Restaurants in Barcelona
There are two ways to eat in Barcelona: you can go to a restaurant ( restaurante in Castilian) or cafeterÃƒÂa and have a full meal, or you can have a succession of tapas (small snacks; sometimes tapes in Catalan) or raciones (larger ones; racions in Catalan) at one or more bars. This last option can be a lot more interesting, allowing you to do the rounds and sample local specialities. Otherwise, at the budget end of the scale, you'll be able to get a basic, filling, three-course meal with a drink - a menÃƒÂº del dia - for ?5.50-9, though the cheapest tend to be served in drab dining rooms and are usually available only at lunchtime. There are some excellent exceptions, though, and plenty of proper restaurants also provide a good-value menÃƒÂºdel dia for between ?9 and ?12.
Travellers on an extremely limited budget can do well for themselves by using the excellent markets, bakeries and delis and filling up on sandwiches and snacks.
Good restaurants and cafÃƒÂ©s are easily found all over the city, though you'll probably do most of your eating where you do most of your sightseeing, in the old town, particularly around the Ramblas and in the Barri GÃƒÂ²tic. Don't be afraid to venture into the Barrio Chino which hides some excellent restaurants, some surprisingly expensive, others little more than hole-in-the-wall cafÃƒÂ©s. In the Eixample prices tend to be higher, though you'll find plenty of lunchtime bargains around. GrÃƒÂ cia , further out, is a nice place to spend the evening, with plenty of good mid-range restaurants. For the food which Barcelona is really proud of - elaborate sarsuelas (fish stews) and all kinds of fish and seafood - you're best off in the Barceloneta district (Metro Barceloneta, or bus #64 or #17, final stop), down by the harbour, or in the Port OlÃƒÂmpic (Metro Ciutadella, or bus #41 or #59). Nor should you necessarily eschew local chain or franchise outfits, which can be surprisingly good and sometimes score quite well on ambience and decor.
Note that the Barri GÃƒÂ²tic can be a dangerous place late at night. The tapas bars themselves are all right (watch your possessions; bag-snatchers operate in crowded bars), but take care if you're on a bar crawl - stick to the main streets, don't let anyone lure you up a side street, and only take out the money you're going to spend that night.
The most common restaurants in Barcelona are those serving local Catalan food, though more mainstream Spanish dishes are generally available, too. There are some specialist places, most notably marisquerÃƒÂes ( marisquerias in Castilian), which specialize in fish and seafood, while for places serving grilled meats, look for the sign "Carnes a la brasa", or simply "Grill". There are several regional Spanish restaurants as well, particularly Galician ones, which are nearly always worth investigating, while the fancier places tend towards a refined Catalan-French style of cooking that's as elegant as it is expensive.
The range of international cuisine in Barcelona is expanding, and though not as wide as in other European capitals, if you've been in Catalunya (or other parts of Spain) for any length of time, you may be grateful that there's a choice at all. There are good pizza options, Indian and Pakistani food, North African and Middle Eastern, Latin American and, increasingly, Japanese and Thai. Chinese restaurants abound - festooned with bright plastic dragons - but their dubious and gloopy concoctions should be avoided if you know what authentic Chinese food tastes like.
There is also an ever-growing number of international chain-restaurants such as Pizza Hut , especially around the Port OlÃƒÂmpic and the more touristy areas. The only advantage of these is that they are often open outside of Catalan eating times and are therefore good places to go with children for early suppers.
Spaniards eat very late and opening hours for restaurants in Barcelona are generally 1-4pm and 8-11pm; the listings give the latest available information for each individual restaurant. A lot of restaurants also close on Sundays or Mondays, on public holidays and throughout August - again check the listings for specific details but expect changes since many places imaginatively interpret their own posted opening days and times.
At the trendier and more expensive restaurants, it's recommended that you reserve a table in advance; either ring the number provided, or call in earlier in the day. These restaurants will also add IVA , a seven percent tax, to your bill and it should say on the menu if you have to pay this.
The listings are divided into geographical area, and into price categories, too - inexpensive, moderate and expensive. As a rough guide, you'll get a three-course meal with drinks for:
Inexpensive under ?12 a head
Moderate ?12-24 a head
Expensive ?24 and upwards
But bear in mind that the lunchtime menÃƒÂº del dia often allows you to eat for much less than the price category might lead you to expect; check the listings for details.
If your main criteria are price and quantity, seek out a menjador (dining room; comedor in Castilian), usually found at the back of a bar and, as often as not, unmarked, discovered only if you pass an open door. Essentially workers' cafÃƒÂ©s, they serve meals at lunchtime rather than in the evenings (when they may be closed altogether), and typically you'll pay ?5-7 for a complete meal, including a drink. A possible problem at the budget end of the scale may be the lack of written menu, with the waiter merely reeling off the day's dishes at bewildering speed. The other budget alternative is to eat in a bar or a cafeterÃƒÂa - many are mixtures of the two - where food often comes in the form of a plato combinado ( plat combinat in Catalan) - literally a combined plate - which will be something like egg, steak or chicken and chips, or calamares and salad, usually with bread and sometimes with a drink included. This will generally cost in the region of ?3.50-5.50.