San Sebastian is considered by many to be Spain’s foodie capital, home to a multitude of Michelin-starred restaurants; however, it was also the city that invented the pintxo – a meal in miniature, usually placed on a piece of bread. Because of this, San Sebastian is, of course, one of the best places to try pintxos, so here are the top 10 bars where you can go and sample them.
A barbeque restaurant and pintxos bar, Borda Berri is both rustic and charming. Chefs Iñaki Gulín and Marc Clua create modern Basque-style dishes such as chorizo with cider and baked spider crabs, as well as delicious homemade pintxos bites. Pintxos of the day are scribbled on a chalkboard, and everything is made to order. This venue is a good place to visit at the beginning of the night to ensure that you don’t miss out on anything.
At first glance, A Fuego Negro appears to be an old-school beer bar, with movie posters and flashy lights, but upon closer inspection, you’ll find that it’s a master of modern Basque cuisine. Its pintxos offerings include sardines with fresh pineapple and mustard; tomato purée, mussels and béchamel sauce; and a frozen sandwich of corn and chocolate.
One of the most popular pintxos bars in the city, Ganbara is always packed with both visitors and locals. Located in the Casco Viejo or Old Town, Ganbara is the brainchild of Jose and Amaia who wanted to create a restaurant offering quality ingredients and a varied pintxos bar. Try the sautéed mushrooms topped with fried eggs and prawns or the baby squid cooked in its own ink.
Run by the same owner as Borda Berri, La Cuchara de San Telmo, meaning ‘The Spoon of San Telmo’, is different from most pintxos bars. Tables spill out onto the street in front, while the inside offers a cosy atmosphere with changing art exhibitions. Here, the meals in miniature are not laid out on the countertop; instead, you order them from a board on the wall, and they are served to your table. Offerings change daily, but you can expect delicacies such as percebes (goose barnacles), grilled octopus, and ear of an Iberian pig in an emulsion of wild mushrooms.
Paco Bueno is not the place to come for a wide variety of pintxos – while they only have a few of them, they do them well. Nibble on their signature battered scampi on sticks and montaditos – mini sandwiches filled with classic ingredients such as ham, chorizo, goat’s cheese or anchovies. Wash it all down with a glass of their excellent txakoli – dry Basque white wine.
The hallmark of the Old Town Gandarias restaurant is its fantastic pintxos bar, offering a wide array of both hot and cold options. Think bruschetta topped with grilled duck; risotto made with Idiazabal cheese and wild mushrooms; and clams smothered in a salty seafood sauce.
This cute bar and wine shop, with its bare stone walls, has a bright country kitchen-style vibe and serves a variety of traditional pintxos. Their two classic pintxos (and most popular) are Indurain (a cube of bonito fish, pickled chillies, chives and olives) and El Completo (a piece of bonito fish, chilli and anchovy). Bodega Donostiarra is also particularly well known for its delicious tortilla (Spanish omelette) and its extensive wine list.
La Viña serves up both main meals and pintxos in a plush tavern-like interior. Their pintxos offerings may not be extensive but are well worth popping in for a taste. Think croquettes of wild mushroom and ham, cones of cheese and anchovies and crunchy prawns topped with vegetables. While its pintxos are excellent, the restaurant and bar is actually more famous for its creamy baked cheesecake – so make sure you save room for dessert.
This upmarket pintxos bar is actually more jazz and cocktails than rustic bread, cheese and wine, but it’s incredibly popular and offers a modern polished wood interior. Its pintxos too are contemporary and thoughtfully presented – not just on sticks. Try the mini roasted potatoes with three sauces or the cooked ham smothered with cheese and tangy roasted red peppers. Don’t forget to finish up with one of their inventive cocktails with lots of fruity flavours.
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