The Catalan capital is famous for its culinary culture, from high-end dining to cheap-and-cheerful tapas. While these days the best places to eat in a city are easy enough to find, there are still a few locales which remain mostly under the radar – even in Barcelona. Here are the best tapas bars you won’t find in the guidebooks.
Cafeteria Can Deu
Cafe, Spanish, $$$
The Centre Civic Can Deu is a beautiful Modernist building which sits at the heart of the little known neighbourhood of Les Corts. While the civic centre organises a range of activities for local residents, the café is a popular meeting point for neighbours who enjoy its large outdoor terrace and superb setting. While the cafeteria no longer serves its famous menu del día, clients can still enjoy a selection of hot and cold dishes for breakfast, lunch or as an afternoon snack.
Bar, Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean, Tapas, Beer, $$$
More of a tapas restaurant than a bar, Racó d’en Cesc has been serving guests since 1986 when it opened its doors in the Eixample neighbourhood of Barcelona. The menu focuses on traditional Catalan cuisine but with a modern approach to presentation and menu design. For those looking for an original gourmet experience, the tasting menu with beer pairing is rather unique.
Located just round the corner from the MACBA museum and a few hundred meters from La Rambla, Los Toreros is a local’s favourite in this part of town. An homage to the lost tradition of bullfighting – banned in Catalonia – the restaurant serves a wide variety of Spanish tapas as well as paella dishes. Classics include stuffed piquillo peppers, jamón Iberico and croquetas which are all best enjoyed with a bottle of local wine.
Bar, Market, Restaurant, Spanish, Tapas, Pub Grub, $$$
A small locale in Sant Antoni, just opposite the magnificent local food market of the same name, Bar Ramón is a hidden gem which locals like to keep to themselves. You’ll need to book to make sure you get a table, or be prepared to come for the second sitting around 10pm. The menu is an expansive list of classic Spanish and Catalan dishes and there are always a few specials to choose from too in this blues, jazz & rock’n’roll themed institution.
When is a bar not a bar? That’s the question El Bar challenges its guests to. A tribute to the old fashioned tapas bars, this spot is actually a modern place to eat that offers a selection of classic tapas with a modern, more sophisticated twist. Run by a team of local food enthusiasts, El Bar actually boasts a bright and comfortable dinning room which and offers a gourmet menu del día on weekdays.
The Rambla del Raval is lined with busy cafés and restaurants, though not all merit a mention. However, wander along the street and you’ll come across Palosanto, a small locale with just a few tables and bar inside, as well as a terrace outdoors. Don’t be fooled by its appearance – the tapas at Palosanto are some of the best in the area and stand out for their originality, while the burger comes highly recommended.
When all you want is an old-fashioned tapas bar of the kind where you can spend a few hours, Casa Pagés is what you’re looking for. Located in the heart of Gràcia, one of Barcelona’s most authentic neighbourhoods, this casual bar and café serves a variety of home-cooked dishes and snacks which have largely remained unchanged over the years.
You’d be forgiven for walking straight past Restaurant Bar Rovira if you didn’t know any better (and don’t even dream of looking for a website). A humble-looking bar with a few tables in the back, this is one of the hidden gems of the El Clot – a neighbourhood rarely explored by tourists. Three generations of owners have perfected the food offering of home-cooked classics and the €10 daily menu draws a crowd every day. Hearty stews, flavoursome meat dishes and a range of fried snacks are some of the highlights.
A tapas bar with a fusion twist, El Ramblero serves a varied menu which draws its influences from Asian, the Middle-East and beyond. Classic dishes are reinvented to include new flavours and new ingredients even if the base remains firmly Spanish. A popular tapas bar, El Ramblero is open until late at night when it draws a mostly local crowd.
A modern tapas bar located in uptown Barcelona, close to many of the city’s most popular nightclubs and late-night bars, Ajoblanco is worth making the time for. Open since 2014, this stylish locale draws in a mostly young crowd of locals especially from Thursdays to Saturdays when there are live DJ sessions. The menu is gourmet and boasts some fine cuts of meat, rich seafood paellas and a remarkable selection of classic and creative tapas.
If ‘fried fish and rock’n’roll’ sounds like your kind of thing, La Chana is sure to please. A tiny bar located in the neighbourhood of Poble Sec, La Chana is often overlooked by tourists who walk past blindly on the way to Quimet & Quimet a few doors up. The menu at La Chana is fairly limited, focusing mostly on Andalusian fried fish and seafood with salads and side-dishes – but everything is cooked fresh to order and is some of the best of its kind you’ll find in town.