, even with reservation, one will probably have to wait some. The others mentioned do not take reservations. Most tapas places, and just about all pintxos places do not take them. Most are too simple and informal. Exception are the barn like pintxos places on Pg de Gracia, around the Ramblas and c/Ferran both probably best to avoid.
                    El Born/Ribera is full of informal drop in places to eat, never have to wander far. It has a lively fun atmosphere, much more so than the Gotic which as the above poster mentioned, getting 'tire' and in my opinion, worst, especially at night.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      Going to barcelona next May with 6 family members. We have stayed in apartments in El Born on previous visits. Is there a newer neighborhood with great restaurants that we should check out? 4 of the six people are under 30. We love all the tapas places in El Born and have a very sentimental attachment to Cal Pep. We like areas like Shoreditch in London and haut Marais in Paris.

                      1. re: macdog

                        I am not familiar with Shoreditch in London but we had an apartment in the the 3e in Paris until about 5 years ago where we spent a couple of months a year. Even before the recent influx of patisseries/boulangeries, (Jacques Genin, RDT134, Poilane), third wave coffee kiosks and restaurant and wine bars, we love the neighborhood for the food, liveliness, it's tiny narrow streets as well as the convenience of being in central Paris. There isn't a comparable neighborhood in Barcelona that have those attributes. Most of old Barcelona front the harbor and beyond that, the city is mainly laid out on a grid. These neighborhood lacked the charm of the tiny streets of Barcelona Ciutat Vella or central Paris.
                        If I were to look for an alternative to El Born, I would choose Gracia around c/Gran de Gracia between the Diagonal and metro stop Fontana and west of that. It has lots of food shops, the nearby Mercat de La Llibertat and Mercat de l'Abaceria Central, and loaded with informal tapas bars, everyday eating places and very good traditional restaurants. It is lively day and night, has very few tourist yet quite near to many tourists sights as well as easy metro to the old quarters. What it lack are the charm of El Born/Ribera, its old medieval architecture, atmospheric shops and tight lively partying atmosphere.
                        When we visit Barcelona, we usually stay with friends in Sarria. It is a charming somewhat quiet neighborhood that wakes up in the evenings. There is good neighborhood shopping and eating around c/major de Sarria. We love the local aspect of this neighborhood because we've seen just about all of Barcelona main sights multiple times.

                        1. re: PBSF

                          Thanks so much, PBSF for replying. I think we may stick to El Born area once again and venture out to Gracia neighborhood for eating a couple nights. I've made note of some of the restaurants you recommended. I love the tapas concept (especially after 5 nights in Paris) so Born area really works out the best for our eating needs. Have you spent much time in countryside around Barcelona? Wondering if there are some good spots for eating and maybe staying the night.

                          1. re: macdog

                            Will you have a car? If not, nearby must visit is Montserrat but not much for eating, so pack a lunch and avoid the weekend crowd even in May. Girona, a well preserved medieval city, is worth a trip even if one is not going to El Celler de Can Roca. Almost as good is Massana. Further up is Figueres, a beautiful town with decent restaurants. A few years ago, we ate and stayed at Mas Pau just outside the city. All the above are easy by public transport.
                            We haven't done much driving in the past few years. In past, we've visited the Pinedes wine area and the wonderful town of Vilafranca del Penedes. The cobblestoned center of the small town is lined with wine bars, informal eating places and cafes and Saturday market. A must is a visit to the Codorniu Winery, not necessarily for the cava but the Modernista architecture.
                            One of our favorite restaurant in Catalonia is Can Jubany, outside the town of Calldetenes. The drive and area around the town is quite beautiful. To bad that the restaurant does not have rooms. There are hotels in town.
                            If you are looking for more informal eating places outside in the countryside, I am not much of help. For us, one of the primary reason to get out of Barcelona is to eat at some of the destination restaurants in Catalonia. Most of these restaurants have a open air leisure feel that is very different from urban Barcelona.

                            1. re: PBSF

                              Thanks so much. Sounds like a lot of good options. Wasn't planning on getting a car, so maybe we could do something that is accessible by public transportation. I will research the places you mentioned. does El Cellar do lunch?

                              1. re: macdog

                                El Celler de Can Roca is opened for lunch. They are closed Sundays and Mondays. Since they were awarded their third Michelin star and named the 'Best Restaurant' this and that, it has been a very difficult to get a table. If you are interested, I would email them as soon and possible. There have been several earlier threads on this board on this topic. Regardless, Girona is worth a day trip if there is time away from Barcelona, easy to get to by frequent commuter trains (fast train takes about 40 minutes). The same train ends at Figueres.

                2. re: eags25

                  I'll second both recommendations. The restaurant PLA is such an inviting place to eat; great multi-level layout and warm interior. It's tucked away on a very small street so it's even exciting to find.