“See?” says the waiter while holding up a hamburger the size of a silver dollar. “It’s a Big Mac!”
Such was the scene while I soaked up the tapas bar atmosphere at Ciudad Condal on Barcelona’s Rambla de Catalunya. While tapas are traditionally seen as lively communal dining opportunities with sharing aplenty, they are also a great way for a single traveler to sample a variety of small plates without committing to a large entrée. Ciudad Condal is clearly always busy as I went very early by Spanish standards on a Monday evening and had to lurk a bit before I could even squeeze into a lone stool by the waiter’s station. It’s easy to first gravitate toward the identifiable items like croquetas, but on this particular night I was also craving vegetables. While I doubt the nutritional value in mushrooms and asparagus sautéed in butter and doused with garlic, I also doubt those veggies ever expected they could be that delicious. I followed up next with a typical Spanish dish of fried potatoes julienned like American hashbrowns served with bacon and a fried egg on top. I saw this lovely simple dish in a tapas bar on the afternoon I arrived on this trip in Barcelona, but I still don’t know what it’s called. Readers, can anyone shed some light here?
For some reason, on my first trip to Barcelona in 2009, we had a hard time eating well. It was only after enlisting the help of my cousin who was living there and spoke fluent Spanish that we were able to partake of some quality meals.
This time, nearly four years later, I gave myself a fighting chance to break the Barcelona food curse by joining a tapas tour. I joined Dirk’s Tapas Tour Barcelona with a group of German speakers. A bit odd as I was the only English speaker and poor Dirk had to translate just for me, but a great tour around Barcelona and into a hidden gem or two. I originally chose this particular tour as I knew that one of the stops was the “Xampaneria” Can Paixano, a cava house and the most memorable of my first visit to Barcelona. Additionally Dirk took us to Olimar, a shop specializing in local products, Bilbao Berria where I can say the highlight was the cider but the food mediocre and the wonderful La Plata which only serves sardines and tomato salad in addition to their 0.50 Euro cups of wine. The Xampaneria continues to be one of my all-time favourites in Barcelona. Go early, get friendly with the crowds and enjoy some 1 Euro per glass house made cava and plate of chorizo or bocadillo. I went back on my last day in Barca before my flight back to London. A Tuesday at lunchtime was pleasantly quiet.
I tried two outposts of Taller de Tapas or “Tapas Workshop.” At the Barri Gotic location, I had some refreshing gazpacho and a brilliant little salad topped with jamon and goat cheese. Washed down with a sparkling cava sangria and finished with Crema Catalana, the meal felt luxurious after a day of sightseeing.
My favourite tapas bar on this trip was La Bodegueta. Located in the Eixample district a block or two from Casa Mila, it’s a bit of a hike for anyone staying in the center near the Ramblas. However, this little gem just happened to be two short blocks from my hotel. On a fairy quiet tree-lined street, it’s fairly easy to spot with the entrance just below street level and a noisy bar and a few small tables up front. After the standard croquetas, I dug into a little plate of chorizo and some crispy fried artichoke hearts before a little pan con tomate and manchego. Friendly and attentive staff kept an eye on my from the bar, ensuring I constantly had a drink at hand. This would be a great stop after sightseeing the Gaudi wonderland of La Pedrera or if you’re staying north of the Ramblas.
Gracias Barcelona por las tapas bonitas!
© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2013.