November 5, 2014 —
Sometimes Barcelona can seem like a trap.
It’s such a charming city. There is no denying the history, the art, the sea, a truly dynamic and cosmopolitan place. Who wouldn’t want to live in Barcelona?
But there are restaurants on literally every street corner. Thousands of them. Everywhere you look. Imagine yourself in a Penrose Steps of eateries – an impossible maze of establishments each offering what purports to be an excellent meal. Tapas! Italian! Seafood! Menu del dia!
And of course it is an illusion. They can’t all be that good.
Then there is the annoying “trendiness” that has invaded Barcelona. We are talking about the new fashion bars, the sushi menus . . . white leather settees. For the uninitiated, these places might seem like an attractive option. For those of us who live in Barcelona, however, these places are like fools’ gold: Pretty to look at, but only a sucker would recommend them to grandma.
Where can you eat for cheap in Barcelona? Where can you get something authentic? Where can you sit down and feel like the only thing you are paying for is good food?
Here are three hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Barcelona that still serve great food, in a laid-back atmosphere, at low prices.
- Mosquito. This joint is very small. It’s tucked away in the old town between El Born and La Ribera. Even with a map, it’s hard to find. I’ve tried many times to explain to friends how to get there, and I inevitably fail. Yet this restaurant is always full. Many foreigners go here — foreigners who know Barcelona. This is a restaurant for small dishes of good Asian food, particularly dumplings. With a pencil, you check off the items that you want from a paper menu. You can sit at the bar or at one of about 10 small tables. There is a chalkboard inside to keep track of the people waiting, so arrive early or you might not get served. The beer selection is also great. Very, very informal. Prices are budget. c/ Carders 46, 932 68 75 69.
- Bar Mundial. Just a short walk from Mosquito. This is for Spanish tapas. It is an old place (opening in 1925) and there is nothing pretentious here. Just good, old-fashioned food. Try the traditional plates: patatas bravas, calamares, jamon. You won’t be disappointed. Beyond the entrance is a long bar on the left. You can sit there or at small tables and booths on the right side. In the back is a slightly bigger seating area. Reserve here. Prices are budget. c/ Plaza Sant Agusti Vell 1, 933 19 90 56.
- La Vinateria. A place with amazing ambience, tucked in a narrow alley behind town hall. Unfortunately, people have started to discover it. Blame the TripAdvisor pimps for that. Nevertheless, the atmosphere at La Vinateria makes this restaurant worth a visit. It is a romantic venue. The tables are tiny and lighting is dim. It feels like a wine cellar with candles, and this is a place to go if you are interested in wine – they carry dozens, if not hundreds, of varietals. The food consists of plates of tapas – assortments of ham, cheese, Spanish tortillas, olives, pan con tomate. Do not go here if you want seafood or salad or a traditional plate of pasta or meat. You will not find it. Instead, go here if you are on a date or with a small group and you want good wine in an intimate, old-world venue. Try to get a reservation. Prices are moderate. c/Sant Domènec del Call 9, 933 02 60 92.
Have you been to any other hole-in-the wall joints in Barcelona or elsewhere?
Share some of your favorite places in the comments below!