Córdoba’s 10 Best Local Restaurants and Tapas Bars
The fascinating Andalusian town of Córdoba is home to an abundance of local-style restaurants and tapas bars. Serving the region’s classic dishes and wines, these are the places to head if you want to eat drink surrounded by Cordobans, not other tourists. Read on for the best of them.
Bar Santa Marina
They don’t make bars like Santa Marina any more – the kind of old-school Spanish joints in which yellowing walls are plastered with bullfighting pictures and in which a till would look unforgivably modern. Situated on a pretty square opposite a church of the same name, this old drinking den and tapas bar has been serving the neighbourhood’s locals (read: old men) for generations, so don’t walk past without popping in and order a vermouth or an ice-cold beer. Just around the corner is a statue of Manolete, Córdoba’s most famous bullfighter and one of the greatest in the spectacle’s history (and surely a one-time customer).
Old-school: Bar Santa Marina | Courtesy Encar Novillo
Split across several levels, numerous little patios and dining rooms, Bodegas Campos is one of Córdoba’s most famous old restaurants. A traditional Andalusian menu is served in the formal dining spaces – think stewed bull’s tail (rabo de toro) and the Cordoban classics, salmorejo and flamenquines – while you can snack on homemade tapas in the bar area. Wherever you choose to hang out, though, you’ll be surrounded by a voluble crowd of locals enjoying the restaurant’s very own sweet Montilla wine – and it’s fully recommended you take a glass yourself as it’s delicious. Prices and service also excellent.
If you’re planning a trip to Juan Peña, make sure you arrive well in advance of when you want to eat: the fact that it only has eight tables and is one of Córdoba’s favourite restaurants mean that you’ll be in for a wait if you don’t. Out of an improbably small kitchen come flavour-packed versions of the region’s classic dishes, all of which are accompanied with Peña’s superb homemade bread. This hearty fare is enjoyed in a dining space cluttered with memorabilia from the worlds of flamenco and bullfighting, the two traditions with which Andalusia is most associated.
The restaurant of thesilversmith’s association of Córdoba doesn’t only boast one of the longest names in the city (it’s quite a mouthful in Spanish), it also serves its best cod dishes too. This light, white fish is a staple in most Andalusian restaurants, but the inventiveness with which it is cooked at Maria Auxiliadora is exceptional: cod with rice and chorizo or a cod and aubergine lasagna, anyone? One of its lovely dining patios also features repeating double arches, striped in red and yellow like those in the city’s magnificent Mezquita-Catedral. Competitive prices and friendly, efficient service complete the offering at one of Córdoba’s best local restaurants.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s been open since 1948, because La Montillana is not your typical traditional Andalusian restaurant. While you can find all the regional classics on its menu, you can also enjoy a taco of salmon curry or stir-fried chicken and vegetables in a yakisoba sauce, if you so desire. The menu is also originally categorised, with groups of dishes coming under headings like ‘Memories of the Mosque[-Cathedral]’ and ‘On the Banks of the Guadalquivir’. There are some concessions to Andalusian tradition, though: the decor is bullfighting-orientated and the kitchen does a mean ‘grandmother’s tart’ (tarta de la abuela).
Bar Santos is said by many Cordobans to do the best tortilla in the city – quite an achievement when you bear in mind that pretty much every Andalusian eatery serves it. Santos is more a place to stop for a filling tapas than for a full meal, and its location just across the street from the eastern walls of the Mosque-Cathedral makes it a great place to refuel whilst sightseeing. Order a wedge of the house speciality – which is cut off the tyre-like tortillas displayed in the window and served on a paper plate with a plastic fork – and enjoy with a cold beer while watching the world go by from the round tables outside.
Taberna Salinas has been a favourite drinking den and eatery among Cordobans ever since it opened in 1879. Just as it was almost 140 years ago, this restaurant’s most charming feature is an internal courtyard decorated in the local style – that is, with tumbling potted plants, handmade ceramics and earthenware jugs adoring every inch of its wall space. The cuisine is traditional Andalusian and is served in generous, decently-priced portions by friendly staff. Particularly recommended is the stewed oxtail, which is slow cooked in a red wine sauce – a deliciously rich meal that renders a siesta afterwards unavoidable.
Casa el Pisto is another great example of the kind of drinking den Córdoba does so well: tiny, cluttered rooms with big old sherry barrels serving as tables, walls plastered with old bullfighting pictures, traditional tapas and a good wine list. This is more a place to stop for a quick snack and beer whilst exploring the delights of Córdoba’s old town, in the middle of which San Miguel is situated. Try the fried fish, the flamenquines and the sausages, all of which locals say are particularly good.
Another Cordoban classic, as popular with the locals as it with foreign visitors. Located just around the corner from the iconic monument from which it takes its name, Bodegas Mezquita serves a range of Arabic and Andalusian dishes at competitive prices (given its premium site), with the stews, chicken tagine and lamb dishes all highly recommended. Its super efficient and English-speaking staff also come in for high praise, in particular Jose, for whom it is said nothing is too much. A super place for lunch or dinner when visiting Córdoba’s old Jewish quarter and its most famous historical attraction.
Not a bar for the faint-stomached, the house tapas at El Tercio Viejo is another Córdoba speciality: snails. These are served in the traditional manner – namely, in a small glass drenched in a spicy sauce which you can mop up with bread or simply drink afterwards. Located as it is just down the road from the beautiful Palacio de Viana, this is a great place to head for tapas (lots of other traditional Andalusian dishes are available for non snail-eaters) if you’re attending the Feria de Los Patios. There’s hardly any space inside, but a lovely little outside terrace makes up for it.