After a year living in the Catalan capital, I finally feel confident enough, and have tried enough places, to publish a compilation of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona. The list favors the hole-in-the-wall rather than the Michelin star type of joints, since these are the places I actually went to and ate at on my English-teaching dime. Plus, we all know that hole-in-the-walls are usually better anyway.
The actual best place to eat in Barcelona was my flat, where my roommate spent far too much time practicing recipes to one day make it onto Master Chef. But since I doubt she’d appreciate a hoard of strangers showing up, I’ll direct you to the following brick-and-mortar establishments:
My Favorite Restaurants in Barcelona
Mosquito (Asian Fusion $$)
Tied as one of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona, this place combines everything I love: small portions to share, Asian cuisine, and cozy ambiance. They also have a big selection of craft beer, which doesn’t hurt. The dumplings (oh the dumplings!) and fried duck are my absolute favorites, but really, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Their sister restaurant, Red Ant, is also delicious and is right down the street, with a focus on noodles and larger plates. Mosquito is always crackin’ and you may have to hang around a while for a table, so it’s best to make reservations, but regardless, it’s worth the wait. Bonus: Their lunch menu has dumpling soup. Be still my heart.
Mosquito. Neighborhood: El Born, C/ Carders 46
Arepamundi (Venezuelan/Colombian $)
The most hole of all the holes in the wall, Arepamundi has one table and standing room for about four people. Doesn’t matter; eat this food while sitting in a gutter and you won’t even care. It’s tied with Mosquito as my favorite restaurant in Barcelona. Arepas originated in Colombia and Venezuela, and are like corn versions of English muffins. What I love so much about Arepamundi is that the menu features global arepas, stuffing the corn patties with ingredients typical of each country. For example, the “Catalan” arepa has fuet (cured meat) and Spanish cheese; the “Greek” arepa has feta, cucumber and tomato; “Italian” has tomato, pesto, and mozzarella, and so on. Get the “Dominican” and thank me later; you’ll be dreaming of that braised beef for days. Small arepas (about the size of a coffee coaster) are just 2.50 euros and large are 4. They also have fresh tropical fruit juices.
Arepamundi. Neighborhood: Barri Gòtic, C/ N’Agla, 6
El Jardi (Catalan $$$)
This tiny, intimate restaurant is located in the courtyard of the old hospital on Carrer Hospital. It’s all outdoor seating, which is totally fine for Barcelona since it’s heavenly weather about 99% of the time. There are about 10 tables so go early to snag one. The place is so tiny that there’s barely a kitchen, so the menu consists of mostly typical, simple-ish tapas. I wouldn’t rave about the food beyond anywhere else I’ve eaten, but the ambiance is unbeatable. There are tables with candles pushed up against a stone wall; hanging christmas lights; and you’re surrounded by a garden (hence the name, jardi means ‘garden’ in Catalan). All this, combined with any number of Spanish wines they serve, will make you fall instantly for whichever mastermind brings you on a date here.
El Jardi. Neighborhood: El Raval, C/ de L’Hospital 56
La Parra (Spanish $)
This place is a no-frills, unpretentious, tavern-esque tapas restaurant. The interior is typical of the “old man bars” that Spain has such an affinity for, where the general attitude is, “We don’t give a FU%& how we furnish our restaurant, we’re just in it for the food.” And you know, maybe they’re right. You don’t come here for the ambiance, you come here for the damn good tapas and even better prices. A heaping plate of patatas bravas (thick cut potatoes with spicy sauce) for 2.75? I dare you to match that price anywhere else in the city center. Their cañas (small beers) are just a euro as well. Try the calamares a la plancha (grilled calamari)—possibly the best I’ve had, and I order it everywhere I go—the pimientos de Padrón (fried Padrón peppers), and their hot sandwiches.
Bar La Parra. Neighborhood: El Raval, C/ Joaquín Costa, 48
Chun and Yoshino (Japanese $$)
Both these places are Japanese all-you-can-eat buffets, where the food is really good at a great pricepoint (around 12 euros for lunch, 15 for dinner). They have a menu where you order any and all dishes that you like, and can order up to three times (possibly more, I never had to test the theory). They have all sorts of sushi rolls as well as other typical Japanese dishes like gyoza, edamame, tempura, etc. I think I liked the sushi a bit better at Yoshibo but the side dishes a bit better at Chun, so it’s a toss-up. Is this the best Japanese food you’ll ever have? Probably not, since you’re in SPAIN, after all, but it totally satisfies the sushi craving, and best of all, the rolls just keep coming.
Chun. Neighborhood: L’Eixample Esquerra, C/ Buenos Aires, 12
Yoshino. Neighborhood: L’Eixample Esquerra C/ Mallorca, 90
Bo de B. (Sandwiches/Middle Eastern $)
Hands down the best sandwich I ever had in Barcelona, or in all of Spain, for that matter. Crap, maybe the world. Spaniards tend to think of “bocadillos,” or sandwiches, very simply as bread, cheese, and meat. There’s not a whole lot of creativity in the execution. But Bo de B is Mediterranean/Middle Eastern, and they finally add some life into the Spain sandwich scene. First off, they start with fresh bread right out of the oven, which is quite frankly the best bread I had anywhere in the city. They should open up a panadería on the side. You choose what kind of meat you want and they grill it up in front of you as well. Then you point to any number of toppings to add, and things get crazy: your typical lettuce and tomatoes, sure, but also corn, lentils, rice, peppers, olives. On a sandwich! Then they have four different sauces to douse on, and the whole thing rings in at around 3.50–4 euros for a truly gargantuan hunk of a sandwich. The secret’s out on this place, though, and there’s always a line out the door around lunchtime. You can also order salads and Middle Eastern plates, but most people take away a sandwich and then eat it on the waterfront, since it’s close to the port.
Bo de B. Neighborhood: Barri Gòtic, C/ la Fusteria, 14
El Xampanyet (Catalan $$)
I’d been living in Barcelona for 9 months already before my friend Anne (of blogging fame) came to visit and introduced me to El Xampanyet. Anne studied abroad in Barcelona ten years ago and pestered me every day of my stay there, “When are you going to give El Xampanyet a try?!” So we went when she visited in April, and it did not disappoint. It’s essentially a cava bar (cava is Catalan sparkling white wine), where an entire liter of the house stuff is just 7 euros. Recipe for a good night. And the tapas are wonderful too—we had some amazing white sausage and chickpeas (butifarra blanca con garbanzos); cheese with truffles; mini red peppers stuffed with cheese; grilled calamari; and pa amb tomáquet, or typical tomato bread. It’s a total institution in Barcelona, and relatively cheap. The place fills up, though, so be open to dining on your feet!
El Xampanyet. Neighborhood: El Born, C/ Montcada, 22
Bun Bo (Vietnamese $$)
I’ve never traveled to Asia so I’m no expert, but I can get a pretty good bowl of pho in San Francisco. Normally Spain’s ethnic cuisine simply falls short, probably because of Spaniards’ strong aversion to spice, but this Vietnamese restaurant is putting up a very solid fight. The pho is rich and flavorful, as were the chicken lettuce cups, spring rolls, and curry. Basically everything I tasted, I loved. Is it the most authentic Vietnamese cuisine? Probably not, but who needs authenticity when the flavors are that good. Bonus: Margaritas and mojitos for 3.50! There are two locations, one in the Raval and one in the Gothic quarter.
Bun bo. El Raval location: C/ dels Àngels, 6. Barri Gòtic location: C/ Sagristans, 3
L’Anxoveta (Catalan $$)
If you’re willing to haul ass up to Gracia, this place is a must. I had the best bomba (a sort of fried meat-and-potato ball) of my entire year here, but they do all typical Catalan tapas well. It’s also a charming little neighborhood restaurant, and it’s run by the cutest Catalan couple with the biggest passion for food you’ve ever seen.
L’Anxoveta. Neighborhood: Gracia, Sant Domènec, 14
Blai Tonight (Basque $)
I might get murdered by serious Barcelona foodies for even mentioning this place, since there’s a heated quality-quantity debate going on. On Carrer Blai, a major pedestrian promenade in the neighborhood of Poble Sec, you can find a number of pincho bars offering pinchos for one euro a pop. (Pinchos are small bites of food served on bread, held together with a toothpick, which are originally from Basque Country in Northern Spain.) Naturally, many young (and broke!) people love this as it’s cheap and a fun concept—you just go to the bar, grab the pinchos you want, ask the waiter to heat them up for you, and pay by the toothpick. If you’re looking for the finest quality Basque pinchos place in Barcelona, Blai Tonight isn’t it. But it does have a really relaxed and fun vibe, a massive selection of some really huge, juicy pinchos, and a young and lively crowd. And at 1 euro a pincho, you won’t have to restrain yourself, like you may at the bars in the center that charge twice that much. I’m a Blai Tonight fan—I don’t care what the haters say!
Blai Tonight. Neighborhood: Poble Sec, C/ Blai, 23-25
Exploring all of Barcelona’s food scene would take a lifetime, but to get a more extensive list of great eats around the city, as well as tips about Catalan cuisine and culture, check out the Devour Barcelona Food Tours blog. Also consider doing an informative, fun and downright delicious food tour with them through the neighborhood of Gracia. (Here’s my opinion of the tour!)
Happy eating, and stay tuned for my upcoming list of my favorite gluten free places in Barcelona!