Catalonia has a reputation of having a critically acclaimed cuisine and some of the best restaurants and chefs in the world. Nothing less than 50 restaurants in Catalonia have been awarded with a Michelin star in 2015 (24 of them in Barcelona), so it’s no wonder that touching the subject of eating in Barcelona is going into the one aspect that makes this city famous.
Having a great meal in Barcelona won’t necessarily mean that you have to spend a huge amount of cash in it, as there are plenty of great quality restaurants at decent prices. Following are some of the most traditional dishes of the catalan cuisine you can order in a catalan restaurant, with a mixture of starters (tapas), main dishes, and desserts.
What to eat in Barcelona
Pa amb tomàquet – Bread with tomato
This is one of the most traditional starters in any restaurant in Barcelona and a very simple recipe. Altough generally is served already prepared, the process is very simple: take toasted peasants bread, rub raw garlic on it, then rub fresh tomatoes directly on the bread, add olive oil and salt. It can be joined with an assortment of cheeses or sausages (iberic ham, fuet, butifarra).
Escalivada – Smoked vegetables
This delicious traditional dish is made up of smoked or roasted eggplant and peppers with olive oil, onion, garlic and salt. It can be served hot or cold, as a salad or on top of bread or a coca (traditional catalan bread). Sometimes is also served with tuna or anchovies.
Buñuelos de bacalao – Cod fritters
Taken as a starter or as a side dish, this delicacy consists of small fried cod fillets covered with a pasture of potatoes, flour, eggs parsley and garlic.
Butifarra, xoriço, fuet – Assortment of sausages
The consumption of cured meets is very popular in Catalonia, especially these three kinds, which are pork sausage (butifarra), that can be white (made with fatless meat and no blood), black (with pork blood), with rice, truflles and rice, to name a few. The xoriço is made of chopped pork and fat and seasoned with different spices such as paprika, as well as fuet, a similar type but thinner and without paprika. They’re served as entrants and can be used as ingredientes for different dishes.
The calçot is one of the most traditional dishes in Catalonia. It’s a type of green onion that is grilled to the point where the exterior is almost burned, then peeled to find them very tender on the inside. Parties called “calçotades” take place in late winter and early spring, making up one of the most typical calebrations in Catalonia. They’re always consumed with romesco sause and grilled meat and sausages.
It’s one of the most typical dishes of the Mediterranean and spanish cuisine, and very popular in Barcelona. It’s a rice dish prepared in a pan called “paellera” and cooked with many ingredients. There are several types: Seafood paella, mixed (made with inland animals), and even vegetarian. This plate is a must have on your trip to Barcelona, but many touristic places serve it frozen, so make sure that it will be done from scratch.
These are some of the best paella restaurants in Barcelona where you can’t go wrong:
- El Suquet de l’Almirall
- Can Solé
- La Barraca
- Can Ramonet
- La Mar Salada
Almost even more traditional than paella, fideuà is very similar in ingredients and preparation except that it’s made with pasta noodles instead of rice. In it you’ll find fish, shellfish, shrimps and vegetables. Is always served with lemon and allioli seasoning (made with garlic, olive oil, eggs).
The “coca” is one of the most diverse foods in catalan cuisine. Also regarde as the “catalan pizza”, a coca is a pastry that comes in two main varieties: savoury and sweet, and an infinite range of different types depending on the topping. The savoury types usually come with meat, cheese, fish and vegetables and the sweet ones can either be closed or open and filled with cream, pine nuts (panellets, for All saints holiday) and sugat coated fruits.
The most famous dessert in Catalonia is very similar to crème brûlée and it’s made with a custard base of vanilla, lemmon and cinammon, then caramelized or burned under an iron broiler, not an open flame. It’s found pretty much everywhere.
What you should know about eating in Barcelona
- Sitting down in a good restaurant is a very interesting experience of enjoyment of the Mediterranean lifestyle, and the first principle to learn here is that there’s no need to rush. Time, (and a good amount of it) is invested in the event of any meal.
- The culinary offer in Barcelona is a mixture of traditional Catalan dishes and a very broad International cuisine, thanks in part to the heavy flow of foreigners that have settled in the city in recent years. Every option is available, but before asking yourself how good are they, how much should come to mind first.
- Lunch and dinner take place a bit later than most everywhere, with restaurants opening from 13.00 to 16:00 hours at noon and from 20:00 to 23:00 hours for dinners. On the weekends, dinners can start around 22:00.
- Prices depend mostly on the quality of the restaurant, but in many cases this is not true. Barcelona is a very demanded city touristically speaking, and many restaurants in touristic areas will be overpriced no matter the quality of the food.
- In average terms, many restaurants have different options of a closed menu, and depending on the category it can be in the range of 9-20€ at lunch time (on a week day) for a meal that includes a first course or starter, a main course, beverages like beer, wine or soda, and coffee or dessert.
Traditional Restaurants in Barcelona
If you want to avoid tourist traps and frozen foods disguised as fresh, catalan dishes, you should always stay away of restaurants with English menus (or in several languages) that are usually close to touristic attractions. To give you a hint, you can visit any of the restaurants on this list:
- Can Solé. Sant Carles, 4.
- Cheriff, Ginebra, 15.
- La Barraca. Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 1.
- Can Ramonet. Maquinista, 17.
- La Mar Salada. Passeig Joan Borbó, 19.
- El Suquet de l’Almirall. Passeig Joan Borbó, 65.
- Xiringuito Escribà. Avenida del Litoral, 42.
- Boquería Food Market. Las Ramblas, 91.
- Cal Pep. Plaça de les Olles, 8.
- Senyor Parellada. Argenteria, 37.
- La Paradeta. Passatge Simó, 18.
- Agut, Gignàs, 16.
- Barceloneta, Carrer de l’Escar, 22.
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