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De Tapas por Barcelona: Barcelona Tapas Tour

By frankartculinary on Flickr

If you are like most fans of Spanish food, you are serious about tapas. And while Barcelona is no means a tapas capital like Madrid or the south of Spain, in Barcelona, they know tapas and even have a local variation: “fer el vermut” or “to do a vermouth”, which in the old days (and even now) was the accompaniment for these small plates.

With Catalunya boasting some of the best seafood you can find in Spain, this city’s tapas joints offer some of the freshest and most flavorful bites from the sea you’ll taste anywhere. Lots of sites will suggest tourist attractions, walking tours and the like to get to know Barcelona better. Since you are a serious foodie, we might as well cut to the chase: the food. Where are the best tapas in the city? Here’s our Top 5 don’t don’t-miss tapas establishments in Barcelona, in no particular order:

1. Ciudad Condal: It’s an institution. Located off of Rambla de Catalunya (not to be confused with “La Rambla”) and highly frequented by tourists from every part of the world, it’s easy to mistake Ciudad Condal for a tourist trap. It is most certainly not, and for proof, go any time of the year and anytime of day, and you’ll find the place overflowing with locals willing to stand while eating when there is no place to sit. Reason: the tapas are to die for. If you are new to tapas, this is the perfect place to start, as the array if mindboggling and the selection broad enough to please any palette. The added bonus is that in summer, Ciudad Condal’s terraza opens onto Rambla de Catalunya (map), making for some of the best people watching in Barcelona. Highly recommended are the montaditos; skip any semblance of this tapa you’ll find off of Passeig de Gracia and eat them only here. Our favorite is the montadito de solomillo (filet mignon). Also, if you are new to Escalivada, Condal makes a great one. The wine list is good, and the beer selection is one of the better ones in town. (Rambla Catalunya 18, Tel: 93 318-1997). An insider’s note: Condal’s sister restaurant, Cerveceria Catalana, is just as good but overrun by tourists and standing room only. If you’ve heard from a friend that you need to get to Cerveceria Catalana, try Condal instead. The menu is virtually the same, as is the quality.

2. El Xampanyet: Get ready to fill your belly with cava and tapas and leave very, very happy. El Xampanyet is a traditional Catalan bar in the very oldest part of town, and has not changed one bit in 100 years even though the neighborhood around it — Born — has gone ultra trendy. Saddle up to the bar and get ready for anchovies. What? You hate them? Not these. These aren’t of the canned variety, but of the house-preserved ilk, and you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you are serious about tapas and don’t try an order of anchovies washed down by a glass of cava. Delicious. And don’t forget the pa amb tomaquet. This place isn’t a spot for stretching out; it’s small and full of its loyal customers, but it’s perfect for doing tapas Spanish style: hopping from place to place, sampling one thing (anchovies here!) at each, then moving on. You can also make this in-between-meals pitstop after visiting the nearby Picasso museum. Note that El Xampanyet is closed in August (Carrer Moncada 22, 93 319-7003, map).

3. Els Quatre Gats: Picasso ate here, need we say more? If that’s not enough for you, consider the amazing modernist decor and the fact that these people have been doing tapas since 1897. For tapas, we recommend the Almejas al cava (Clams steamed in cava), the Langostinos con aceite de menta (Prawns with mint oil) and the tuna carpaccio. Els Quatre Gats, like many of the better restaurants in Catalunya, has a menu that varies with the season, so just about anything you try is going to be fabulous. And this place isn’t just for tapas: it’s thebest lunch deal in town. Remember that lunch is after 2:00 pm in Spain, so get there between 2:00 and 5:00 and you’ll be able to partake of an amazing 3-course Catalan lunch with wine for about 12 euros. (Carrer Montsió, 3 bis, 93 302-4140, map).

4. Pinotxo: La Boqueria is not just for blankly gazing and drooling at the food stands — it’s also for eating, and that means tapas, too. Pinotxo is not fancy, and in spite of its place in the tourist-invaded Boqueria, it’s authentic. Whileowner Juanito Bayen has become somewhat of a celebrity among American foodies (he’s been featured everywhere from The Washington Post to blogs), he’s not changing anything about his modest bar in response to it having become a tourist attraction. The tapas are still fresh as fresh can be (and we mean that, as he literally walks over to a seafood stall a few yards away to get his ingredients, and that stall gets the stuff right out of the ocean) and he as authentic as ever. Pinotxo is the place to taste the basics in their original unadulterated form , before they went haute cuisine. Escargot, clams, mussels — all cooked perfectly with a bit of the Catalan trilogy of garlic, olive oil and white wine. If you get there and it’s packed, do wait. It’s worth it. We recommend the house specialty: Chipirónes con Mongetes (Baby squid with beans). Located inside La Boqueria…just ask for it.

5. Quimet i Quimet: A little (and just a little) out of the way of the Centro (in the Poble Sec neighborhood, map) but totally worth it, Quimet i Quimet is hole-in-the-wall neighborhood spot that up until recently only had natives under its spell. Prepare to eat on the sidewalk standing up, but most wouldn’t have it any other way. Quimet specializes in combinados, a tapas plating practice that you’ll only see in a traditional bar. Sidle up to the bar and ask for a little of this, a bit of that and a few of those, and it all goes on a combinado plate for your enjoyment. If you are a cheese lover, Quimet is for you. Here you can sample just about any kind of Spanish cheese that exists, as well as lesser-known and super fresh Catalan cheeses. Again, not a place to take a load off, but you can’t miss Quimet on your trip to Barcelona. And if you need extra evidence as to its greatness, ask any native “what’s the best tapas place in town?” and you’ll have your answer.

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