Expert recommendations for the best places to eat in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)
La Cova Fumada
“Basic, bustling and bursting with good things.”—Tara Stevens, writer, Barcelona Metropolitan. Popular tapas bar in the rapidly gentrifying Barceloneta district. Famous for its spicy bombas (balls of mashed potato stuffed with meat and topped with chili sauce and garlic mayonnaise), chickpeas and morcilla sausage, and grilled sardines. Closed August and Sundays. No credit cards. Carrer de Baluard 56; tel. 34 93 221 4061.
“Always packed, but if you can nab a stool, the food is worth the crowd.”—Miguel Torres, marketing director, Miguel Torres Winery. Just inside the entrance to the Boqueria, the city’s bustling food market. No menu: locals and tourists alike line up for whatever owner Juan Bayen has to offer that day, from salt cod croquettes to artichoke omelettes to mussels à la marinara. Mercat de la Boqueria, stalls 466-470; tel. 34 93 317 1731.
Quimet i Quimet
“Captures the spirit of the Catalan kitchen in small form.”—Tara Stevens. Tiny tapas bar in the old working-class Poble Sec neighborhood, with a citywide reputation for gourmet combinations—like salmon with Greek yogurt, truffled honey, and soy sauce. Closed Mondays. Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes 25; tel. 34 93 442 3142.
“A good place to enjoy an authentic Spanish omelette in a ’60s setting, old and modern at the same time.”—Juan Montenegro, editor in chief, b-guided lifestyle and fashion quarterly. Also thick juicy hamburgers, steaks, and salads. Inventive black-and-white decor with comfortable banquettes makes this a long time local favorite. Carrer de la Granada del Penedès 25; tel. 34 93 237 0990. www.flashflashtortilleria.com
Mam i Teca
“A bolt-hole [refuge] for food lovers with steaks you could cut with a spoon.”—Tara Stevens. Tapas and Catalan food in El Raval district, with five small tables in back. Best known for seafood, but when charcuterie is available, grab it. Closed Tuesdays. Carrer de la Lluna 4; tel. 34 93 441 3335.
“One of those rare, secret dining rooms that has no menu or sign, and yet serves up some of the very best cooking in town.”—Tara Stevens. In a converted umbrella factory in the working-class neighborhood of Poble Sec. Huge open kitchen, innovative Mediterranean-inspired dishes based on what’s market fresh. Closed Sundays and Mondays. Booking ahead is essential. Carrer de Tapioles 53; tel. 34 93 329 2238. www.tapioles53.com
“In the heart of the tourist area, just off Las Ramblas, but completely off the tourist radar. Always packed with artists, writers, thinkers, and intellectuals.”—Matthew Tree, Anglo-Catalan writer. Traditional menu, with dishes like foie gras with apple, rabbit, and cod. Marble floors, white walls with a few carefully placed paintings give this restaurant—a traditional gathering place for Catalan writers—a slightly spartan air. Good value for price. Plaça de Sant Miquel 2; tel. 34 93 318 5238.
“Minimalist and modern but family-run—manages to be warm and inviting while retaining an edgy urban style.”—Sarah Andrews, author, City Walks: Barcelona. Chef Jordi Artal’s signature dishes include caramelized leek foie gras, and roast suckling pig with apples and honey reduction. Spot-on service, in fluent English. Carrer d’Aribau 58; tel. 34 93 323 9490. www.cincsentits.com
Torre d’Alta Mar
“Fine dining at the top of the teleferic tower with a view of the whole city. You can sometimes feel the building sway.”—Juan Montenegro. Glassed-in restaurant 245 feet (75 meters) above the sea in an old watchtower. Classic Mediterranean menu, with items like baby goat with foie gras and truffled potatoes, filet of John Dory with hummus and eggplant. Passeig de Joan de Borbó 88; tel. 34 93 221 0007. www.torredealtamar.com
“A real insider’s secret, a grungy looking family-run restaurant on the outskirts of town that serves some of the best old-fashioned Castilian food anywhere.”—Sarah Andrews. Tables close together, lots of noise—but thick steaks, fresh grilled fish, tender milk-fed baby lamb, stuffed red peppers. A favorite with the Futbol Club de Barcelona soccer team. Closed Sundays and Monday evenings. Carrer del Pare Pérez del Pulgar 1; tel. 34 93 345 7148. www.htomas.com
“San Sebastián in Barcelona, a great place for the Basque-style tapas and dishes that city is famous for.”—George Semler, author, Barcelonawalks. Bar out front, and small restaurant in back. No menu, but don’t neglect specialties like cabbage and black sausage pudding, or tuna stew. Carrer València 169; tel. 34 93 453 4759.
Boix de la Cerdanya
“Specializing in elaborate versions of dishes from Catalonia’s Cerdanya canton in the Pyrenees.”—Matthew Tree. Dishes include wild boar stew, chickpeas with black butifarra sausage. Quiet, conservative ambience you’ll want to dress up for. Carrer del Consell de Cent 303; tel. 34 93 451 1547. www.restaurantboix.com
“A classic place for seafood—including some fruits de mer you might never have seen before, flown in fresh from Galicia. A Barcelona institution.”—Miguel Torres. Dining rooms with wood paneling, softly lit with sconces and chandeliers; halls of power. The King of Spain is an occasional visitor. One of the few places in the city open every day, 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Specialties include cockle salad, artichoke with clams, codfish with chickpeas. Carrer Gran de Gràcia 81; tel. 34 93 218 4230.
Passadis del Pep
No sign out front; just a small brass plate at the end of the hallway inside. No menu, either: they just keep bringing platters of exquisite seafood, fresh that morning from the market, until you tell them to stop. Plaça del Palau 2; tel. 34 93 310 1021. www.passadis.com
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