It’s hard to believe that El Raval was once a no-go area for tourists. Today, the neighborhood is a thriving cultural hub, offering everything from Gaudi’s architectural work, to a range of diverse restaurants. We list the top ten places to find great Catalan and international food in the area.
Bar, Restaurant, Spanish, Tapas, Wine, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
Chef Alfredo of Sésamo | Courtesy of Alfredo Marcus
A favorite among local Catalans, Can Cañete is an outstanding restaurant serving traditional Catalan cuisine. Diners have the option to be seated around the bar area or to sit at a table instead. Expect to find Catalan specialities such as canelones de foie or esqueixada de bacalao, but there are also more modern dishes such as the tuna tataki or the mussels with citrus to try.
Something of a rarity in Barcelona, Sésamo is one of the city’s few vegetarian restaurants, and some might say, its best. Alfredo, the larger-than-life chef-patron prepares a selection of forward-thinking, innovative tapas to impress even the hardiest of meat-eaters. His curries are certainly worth mentioning, although the best option is without a doubt to try the tasting menu which includes seven small dishes to share as well as two drinks each. Dinners are recommended to book as it gets busy.
This is a tapas restaurant with a twist. Featuring Asian-inspired dishes, guests can enjoy the arty ambience of El Raval whilst enjoying a range of predominantly seafood Japanese style dishes. Serving unusual and unique dishes, from lamb brains to jellyfish, Dos Palillos is certainly an option for the adventurous traveler wanting a little break from traditional Spanish food. This fusion restaurant gives you a taste of Japan, Spain, China, Thailand and even Vietnam. Unsurprisingly, it was awarded a Michelin star in 2015.
Although not a traditional Catalan restaurant, Caravelle is somewhat of an institution in El Raval. The venue specialises in home-made tacos which come in a variety of combinations, as well as burgers, chicken wings and more. The venue prides itself on its home-made produce, from pickles to chilli sauce to ginger-beer. Expect a low-key, chilled out atmosphere, but with top-of-the-range food. Also worth a mention is the fact that it happens to serve one of the best brunches in town.
Ca L’Isidre is a family run restaurant which has grown into one of the best in Barcelona. With a mix of traditional Mediterranean dishes, sourced from the markets, and modern twists, Ca L’Isidre offers a unique and enjoyable dining experience. With its reputation for great attention to detail, in food, décor and service, guests can enjoy Catalan meals in the heart of Barcelona.
Bullfighting may be controversial, but it will always be a part of Barcelona’s heritage. Somewhat of a museum, with a 1960s décor, Los Toreros is known for its excellent tapas for those who don’t mind a bit of exposure to what was once a huge part of the Catalonian culture. Themed tapas are on offer and include rabo de toro (bull’s tail, although it is actually ox).
Situated in close proximity to Gaudi’s Palau Guell, this small, bright and friendly tapas restaurant has only four tables. Mam I Teca has a menu offering a range of traditional tapas options, from anchovies to Spanish omelette, as well as specials. Try the lamb chops and pork confit for a homely Spanish experience with a Catalan emphasis.
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This open bar restaurant in the middle of the bustling La Boquería overflows with character, individuality, and charm. Guests can sit on one of the 16 chairs, circling the bar at El Quim de la Boquería and enjoy food cooked from fresh market produce. Offering traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes, alongside innovative dishes of their own, El Quim de la Boquería is a must for any foodie.
With over 80 years of history, Can Lluis remains a family run restaurant, and boasts excellent home cooking at affordable prices. From rice to steak, and even themed menus, Can Lluis is an affordable restaurant which is ever-expanding due to its popularity; despite this, it has never failed to maintain its homely feel.
After a brief closure, Centric Canalla is back and better than before. Still maintaining its charm from bygone days, Centric Canalla now offers a wide range of tapas and half dishes, from Russian salads to mini burgers. Of course, traditional (and less traditional!) omelets still feature on the menu. Centric Canalla is not only a great place for delicious food it is lively bar as well, perfect for a late glass of wine.