I fell in love with Barcelona on my first visit there several years ago. The sights, eats, architecture, beaches, museums, parks and people all completely blew my mind. I couldn't get back soon enough so I booked a return trip last November and had yet another epic adventure. Here are some of the food highlights from both visits:
Smoothie bar or afternoon cocktails on the beach in Barceloneta. I loved stopping here for a juice during my morning runs along the harbor/ beach path in Barceloneta. Also seems like a great stop for a post beach cocktail on a sunny day.
Amazing, albeit very popular tapas spot. Located in the El Born neighborhood, this place is always hopping. Grab some cava and try to snag one of the several tables in the back of the bustling local hang. Order the grilled prawns and some jamon. Trust me.
Quimet and Quimet
This was an Anthony Bourdain approved spot and it didn't disappoint. Located in the El Pole Sec neighborhood, Quimet and Quimet is best known for their Conservas or foods that are preserved through canning, jarring or other methods which are displayed on the shelves. Another very popular locals spot.
La Cova Fumada
Probably my favorite off all the tapas spots, this little hole in the wall is located in Barceloneta and oozes charm. La Cova is best known for the Bomba, aka small balls of mashed potatoes stuffed with pork and rolled in breadcrumbs and egg and finally deep fried in olive oil. Their langostino and large squid are not to be missed either. Probably one of our cheapest meals of all to boot.
In the Boqueria Market
It doesn't matter what time you hit this ever packed spot in the heart of the Boqueria, you are going to have a wait. And it is beyond worth it. Squid and eggs is the house specialty but I don't think you can order anything bad here. The mushrooms and eggs were pretty off the charts too. Another one of my all time favorites.
Of equal popularity as El Quim is Pinotxo Bar. There is no written menu so the staff will make suggestions. The chickpeas sauteed with botifarra (Catalan white sausage), cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves cannot be missed. The omelet with shrimp was divine as was the oxtail. The owner, who it appears is well into his 80's and dresses as Pinotxo's father (Pinocchio to non-Spaniards), still servers up drinks daily. This was a total highlight.
Bodega La Puntual
Since Cal Pep was closed as it is on Sunday nights (Cal pep being one of the most popular tapas spots in Barca and a sister restaurant to la Puntual) my local friend suggested we pop into La Puntual for some truffled mortadella and cava. It's in the heart of El Born close to the Picasso museum. Go for a snack before dinner or make it part of your tapas crawl.
Introduced to me by my local friend, this was a total hit. It's pretty commonplace in Barca for restaurants to not have menus but rather have a staff member discuss your food proclivities and marry them with their nightly specials. This is not light tapas fare but rather three full courses. I attached above a photo of the coup de grace of the night, filet mignon covered in Fois gras. In the Eixample neighborhood, it's small and charming and a makes for the perfect date night.
This was one of the toughest reservations I've ever made; book two months in advance at midnight Spanish time (3p in LA). It's totally worth the hassle and it will leave you with some of the most incredible food memories of your life. This is Albert Adria's "haute carnival" enterprise and it is so much fun. They even still serve up the infamous spherical olives ala' El Bulli. Go for the tasting menu with wine pairings, It's really pretty affordable compared to some of the tasting menus of Paris, LA, NYC, etc. This may be my favorite dining experience of my life.
Best rooftop bar in the city right on Las Ramblas. Grab a gin and tonic and enjoy city views whilst a local DJ spins some rad tunes.
Right on Las Ramblas close to the Boqueria Market. Owned by one of the top pastry chefs in Barcelona. If you're in the mood for something sweet, head to La Escriba for some of the best treats in the city. Great coffee as well.