EAT LIKE A LOCAL

5 Secret Restaurants in Barcelona

We spotlight tapas bars—each in a neighborhood you’ll want to visit anyway—that are the rare local secret.

BEST DISH Montadito de foie. Foie gras and caramelized onions sit atop a crusty piece of bread. With the honey and balsamic reduction at the base, it adds up to an incredible interplay of sweet and savory flavors and an explosion of textures. $6.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 A large swath of the city created in the late 19th century, the Eixample (ay-shomp-la), which means "expansion" in Catalan, is known for its wide, tree-lined avenues and unparalleled art nouveau architecture, including Antonio Gaudí's Sagrada Família. It's also one of the best places in the city for overall feasting, with options ranging from casual Basque tapas bars to Michelin-starred restaurants. Get there Take Metro Line 3 (green line) from Plaça Catalunya to Diagonal, about five minutes.

 

BAR TOMÁS — Sarrià

Of all the iconic Spanish tapas, none is more beloved than patatas bravas, or fried potato wedges. They're served at just about every restaurant in town, but bravas aficionados know that at Bar Tomás, the humble dish is elevated to the sublime. Despite the lack of ambience (fluorescent lighting, napkin-littered floor) and the unlikely residential location, you'll find the tables almost always filled with parents and kids, teenagers fresh off their mopeds, and quickly consumed plates of hot spuds swimming in garlicky aioli and fiery hot sauce. Ice-cold beer, which tempers the hot sauce, flows freely, too, contributing to the boisterous mood. Nothing much changes at 92-year-old Bar Tomás, and that includes the staff. Quique (kee-kay), a hulking waiter who's worked here for nearly 20 years, barks orders at the younger waiters behind the bar, and Antonio, the reticent, mustachioed owner, can be found collecting money at the cash register near the entrance. Antonio is tight-lipped about the recipes for the bar's famously addictive aioli and hot sauce, sharing only that he always uses small red-skinned potatoes and that they're fried in olive oil, as you might expect. Major de Sarrià, 49, 011-34/93-203-1077, open Mon., Tues., and Thurs.-Sun. 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Wednesdays.

BEST DISH Patatas bravas. Order a doble mixta, so your potatoes come doused in plenty of aioli and hot sauce, and eat them like the locals do—with a stubby toothpick. $3.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 Tiny, cottage-like homes and bougainvillea-draped balconies characterize this picturesque neighborhood that was once its own country village. A stroll down Major de Sarrià—a winding pedestrian walkway lined with all manner of boutiques, cafés, and pastry shops—offers a glimpse into the lives of the young professionals and families that live here today. Get there Take the FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya) train line from Plaça Catalunya to Sarrià, about 15 minutes.


LA PLATA — Barri Gòtic

There are only four kinds of tapas at this shoe-box-size bar on the corner of a dark, narrow street, and Pepe, the squat, middle-age waiter behind the counter, doesn't really want to talk you through the choices. Still, Pepe's surliness isn't scaring anyone away. On most summer evenings, you can count on people spilling out of the open doorway. Better to come in the afternoon, when only a few old-timers will be there, arguing over soccer or politics, exactly as they've been doing since La Plata first opened 65 years ago. If you're lucky, you'll catch them drinking wine or beer from a porrón, a traditional glass pitcher shaped like an oil can. It's passed around and each person aims a stream of liquid into his mouth (without the glass touching his lips). Nostalgia rules here: An old-fashioned wooden icebox keeps beer bottles cold, wine is drawn out of dusty-looking barrels, and smoke-stained black-and-white photographs dot the walls. La Plata's owner, Anna, whose parents opened the restaurant, says the menu has hardly changed over the years. Its quartet of simple dishes—small fried fish, tomato-and-onion salad, cured anchovies, and pork sausage—are so familiar to the bar's patrons by now that you won't find a single printed menu in sight. Carrer de la Mercè, 28, 011-34/93-315-1009, open Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Closed Sundays.

BEST DISH Pescadito. The fish on offer (sardines, anchovies, or mackerel) varies depending on the season, but all are tossed in flour then fried briefly in olive oil for a distinctly Spanish take on seafood. If the fish is small enough, go right ahead and pop the whole thing—head, tail, and all—in your mouth. $3.50.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 One of the most visually spectacular areas of Barcelona, the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is a tangle of labyrinthine streets and medieval plazas; throughout, the buildings are steeped in history. The neighborhood sits above the city's first Roman settlement and some of the ruins are intact, so it's a great spot for exploring. Get there Walk from the Plaça Catalunya down the Rambla and take a left on Carrer de la Canuda, about five minutes.

Photo Tour: Barcelona Food

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