Monday, 4 June 2018

Barcelona: Where to Eat & Frolic

Flash Flash
I took the train to Barcelona recently. I lived there for a year and a half but this was the best time I had in the crowded seaside city. There were so many great moments...a spontaneous trip to the beach with an enchanting Catalan girl and a beautiful Argentinean, who promptly removed all her clothes as soon as we sat by the water. We swam in the sea and then lounged in our underwear, feeling the sand on our legs and the sun warming our skin. 

Then we visited my friend the artist Monstruo Espagueti. She gave me a portrait she had drawn of me and I brought her guacamole atop homemade tortilla chips with a slice of lime.

That night my friend Vir, a pixie from Buenos Aires, and I visited a friend who was djing at Olgod, a bar that served Beertails. Hold on, they were surprisingly delicious! A beer mojito is just right when your liver is screaming at you for staying out until dawn at Primavera Sound the night before. We walked a few minutes until we came to a small club where an English friend was djing Italodisco. We danced and talked to a fascinating Tango guitarist. Between the loud music and his accent, everything he said sounded like leaves rustling in the wind but somehow I understood what he meant.

The rest of the weekend I poked around record stores, ate vegan schwarma, wandered around the Gothic quarter in the moonlight, and saw as many friends as possible.

In hopes that you'll have an equally exciting time, here's my guide to Barcelona:

The Design Museum

1. Casa Lolea, in El Borne. A delicious tapas restaurant. Order the melty truffle risotto, the light patatas bravas, and the crispy pan de crystal. Actually, everything here is fantastic. Make a reservation.

2. Bormuth, in El Borne. Another great, and cheap, tapas restaurant, for carnivores and vegetarians. The potatoes "mojo picon" are unforgettable and the fried aubergine with honey is also tasty. To try a Catalan specialty, order the spinach with pine nuts. Try the vermut too - ask for "el siphon" if it's too intense.

3. El Vaso de Oro, in Barceloneta. This is an old school authentic bar with a few tables and sassy waiters. Order fried artichokes and fuet (Catalan sausage) and pâté. There aren't many veggie options. This bar is best for a snack or beers.

4. Sesamo, in Sant Antoni. This is a low-key vegetarian tapas restaurant that's only open for dinner. Try the roast cauliflower dish, the gnocchi with beet and cheese sauce, and the gazpacho. Only open after 7 pm.

5. Sensi Tapas Mezzanine, in Gothic quarter. Open late, good for big groups. Order the truffle ravioli, and the zucchini and goat cheese tempura. They also have a tiny paella if you just want a few bites of the famous dish.

6. Flash Flash, in Eixample/ Gracia. A groovy tortilla restaurant with excellent croquettes. It's the most lively at lunchtime.

7. Can Mano, Jaica, and Bitacora, all close by in Barceloneta. The first two are classic, inexpensive tapas places specializing in seafood and meat dishes. Bitacora is a little neighborhood restaurant that has amazing patatas bravas and a few vegetarian options. Bar Fanny, on the corner, has the same kitchen as Bitacora.

8. Pizza Circus, in Raval. Take-out, cheap and fantastic New York-style pizza by the slice. The one on Nou de la Rambla street is the best.  Another quick, cheap dinner option: Muns empanadas, in Raval and Poblenou. The best empanadas in town.

9. Hummus Barcelona, in Eixample. Try the energizing vegan schwarma with creamy hummus and a hard-boiled egg, especially if you're low on sleep. The best time to go is weekdays for the menu del dia. 


10. Caravelle, in Raval. They have the best Eggs Benedict and great coffee. Get there early or there's a long line.

11. Federal, a brunch spot in the Gothic quarter. There's one in Sant Antoni too but the one in Gothic is less crowded. They have a hangover-curing dish called shakshuka, which is delicious.

12. Satan's Coffee Corner, in the Gothic quarter. Excellent coffee, healthy breakfasts.

SWEETS: Gelaaati in Gothic has the most original ice cream, Rocambolesc in Raval has the best soft ice cream with creative toppings like cotton candy, and La Colmena in Gothic has the tastiest meringues. Make sure to get the tall ones in foil. I like chocolate or lemon.

A bar in Poble Sec

1. Bar Olimpic, in Raval. This whole street (Joaquin Costa) is filled with bars. Olimpic is small and charming with cheap cocktails.

2. Foxy, in Raval/ Sant Antoni. Fun atmosphere, reasonable cocktails and fresh piña coladas.

3. Bar Marsella, in Raval. Hemingway used to drink at this absinth joint. It's kind of touristy now but still attracts interesting people and you might run into someone you know here. I usually do.

4. Madame Jasmine, in Raval. A hip gay/ mixed bar with outdoor seating.

5. Ølgod , in Raval, craft beer bar with beertails. Brooklyn vibes.

There are lots of bars in Raval, Sant Antoni, Bogatell, and if you want a mellower scene, there's Gracia and Poble Sec. There are plenty of clubs too. The most decadent/ art + disco night is Glove Party.


See Gaudi's fantastical architecture. To visit Gaudi's masterpiece the Sagrada Familia you have to book online in advance. Only go to Park Guell on a sunny day to enjoy the full view. Casa Battlo and La Pedrera are two semi-psychedelic residences located in Eixample. If you're short on time or money just visit the Palau Guell in Raval.

Swim in the Mediterranean. The best beaches are outside the city so hop on a train at Sants or at Arc de Triomf train station (not metro) and get off at Montgat (R1 to Matadero), or if you have more time take the R1 (direction: Blanes) to Sant Pol de Mar, which is 96 minutes away.

Shopping: Pepa Paper has good-looking notebooks (Consell de Cent, 276. Eixample). Regia has fantastic perfumes and colognes (Passeig de Gracia, 39. Eixample) and Farmacia del Palau has less expensive perfumes (Ramblas, 118). Get handmade espadrilles at La Manual Alpargatera (Calle d'Avinyo, 7. Gothic). Buy wine and Espolon tequila (it's not Spanish but it's hard to find in Europe and will enhance your trip) at Vins i licors Vilanova (Placa del Pedro, 7. Raval). Get gifts at Fantastik (Carrer de Joaquin Costa, 62.) La Central has a vast selection of books.
If you like people watching and collecting things check out Palo Alto market (mostly gigs and food) or Lost & Found market (vintage stuff and records).

Art Museums: The CCCB, the Design Museum and Macba are the best.

ADVICE - Barcelona is one of the pickpocket capitals of the world; always keep your hand on your pocket or bag. Leave your passport and valuables where you're staying- just keep a photo of the picture page on your phone. Always keep your iphone out of sight as much as possible; don't leave it on the table at a cafe or talk on it for long late at night. Also, at bars and restaurants keep your bag in your lap not under the table or on a chair. Avoid the smaller streets of Raval after midnight if you're by yourself. Culturally - be aware that locals generally consider themselves part of Cataluña, not part of Spain. This is a hot political issue. If you learn some basic words in Catalan people will appreciate it. Diverteix-te!


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