EAT LIKE A LOCAL

5 Secret Restaurants in Barcelona

We spotlight tapas bars—each in a neighborhood you’ll want to visit anyway—that are the rare local secret.

La Plata

A classic afternoon at La Plata, a 65-year-old restaurant in Barri Gòtic.

(Galilea Nin)

Beautiful and crazy as it is, Barcelona really is a city you can swallow in small bites. That's true in the most literal sense when you consider its loud and lively tapas bars, which range from rustic spots with sawdusty floors to clean-lined spaces starring globally trained chefs. The bars themselves offer their own tasting menu to the city. More casual than sit-down restaurants, they embody the mashed-up nature of Barcelona's culture. They're trendy yet traditional, Spanish and Catalan, guarded but gregarious. Pull up a stool in your average tapas bar and you're likely to find yourself between a punky teenager and an octogenarian in tweed. And the food: aioli-drenched fried potatoes, ultra-fresh cod, extra-large goose eggs. It's all so good, you'll find yourself thinking one thing: Where next?

ELS TRES PORQUETS — Poblenou

With its chalkboard menu and upright barrels that serve as tables, Els Tres Porquets comes off as just one more classic tapas bar. But the black-and-white tiled space has a surprising take on standard fare; fresh mushrooms, goose eggs, tomatoes, and strawberries are on rotating display, depending on the season. The trio behind Els Tres Porquets clearly adore food—whether it's cured ham from Extremadura or the season's first peaches—and their enthusiasm is contagious. Young, dark-haired Xavi Jovells, whose parents also own a restaurant nearby in the Poblenou neighborhood, has been known to march up to customers and offer them prized bites, such as the first slices of a fragrant jamón iberico. Chef Daniel Chavez, who trained at restaurants in New York City and Paris, has a knack for putting a global spin on traditional Catalan dishes, a talent that appeals to the predominantly younger audience drawn to Els Tres Porquets, whose name means "the Three Little Pigs" in Catalan. Sure, the menu has familiar dishes like tuna belly, but instead of being preserved, Els Tres Porquets' version comes fresh and in a flavorful sauce made of honey, soy sauce, and ginger. You've never tasted anything like it. Rambla del Poblenou, 165, 011-34/93-300-8750, open Mon.-–Sat. noon to midnight. Closed Sundays.

BEST DISH Revuelto de setas. Galician potatoes, extra-large goose eggs, morels, and a local mushroom called rossinyol are cooked in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt for a hearty, soulful rendition of scrambled eggs. $22.

NEIGHBORHOOD 101 This traditionally industrial, working-class neighborhood, about a 30-minute train ride from the city center, languished in obscurity until a few years ago. These days, artists are converting warehouses into lofts and galleries, and the neighborhood has begun to welcome cutting-edge musical acts. Rambla del Poblenou, the broad, pedestrian artery, has a handful of sidewalk cafés and leads directly to the beach. Get there Take Metro Line 4 (yellow line) from Plaça Catalunya to Poblenou, about 30 minutes.


BAR MUTEixample

A new crop of upscale tapas bars has popped up in recent years, many of them concentrated in the elegant, leafy Eixample district. Five-year-old Bar Mut, just off the bustling Avinguda Diagonal, leads the pack with an airy, brasserie-like space that's as lovely in the afternoon, when it's flooded with sunlight, as it is at midnight, when couples nudge closer together and the sous chef starts packing up for the night. A favorite among Barcelona's acclaimed chefs, Bar Mut's menu includes many small plates typical of the region, but 33-year-old chef Albert Mendiola also serves seasonal specialties. Mendiola likes to experiment with unusual combinations, like a stack of crisp potato gallettes layered with roasted artichoke puree and sea urchin. There's an exposed prep kitchen in the bar itself, but Mendiola is usually at work in the larger basement-level kitchen, directing his three-person team or adding the finishing touches to plates that are as beautifully composed as they are delicious. The lofty ceiling and wine-bottle-lined walls make a charming backdrop for crowd-pleasers such as steamed cockles with olive oil and chives, or braised oxtail with mashed potatoes. The clientele consists mostly of arty Barcelonans, but travelers have started to take note, too, which means that snagging a seat during prime hours can be tricky. Make sure to explore the impressive wine-by-the-glass list (most cost about $5), which in addition to expected Spanish whites and reds includes rarer options from Italy and France. Carrer de Pau Claris, 192, 011-34/93-217-4338, open Mon.-–Sat. 12:30 p.m. to midnight and Sun. 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. to midnight.

Photo Tour: Barcelona Food

1105_Barcelona_Palmira

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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