Forget Madrid, Barcelona and Granada – the epicenter of tapas in Spain is Logroño, capital city of Rioja. As well as serving pintxos (an influence from the nearby Basque Country), bars here specialize in just one particular thing, be it mushrooms, scrambled eggs or spider crab fishcakes. Here’s our guide to the best tapas bars.
This tiny tapas bar can barely fit more than just a few people, but that’s just fine, as most people tend to congregate outside standing at the tables made from old wine barrels. Bar Soriano specialises in just type of tapa – and that’s mushrooms. Perfectly grilled, these cremini mushrooms come dripping with butter and garlic, and are served on a piece of bread with a small shrimp in the middle. They might be slightly messy to eat, but they’re so worth it.
Another mushroom bar, Bar El Cid sits almost opposite Bar Soriano, but serves only grilled setas (large wild mushrooms similar to oyster mushrooms). With grape vines hanging from the ceiling, this cute and atmospheric place is big enough to hold more than a few standing groups. Pair your mushroom sandwich with a glass of excellent Rioja wine.
La Taberna del Tío Blas is a modern and creative pintxos bar, and one of the best on Calle Laurel. Innovative bites lined up along the bar include goat’s cheese with berries, mini chicken kebab with padrón peppers, cod fritters and spinach croquettes covered in nuts. They also serve breakfasts, desserts, grilled meats and a classic Riojan menu of the day.
Sleek, shiny and contemporary, La Tavina is a bar, wine shop and restaurant in one. The ingredients for the tapas, particularly the vegetables, are locally sourced and include bites such as grilled sardine with pisto (similar to ratatouille). They also serve dessert tapas, including deliciously gooey brownies and creamy cheesecakes. The wine shop sells over 500 different varieties of wines, so is a great place to shop for a bottle of Rioja’s famous wine to take back home with you.
The traditional La Tasca del Pato can also be found on Calle Laurel, and is housed in an old-fashioned building with wooden rafters, wood-panelled walls and tiled floors. It has a variety of pintxos lined up along the bar, but is particularly well known for its txangurritos – spider crab fishcakes, baked inside a scallop shell. Also worth a try is the grilled white asparagus (very typical of Rioja), wrapped in local cheese.
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A cosy and modern tapas bar just off Calle Laurel, Bodeguilla Los Rotos specializes in scrambled eggs. Choose to mix your scrambled eggs with a variety of ingredients from gulas (eels) and cod, to wild mushrooms, black pudding or blue cheese. Also worth a try are the mussels steamed in beer and the calamari (battered squid rings) with spicy salsa.
Laidback, simple and family-run, Bar El Soldado De Tudelilla is filled with old knick-knacks, black and white photos on the walls and old advertisements. Small and cosy, the bar is lined with shelves that are packed with bottles of local wines. The famous tapa at this place is the tomato salad with tuna, onions and olives, but they also serve fried eggs with chips, ham or chorizo, and anchovies or ham with tomato.