164 Avinguda Parallel
Tel: 34 93 292 4254
A snackería from the Adrià brothers Ferran and Albert, 41° has been drawing a crowd of curious locals and eager tourists to the unfashionable neighborhood of Poble Sec since it opened in early 2011. First and foremost, it's a cocktail bar, featuring a sophisticated velvety interior, diamante-encrusted wall art, and jazzy background music. The cocktails are creative enough (non-oxidized water makes the ice last longer, and the humble sangria is presented in a martini glass) but it is the bar "snacks" that highlight the Adriàs' signature wackiness (and account for the venue's appearance here rather than in Concierge.com's nightlife section). Try the black currant and yogurt profiteroles, spherified olives, and seaweed and quinoa crisps, and you'll never consider nuts worthy cocktail nibbles again. Next door, the more colorful and casual Tickets Bar—also from the Adriàs—serves both traditional and creative tapas. Reservations essential.—Suzanne Wales
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 6 pm to 2 am (last food service, 11 pm).
ABaC Restaurant & Hotel
1 Avenida Tibidabo
Tel: 34 93 319 6600
Michelin-starred chef Jordi Cruz is one of the talented young guns of new Catalan cuisine. His latest restaurant, on the threshold of the Tibidabo neighborhood, is set in an elegant turn-of-the-century mansion that also houses the city's first gastro-hotel. The restaurant, a hushed and expensive affair, is located in a modernist, natural wood–clad annex in a garden where guests can partake of Cruz's singular cuisine: Options may include pigeon stuffed with foie gras and porcini mushrooms, milk-fed lamb infused with vanilla, and eel with Iberian ham ravioli. It's also possible to observe Cruz at work by entering his gleaming, steel state-of-the-art kitchen via a special walkway that connects the kitchen to the hotel's ground floor (be warned, waiters use this ramp, too).—Suzanne Wales
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1:30 to 4 pm and 8:30 to 11 pm.
9 Carrer Comercial
Tel: 34 93 268 1728
Run by a family of fishmongers and tucked away behind the Mercat del Born (an old market currently being converted into a cultural center), Big Fish has quickly become the brightest of Barcelona's large school of fish restaurants. The eye-popping decor by local interiorista hotshot Lázaro Rosa-Violán has honky-tonk airs and New Orleans raw bar inspiration, with aged leather sofas, old ship lanterns, flea market tables, and a shell chandelier cascading from the ceiling. Many diners come for the sushi alone, which is prepared from an open bar. But the menu (about 20 dishes and a few daily specials) presents a number of time-tested seafood dishes, from ceviche to tuna tartare and the sort of grilled whole fish the Mediterranean is famous for. If evening sittings are booked, reserve a table for lunch (where the menu del día is great value) or try the smaller sister Big Fish situated uptown in Sant Gervasi (30 Carrer Amigó, 34-93-218-3000).—Suzanne Wales
Open daily 1:30 to 3:45 pm and 8:30 to 11:45 pm.
8 Plaça de les Olles
Tel: 34 93 310 7961
There's probably no better way to see how impassioned the Catalans have become about eating than to queue for a seat at the pink granite counter at chef Pep Manubens's catch-of-the-day tapas seafooder (the communal groove of the counter is more fun than the quieter dining room). Originally nothing more than a Frankfurt (the local word for sausage stall) on the corner of a quiet square near Santa Maria del Mar, Cal Pep has evolved into a fascinating restaurant. But don't come expecting refinement—this place is relaxed, as in paper place mats and culinary commotion in the open kitchen behind the bar. Depending on the season and markets, you'll feast on clams with parsley, pinkie-sized fried sardines, squid with onion and tomato, potently flavored crimson shrimp from Palamós, baby octopus, or deep-fried Andalusian-style (breaded and fried) cuttlefish. Service is unfailingly good-natured despite the crowds of foodies, locals, and tourists.
23 Carrer de l'Almirall Aixada
Tel: 34 93 221 54 55
When asked where to get good paella in Barcelona, many locals answer simply: Valencia. But this Barceloneta beachfront classic with a nautical-inspired interior and picket-fenced terrace is the exceptionpaellas here come with proper socorrat (caramelized bottom crust). There are also boat-fresh fish and seafood dishes such as whole sea bream baked in a crust of salt; tender, purple-rimmed clams, and sweet, grilled navajas (razor clams). And it's one of the few places where more unusual local delicacies such as delicate espardenyes (sea cucumbers) and pink-tinged percebes (goose barnacles) can be sampled.
Closed for dinner Sundays and Mondays.
48 Carrer de Casp
Tel: 34 93 412 4012
When the world thinks of Barcelona, it sees Gaudí, the talented, spectacularly eccentric native-son architect who worked here during the 19th century. Most of his buildings are show-off—incredible exteriors and conventional interiors—but the Gaudí-designed building in the Eixample that houses Casa Calvet is the exception to the rule: There's stunning cabinetry and stained glass. Chef Miguel Alija's modern Mediterranean menu changes regularly, but you might find foie gras accompanied with Modena balsamic jelly, a medley of squid, prawns, and artichokes in squid in sauce and a Muscat-spiked lamb. Finish up with the superb mango tartin with Szechuan pepper ice cream. If you aren't familiar with the Catalan wines offered, ask—the waiters are charmers, and most speak English. Jackets aren't required, but the vibe is still pretty buttoned-up.
24 Carrer del Comerç
Tel: 34 93 319 2102
Chef Carles Abellan's pedigree (nine years of training under Ferran Adrià) shows up in his witty food, most of it served in tapas-sized portions as part of the ten-course tasting menu. His restaurant has a moody industrial chic that echoes the hip attitude of the El Born district—steel girders expose the ribs of the building, wines are stocked on open gunmetal shelves, and stone-gray runners are the austere ornamentation on ebony-stained tables. This somber backdrop is actually perfect for the antic liveliness of the dishes, such as rice crisps with tart olive foam; macadamia nuts glazed in real gold dust; pudding-soft tuna tartare with salmon roe; black rice slashed with green parsley aïoli; and curry-scented banana soup. And Abellan's "Kinder Egg" (an eggshell filled with truffles, potatoes, and a three-minute egg) is now nearly as famous as his mentor's trademark foams. Don't show up with your heart set on any of these dishes, however, since the menu changes constantly. TapaÇ24 is Abellan's more traditional tapas joint farther uptown (269 Carre de la Diputació 269; 34-93-488-0799).
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
20 Passatge Marimon
Tel: 34 93 200 75 32
The blank canvas of Coure's surroundings cedes center stage to chef Albert Ventura's exceptionally good—and unexpectedly seductive—combinations at this overlit restaurant just off the Avenida Diagonal in the Eixample. He slices slow-cooked, meltingly tender pig trotters wafer thin, adds fresh oysters, and brings them together in a musky cèpe vinaigrette that accentuates both the richness of the trotter and the ozone qualities of the oysters. For dessert, ice-cream cannelloni is redolent of Caribbean cocktails, perfumed by an infusion of pineapple and eucalyptus oil. The initial buzz of Coure's mid-2005 opening has quieted, but the all-ages see-and-be-seen crowd still find young chef Ventura to be full of promise.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1:30 to 3:30 pm and 9:30 to 11:30 pm.
304 Carrer Mallorca
Tel: 34 93 458 0855
Embat, a pioneer of Barcelona's bistromanía trend, is proof that it's still possible to dine well in Barcelona for under €30 (around $40). Located in central Barcelona just off Avinguda Diagonal, Embat has faded, toast-colored wall tiles and a zinc bar that hark back to an old-school eatery; the clientele, at least at midday, is largely made up of older locals with time to lunch properly. The small menu (about five choices each for starters and entrées) changes weekly, depending on what's in the markets, but we especially like the creamy lasagna made with black sausage and goat cheese, local white beans with cabbage and partridge, or the entrecôte on a layer of mustard sauce and lletons (sweetbreads). At €12, the steak is the most expensive dish on the menu, and although prices rise slightly for dinner, Embat is as easy on the wallet as it is on the stomach. Reservations advised for lunch and dinner.
Open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 1 to 3:30 pm, Thursdays and Fridays 1 to 3:30 and 9 to 11 pm, and Saturdays 2 to 3:30 pm and 9 to 11 pm.
557 Avinguda Diagonal
Tel: 34 93 444 1139
Always have a bite of buttered bread before you eat a raw oyster, says Luís De Buen; that way you'll never get an upset stomach. And in place of sauce mignonette or lemon, try dusting your oysters with finely ground black pepper. De Buen knows oysters: He's the scion of the family that owns one of Barcelona's most respected fish and shellfish wholesalers, and is himself the proprietor of a casual, lively little oyster bar and seafood restaurant. Straddling a broad aisle in the city's massive L'Illa Diagonal shopping complex, Fishhh! (the spelling is meant to suggest speed) sells some of the finest oysters in Barcelona—about a dozen kinds, from Spain, France, and even Ireland—and offers a great afternoon snack: two perfect ones with a glass of Cava for about $8.50. But the menu goes far beyond that, with such treats as mussels and fries with mayonnaise foam; tiny cubes of raw tuna "Sicilian-style" with lemon, olive oil, and herbs; simply grilled fish (sole, sea bream, or whatever else is freshest); grilled butterflied sardines with thyme, garlic, and tomato; and a house invention called carbonara del mar: oversized penne-like pasta tossed with bits of seared tuna and lots of cheese and pepper. —Colman Andrews, first published on Gourmet.com
200 Carrer de Còrsega
Tel: 34 93 453 2020
The local trend for star chefs to dabble in a secondary, more accessible bistro is now in full swing. Fonda Gaig is the nerdy little brother of Gaig, Carles Gaig's Michelin-accoladed restaurant. His fonda (inn) is neither overtly cheap nor cheerful; its russet-red leather and blond wood decor is smart yet understated, and the walls could do with a touch of adornment. Yet the defenders of the premolecular old school have embraced Gaig's resurrection of traditional Catalan cooking and the strain of meat-heavy, simply prepared meals that their mothers used to make. Signature dishes include macaroni with chorizo, cream, and Parmesan cheese; baby octopus with artichokes; and cabbage and potato frittata served with a slice of pancetta. The ambience is booted and suited, with widely spaced tables accommodating expense-account execs, formal family gatherings, politicos, and intrepid food tourists.—Suzanne Wales
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 1:30 to 3:30 pm and 8:30 to 11 pm, Sundays 1:30 to 3:30 pm.
214 Carrer d'Aragó
Tel: 34 93 429 1017
Carles Gaig moved his restaurant in 2004 from an old farmhouse in Horta to this slick, black dining room in the Eixample. Although design junkies are drooling, Gaig is still all about ingredients, whether you're talking a pricey bottle of Vega Sicilia or the perfect baby squid. Dinner here kicks off with the deconstruction of a classic Catalan aperitif: a tongue-tingling granité of vermut (artisanal vermouth). A series of tasting menu courses follow: a single, plump mussel infused with peppercorn and juniper served on the shell; purple chunks of pressed octopus paired with a potato mille-feuille; pan-fried turbot with pork belly. Gaig's execution is faultless, and while perhaps he is not as innovative as some of his younger contemporaries, this is what eating in Barcelona is all about: connecting with the land and sea through wild turbot, tender beef, or even just Maresme peas. A more homespun version of Gaig's cuisine can be experienced at the Fonda Gaig, where the focus is on evergreen Catalan classics such as cap i pota (head and leg of pork), and meatballs cooked with sepia (200 Carrer Còrsega, Tel. 93 453 2020).
Mondays through Saturdays 1:30 to 3 pm and 9 to 11 pm, Sundays 9 to 11 pm.
9 Pasatge Marimon
Tel: 34 93 241 3233
An outsider on the city's circuit of avant-garde eateries, Hisop received its first Michelin star in 2011, putting it in the same rank as top dining destinations Comerç 24 and Gaig. The good news is, it's decidedly lower-key, and same-day bookings can be made (even for the lunch menu, which is much better value, too). Hisop is small (only 12 tables), with white walls, minimalist table settings, and a service area tucked behind a modular claret-colored wall. The black-uniformed, all-female waitstaff is personable and relaxed, and the short menu easy to navigate. Chef Oriol Ivern creates new Catalan cuisine with notable flair, with dishes such as grilled cod on parsnip and vanilla mash, and foie with "After Eight" sauce (as in chocolate and mint). Coffee is served with a handful of chocolate-coated black olives—surprisingly addictive.—Suzanne Wales
Open Mondays through Fridays 1:30 to 3:30 pm and 9 to 11 pm, Saturdays 9 to 11 pm.
9 Carrer dels Agullers
Tel: 34 93 310 19 56
The family-run La Teca has been a beloved specialist food shop in the El Born neighborhood since 1932. A total overhaul in 2005 transformed it into a more modern affair for food-lovers, complete with four tables. From there you can order anything in the shop for a 20-percent service surcharge. Choose from exquisite cheeses from Spain, France, and Italy; succulent sausages and hams; olives of every size and description; and a host of other gastro delights that line the shelves. The family also runs the Vila Viniteca wine shop next door, so the wine list is extensive, if expensive. It's possible to bring your own bottle, and for $8.15 they will serve it in petal-thin Riedel glasses. Come for a light lunch or predinner snack.
Closes at 8:30 p.m. and on Sundays.
10 Passeig de la Concepción
Tel: 34 93 487 9656
Before the family-run Tragaluz Group forged its mini empire of trendsetting restaurants, local literati and the design set hung out at its first opening, Mordisco, a late-night eatery where the Hotel Omm (the group's only foray into hotels to date) now stands. Now Mordisco is back, in a new location in the Eixample, and its old legion of fans is coming in droves. It's not just the nostalgia factor: Mordisco serves tasty little Catalan morsels made for sharing, such as succulent Montserrat tomatoes topped with tuna belly shavings, steak tartare, crispy deep-fried artichokes, or tostadas laden with local charcuterie. All this is served up in a two-story setting that incorporates a bright deli section for takeaway; a glass-enclosed, Scandinavian-style dining room with smatterings of art by the likes of Javier Mariscal (also a client); and a cozy upstairs lounge area for coffee and cocktails. (And should that not be enough, there is even a small women's evening-wear boutique.)—Suzanne Wales
Open daily 12:30 pm to midnight.
171 Carrer de Muntaner
Tel: 34 93 430 9027
This upscale tapas barphonetically the name becomes "pa' comer algo," loosely translated as "to grab a bite"serves up hearty dishes such as lentil stew with chorizo, pot roast with mushrooms, and fried artichoke slivers. The decor is chic, with slate-gray walls and leather bar stools, and the obligatory small chalkboard announcing the daily specials. The atmosphere is as laid-back as a neighborhood watering hole, with bantering waiters and friendly regulars. Come early (one-ish for lunch, eight-ish for dinner) to avoid a wait in line.
34 Carrer del Roser
Tel: 34 93 324 9046
This Poble Sec tapas bar has been around for four generations, but a recent facelift exchanged the cold, clinical tiles and fluorescent lighting for a softly-lit space with red brick walls, steel staircases, and a marble bar, and the local crowd for adventurous, in-the-know epicures. It's all part of the polishing up of Poble Sec, these days more Meatpacking District than beaten-down barrio. Likewise, while the Cantabrian classics such as l'escala anchovies and croquettes have stayed, 21st-century tapas are the focus. Rosal 34's signature dish, patatas bravas, is served in creamy layers of potato and garlic mousse, with a shot of chili oil in the bottom of a martini glass. Navajas (razor clams) are grilled to sticky sweetness and buoyed with vanilla-infused oil and chunks of candied lemon; the piece de resistance is an artichoke heart filled with a baked quail egg and topped with a spoonful of silky, Pyrenean caviar.
Closed Sundays for dinner.
Tel: 34 902 520 522
Even proud Catalonia isn't immune to the gastronomic pull of the Basque country. Barcelona now has several outposts of Sagardi, a rustic-modern restaurant modeled after a traditional Basque cider hall. The tortillas de bacalao (cod omelets) and baby squid in ink sauce are served in the same family style you'd find in the hinterlands of San Sebastián, and diners pour themselves unlimited alcoholic cider from the gargantuan kupelas (casks) that line the walls. (The tart, Champagne-like fizz packs a punch, so pace yourself.) Truth be told, Sagardi's emphasis on the ingredients' provenance and presentation, not to mention its trendy El Born location, makes it more of a haute gastropub than an authentic sagardotegia. But the hordes crowding its adjoining pintxos (tapas) bar and spilling out onto the street don't seem to mind.
Open daily 1 to 4 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight.
2 Avinguda Meridiana
Tel: 34 93 309 7078
Chef Paco Guzman has made a name for himself as the merry prankster of "new wave tapas" at Santa Maria. Santa, his second restaurant, aims to put less stress on your credit card. The blond wood tables, retro wire chairs, and funky oversize lampshades have been supplied by designer Alfons Tost (who also decked out Monvínic); the music is loud and funky, and the waiters charmingly flirtatious. Santa's menu is just as much fun, with bistro-inspired main courses such baby cochinillo (suckling pig) with leeks and sage and rice cooked with lobster and artichokes. Half portions are available, should you wish to share, but where the menu really shines is with Guzman's hallmark tapas. Order the five-dish sortido for a true taste of his creativity, such as a salad of hummus, celery, and wild mushrooms with a peanut butter sauce, or a small steak tartare with mustard ice cream. The €20 Sunday night–only fixed menu is a good bet in this quiet, more residential part of town, when many other restaurants are closed.
Open daily from 1:30 to 4 pm and 8:30 pm to midnight.
12 Passatge de Lluís Pellicer
Tel: 34 93 321 0189
Winningly low-key in the manner of many of Barcelona's best new-wave restaurants, this friendly place in the Eixample is nevertheless one of the most ferociously fashionable venues in town for foodies and style mavens. Thanks to the warm service that Anna Doñate oversees, a good time is had by all in this simple, white-walled dining room with kitchen views. Chef Xavier Franco takes a similarly hardworking and generous approach to his cooking. The menu changes seasonally, but always consists of eight starters, ten main courses (five fish and five seafood), and six desserts. A few dishes have become classics, including panceta crujiente con calamares y alcachofas (crispy ham with squid and artichokes), and magnificent cochinillo confitado (slow-roasted suckling pig with velvety meat capped by a brittle crust of its own skin). Beautifully balanced desserts and an excellent wine list all combine to make this one of Barcelona's contemporary classics.
Closed Sundays and Mondays.
37 Carrer de l'Argenteria
Tel: 34 93 310 5094
Ramón Parellada is a veteran restaurateur with his fingers in a number of the city's culinary pies. Part owner of La Vinya del Senyor, he has a share in the Banys Orientals too, but his baby is the Senyor Parellada, an emblematic Catalan bistro that was the onetime darling of Barcelona foodies (long before food became fashionable). Those looking to the old-school for inspiration need look no further than this bustling, chatter- and antiques-filled dining room in El Born, for this is the home of excellent bacalao a la llauna (salt cod cooked over a tin and seasoned with garlic and pimentón); and epic milk-fed lamb with 12 heads of garlic. Knowing his clientele (businessmen and local food lovers) as he does, Parellada can propose homey, earthy dishes like pig's trotters with turnips and know that he'll find takers. A rejigging of the menu reflects the modern preference for sampling lots of small dishes instead of doing a rote meal of courses.
53 Carrer de Tapioles
Tel: 34 93 329 2238
Forget three-star restaurants and city-center hot spots. The newest, coolest way to dine in Barcelona is to uncover some hole-in-the-wall hidden beneath a car park; or better still, ingratiate yourself into a private dining club. Tapioles 53 is a "food space" in Poble Sec where diners must be members (a privilege that comes at the not-so-lofty expense of calling ahead, eating there, and signing your name to a register.) It's housed in a converted umbrella-making factory, but its ancient table and open kitchen make it feel like a private home. Chef Sarah Stothart's father—a well-known Australian painter—did the abstract oils of the Penedès wine region and of Australia that hang on the walls. Born in Australia and brought up in Greece, Spain, France, and Italy, Stothart's far-flung repertoire has been influenced by dishes she learned at her mother's knee and from eating her way around the world. The menu changes weekly, but look for her mother's juniper, veal, and pork terrine; rosewater-infused cardamom rice pudding; fresh goat cheese-with-spinach gnocchi and sage butter; and Thai beef salads.
Open Tuesdays through Saturdays 9 pm to midnight.
164 Avinguda Parallel
El Bulli may be closing, but Ferran and Albert Adrià already have another project in Barcelona. Tickets, named for its theater district location, is an homage to tapas, with six dining areas, including a futuristic bar serving avant-garde bites and a space the brothers call the "madhouse" or the "Marx Brothers' cabin," reserved for regulars and "rogues" (a.k.a. friends of the owners) who the chefs predict will act as a peanut gallery of sorts. Albert's brainchild is the amusement park-like dessert fairyland, La Dolca, with cotton candy machines, ice-cream carts, and display windows full of decadent sweets (entrées, $3-$16).
Must eat: Rabbit ribs with allioli.
Chef Albert Adrià's favorite new restaurant: José Andrès's China Poblano, Las Vegas
59 Carrer de Girona
Tel: 34 93 488 1148
In a city where customer comfort often seems like an afterthought, the stellar service at this joint venture, opened in 2005 by young chef Santi Colominas and exemplary maître d' Sandra Baliarda, stands out. The striking interior is the work of local hotshot designer Jordi Torres, who combined industrial materials with a mural of a tree to create a sort of yin and yang of strength and gentleness. There's a modernista tile on each tablehomage to the ornament and whimsy of the 19th-century design movement. But Colominas's seasonal menus are an exercise in restraint and balance: crisp sepiones (baby cuttlefish) in a rich sofrito of cherries and sticky cuttlefish ink; creamy duck liver paired with delicately roasted wild-garlic stems. The wine list is small, carefully considered, and well-priced, but the fact that all of the fashion-forward gourmands who fill the place smoke is a downer.
213 Carrer Muntaner
Tel: 34 93 430 6022
Art Deco is thin on the ground in Barcelona, which makes this wonderful café all the more special. The original Velodrómo was the preferred hangout of the city's glitterati from 1933 until its abrupt closure in 2000, when the founding owner's son retired. Chef Carles Abellán of Comerç 24 fame has reopened it but (thankfully) has done little to the decor. The pistachio green walls, leather banquettes, molded ceiling, and carved friezes recall a time when intellectuals gathered to drink strong coffee and discuss the latest literary happenings. Abellán has extended the menu to include all sorts of tapas geared for a weekend of partying (fresh oysters, little plates of olives and conserved fish), hearty hangover breakfasts (butifarra sausage with white beans, or tripe with chickpeas and chorizo), and bistro dishes of grilled fish and steak. At lunchtime, you'll find office workers from the Eixample, while late nights cater to a noisy club crowd tucking into sustaining plates of patatas bravas.—Suzanne Wales
Open daily 6 am to 3 am.