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Aug 16, 2014 08:21 AM

To reserve ahead or not? Barcelona

Hi all -

Been stalking your conversations on travels to Barcelona for a bit now, and finally chiming in with a question/discussion topic: Reservations. Do we need em?

Obviously the answer is "yes" if you're going the Tickets, etc route, but that doesn't seem to be our case. We'll have five evenings in Barcelona total, capping off the end of 2.5 weeks in Southern France and Spain (we'll be in San Seb prior). Already booked The Aborigen tour for one night, and hoping to attend a FC Barcelona game another. That leaves us with three free nights for eating in the city.

I think we'll save one of those nights for just hopping around to various tapas bars (no reservations required). We tend to get burnt out on molecular gastronomy & the like, and appreciate hole in the wall comfort food after a few weeks of travel. I've marked places like Bodega Le Plama, Llamber, Suculent and a couple recos from Aborigens down. I'm also curious about Pakta, the Peruvian/Japanese place from the Tickets folks, and realize that would require reservations.

Back to everyone else: Do you find resos to be necessary in Barcelona? How far in advance? Where are they needed and when can we skip? I'd like to think we'll want to dine with the locals at 10pm -- how does that affect our needs?

Curious to hear what you all say. Thanks. S

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  1. Like everything in the is world, there is no one answer to your questionL to reserve or not. Barcelona is has a variety of 'hole in the wall comfort food' place’, but none you mentioned would I consider to be in that category, maybe if you mean Bodega La Palma. It depends on many factors: day of the week, cruise ship dockings, big soccer match, the brightness of the moon, etc. It also depends on the individual's mindset, i.e. importance of not getting in at a particular place, having to wait, seating at the counter, able just wing it.
    In general: if you plan to spend most of the evening at Suculent or Llamber or some other, why not make a reservation or the risk of being turned away and having to look for an alternative. On a busy night, one might have to wait some even if one reserve; that is just the nature of the type of eating places; difficult to predict how long people stay. I don’t believe Bodega La Palma take reservations. How far in advance? couple of days should be enough for most, especially if one is flexible on the time.
    As for local eating hours, informal tapas/pintxos places start early in the evening (around 8pm as many locals get off work) and it gets more packed as the evening goes. One doesn't have to go at 10:00pm to experience the scene unless it is a more formal sit down restaurant.
    Never been to Pakta.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      This is great, thanks. I was asking for my own benefit, of course, but also interested in hearing others' perspectives based on their own desires.

      We are somewhat go with the flow folks, so I may call the week prior and book a table or two. I appreciate that approach so much more than booking a dinner months in advance. I am really attracted to Llamber as our reservation night... Bodega La Palma looks great, but like you said, not reso-necessary.

      Any words from anyone on Llamber?

      1. re: SarahN

        If you are 'somewhat go with the flow folks', you'll have a great time eating in Barcelona. Just stay from places in certain tourist areas: around at the Pg de Gracia in the Eixample, the Ramblas and around c/Ferran in the Gotic, on Pg Joan de Borbo in Barceloneta. You'll know they are no good by just glancing at them.
        Except for foreign visitors who are willing to jump loops to get a reservation at Tickets, there are no restaurants in Barcelona that requires booking months in advance. We've never had problem reserving for the same week if we are somewhat flexible. And that is only for higher end modern places such as Moments, Alkimia, Cinc Sentits and a few others that get frequent mentioning in the blogs. Locals almost never reserve for places such as Llamber or Suculents unless it is a larger group. To them, reserving just to eat tapas is totally foreign and mostly American. Barcelona is loaded with eating places, especially in the tourist areas of Eixample, Gotic, El Born/Ribera, Barceloneta and now the newly gentrified El Raval.

    2. Hi, if you head out to Gràcia or Poble Sec you'll find very many restaurants of all sizes, shapes, tastes and prices — traditional catalan/Spanish, ethnic places, grills, fine dining, some really very good bodegas serving very tasty bites and quality wines at very keen prices all within strolling distance of each other. If you are a couple you really shouldn't have any problem getting seated at first try. However, if four, five or more, you may have to wait for a table.
      A good strategy is to have a browse around, occasionally stopping off for a bite and a drink, and getting a feel for the barrio, say between 8.30 and 9.30, while deciding which to try. Once you've decided go back to the restaurant — they may likely tell you to sit at the bar or at a sidewalk/pavement table, if they have one, or ask you to return in half an hour or so. Give them your name and cell/mobile number and they'll call you, or message you, when your table is ready. Works for us.
      Enjoy your stay in Barcelona.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BCNLocal

        I love this. Makes me so excited to be in Barcelona. Some of our best meals (and memories) happened at the bar of a wonderful restaurant we chose somewhat on chance. Restaurant cities allow for life to happen are a beautiful thing!

        Side note - We will be at the end of our honeymoon while in Barcelona, so two of us. I felt somehow compelled to "step up our game" given the occasion, but your suggestions are making me renege on that thought.