More tapas places are opening up in New York City, but Barcelona just has the culture down. Where else but in Spain can you eat a decent bowl of stewed tripe for breakfast? Where else will you be spared a quizzical look when you order razor clams for a snack? And toasted bread rubbed with a grilled tomato and garlic? Thank goodness for those Galicians. Red wine with every meal whether it’s 9am or 4pm? Bless their hearts.
At the buzzing boqueria, or the central market, produce sellers co-exist with hungry shoppers and camera-happy tourists. Walk around and you can buy the freshest fruits and vegetables. Fish, clams and lobsters are around the corner. The store across the way has all kinds of meat and dried sausages. Stand behind those eating to make sure you get the next empty seat because we ate some of our best meals there.
When we first arrived in Barcelona, we had a few hours to kill before we had to catch the 6-hour bus ride to Vielha, the nearest town to where we were supposed to begin our hike up the Pyrenees. Our first meal of the day was at El Quim.
Everything they have to offer was written on the chalkboards. Specials are updated daily and we learned to ask for the price before ordering because a plate of mushrooms drizzled with balsamic vinegar cost us â‚¬16. We later saw the fresh mushrooms being sold in one of the vegetable stalls and they were really going for at least â‚¬8 for half a pound. The sausage was fried and when I took a bite, its crunchy skin snapped and I was rewarded with that kind of heavenly taste only sausages and bacon can give a human being.
We returned to the boqueria two more times. While still in New York City, we ended up talking to a bartender who is also an expat. He recommended Pinotxo, or Pinocchio, so we couldn’t fly back without trying. It’s always packed because it’s the first eatery you will see when you walk in the market and for several other reasons: white anchovies in good olive oil sprinkled with paprika, stewed garbanzos in fatty goodness, beef with white beans and flan for dessert. The service is brisk but they’re so used to tourists that they’re very accommodating towards those who have no qualms about eating whatever they have to offer and to those who make a face when they suggest something.
At Kiosk Universal, we were finally able to get our fill of razor clams. I’ve never been a big fan because no matter how much you clean the diggers, they will always be sandy. They were still good, though, and any excuse to have more good olive oil and bread is acceptable to me.