I have been to Spain but never tried Tapas. I have read Rick's Barcelona book and wondering if I should take a tapas tour or just venture out and try it on my own. I will be on my own the first night so thinking (my friends are Muslim, thus they have stricter eating habits) that this would be the best time to do it. It seems confusing though. Any suggestions?
We had been to spain on numerous trips and always were trying tapas, but then we decided to try a "tour" (in madrid) just to try the experience. We had a great time meeting people, learning about the history of the food and informally learning more about Madrid and Spain. So I recommend taking a tour, especially since you will be on your own that night.
Tapas is just small plates and/or bar food. There isn't anything secret about it. Just show up at a bar and point to what you want to try in the case. Some places do have menus which can also help. The nice thing about tapas is that you can usually see the item before picking it (if it's in the case). And if you pick wrong, it's a small plate and not expensive so you just don't finish it.
In Barcelona, one of my favorite places for tapas is at La Tramola, just a block off Placa Catalunya in the Eixample. It is a bigger place where you can sit down for a meal or sit at the long bar and just point to all the items you want to try (a few things are made hot and fresh and therefore not in the case).
A few suggestions:
Pan con tomate (tomato bread) is really common and super delicious.
Pimientos de padron are little green peppers pan fried with salt and oil until they are shriveled and really tasty. But they can be hot.
Patatas bravas is a common potato side dish that comes with a spicy tomato-based sauce and mayo for dipping.
Shrimp is a common ingredient, whether cold or hot.
Jamon Serrano is the prosciutto-like ham that is common.
I'm not sure how your Muslim friends will fare with tapas. The most common items are pork. I believe the Halal rules are that food has to be cooked without contacting pork, pork products or other items that aren't acceptable for Muslims. I never saw any tapas place that seemed concerned about sticking to either Kosher or Halal rules. I'd try googling it to see if you can find some places that cater to Muslim dietary restrictions, I don't think I'd try just walking around and trying places.
For your first night the only place I really liked was something that likely translates to Champagne, it's called El Xampanyet:
Carrer de Montcada, 22 08003 Barcelona Spain
+34 933 19 70 03
I wasn't pleased with travel guide recommendations, they are all chains (like recommending KFC). El Xampanyet was the only place that felt authentic and local. Along the Ramblas I found lots of good tapas but they were primarily upscale bars and pricey.
Thanks all. Maybe I will take tour but for 90 Euro seems expensive to eat.
Thanks all. Maybe I will take tour but for 90 Euro seems expensive to eat.
Some favourite eating places ...
Inventive in el Born near Picasso Museum
Tapeo, anem de tapes (Carrer de Montcada, 29)
Traditional tapas in Eixample
Cerverceria Catalana (Carrer de Mallorca, 236)
Great value lunch menu in Gothic Quarter
Cafe De L'Academia (Placa St Just, Carrer dels Lledo, 1)
Tkanks too all. Sho I will check them out as my apartment is is the gothic neighborhood.
Sounds like you are looking at the Food Lovers Tapas Tour? If so, since you will be by yourself on the first night, I would recommend going on this tour.
My husband and I signed up for it in March, and we were very, very pleased. You will be with a group of other people (and we had 6 singles, who were traveling by themselves on our tour). It is fun to experience the evening with others, and conversation with other well-traveled people who love food is always fun.
The food covered a wide variety, seafood, beef, cheese, vegetables, pork, etc. Two pub type restaurants (filled with locals), then a more restaurant environment for the last stop, which included a FULL dinner with dessert. You will NOT go away hungry; in fact, you will have to work really hard to pace the eating and not completely over eat!!
Check out Food Lovers Tapas Tour on Trip Advisor.....you will see photos typical of the various tour groups and lots of the various dishes that will be sampled (although we had lots of items/dishes that do not appear on the web site).
Worth the $90 for a full, long, fun evening that is totally all-inclusive and lots of fun-loving people with them to enjoy the guided experience.
If you go, let us know if you enjoy it as much as we did.
Personally I don't see the value in paying so much for a 'food tour'. It so many places you can sit at the bar and ask questions while ordering/eating. Plus it's very easy to eat well for around $40-50. All for the sake of a little reading/research.
First, oh how we love Australia, even though we were there for just a short period of time.
Re: not seeing the 'value' of a food tour. Gosh......absolutely, one can do it on their own and 'maybe' save some money. But it is the 'experience' that adds the extra cost, having an entertaining and interesting guide, having the 'ease' of finding the places and going as a small group (especially on one's first night in a city before they are a bit familiar with finding their way around), and to enjoy the company of other interesting/fun travelers. That's what added the value for us. And, there is something about having large platters of food brought to the table, platter after platter, passing and sharing, discussing, and enjoying that makes for a very, very memorable evening.
But, oh yes, one can just do advance research, talking with hotel staff, and try tapas by himself/herself, if they are the kind that want to walk into various places by themselves and are either happy sitting by themselves or are outgoing and might find the chance to strike up a conversation with staff/fellow patrons, then 'force' themselves to go visit the next place.
I am a very frugal person, but there are times that even I will spent a little extra for special times in life. After all, when it is all said and done, and when we are in our final moments of life, all we will have left is our memories (which are often created from the choices we make). We chose to make our trip to Spain in the 'shoulder season' (for better value on hotels/hardly any crowds), so we splurged by staying at nicer hotels (on shoulder season rates) and by having a few nicer experiences.
For the particular tapas tour we enjoyed, if we were to go to the exact same places and order individually (as a couple) the exact same food, the exact same drinks, we easily would have spent the exact same amount. The 'food value' really was there.
The evening before we went to a local tapas place that the young man at The Alma (hotel) had recommended, and it was very nice (attracted many tourists in addition to some locals), we had a very long wait, but the food was good and we were pleased. But, we did not have the chance to try 20 different dishes, in addition to different olives/cheeses/wines/other adult beverages that evening. We ordered and split maybe 5 different things and one glass of wine each. Both experiences were nice, but both much different. The tapas tour definitely was the richer, more educational experience. And as we walked into each 'packed' pubs/restaurant , there was our table all reserved and waiting for our group, with excellent prompt service. Advantages sometimes to being with someone who is known and has the connections. And, as the guide told us when I asked how the places were selected (because they vary them), they know when a chef might have the night off, when a place is booked with a huge large group (that might take up a lot of space), and they know what seasonal dishes will be served.
But, only Steve will know what is right for him. Only you know what is right for you. This was right for us, on that particular night, in that particular city, for what we wanted to experience.....and oh the sweet memories!!
I absolutely agree Margaret, when your guide enhances the experience with personality and warmth its definitely worth every dollar. Unfortunately you can't be guaranteed that, so I would make sure I chose well. You paint a wonderful picture, and besides having the same name as my mother, you sound like my kind of traveller.