Top 10 Secret Eating Places in Spain

10 Secret Eating Places from Paul Richardson

Paul Richardson is a young British writer who has for many years lived in western Spain where he owns a small farm and vineyard. He is the author of a number of books, including Williams-Sonoma Barcelona and, most recently, A Late Dinner (Scribner: 2007), a delightful look at the foods and foodways of Spain his adopted country. We asked him to introduce us to ten hidden eating places that even the best-traveled might not have heard of. . . yet. Here’s Paul’s list:

1. Pulpería La Dorada
c/Correo Viejo 7
Ciudad Rodrigo (Salamanca)
Tel: 923 480615

The rolling plains of Salamanca province are about as far as Spain gets from the sea. The maritime atmosphere of this pulpería (octopus bar) therefore comes as a delightful and eccentric surprise. Superb fish and mariscos come in daily from Galicia and the Portuguese coast. Especially good are the gambas a la plancha, navajas (razor clams), and crisp fried chanquetes and chipirones.

2. Casa Amadeo
Plaza de Cascorro 18
Tel: 91 365 9439

This been-there-for-a-lifetime bar in the Rastro neighborhood is a favourite of mine thanks in part to its well-preserved 1970s decor, but also for its great food, especially the snails, which are fat and juicy in their piquant gravy, and the magnificent morcilla de Burgos, which comes with fried red peppers. A great place to be at midday on Sunday when the Rastro market is in full swing.

3. Can Costa
Plaza de la Iglesia s/n
Santa Gertrudis (Ibiza)
Tel: 971 197021

There is only really one thing on the menu at this boho-tinged village bar in the rural backwoods of Spain's capital of dance and debauchery: the bocadillo de jamón y queso (known here as 'el completo'). A flat bread roll split in half, toasted, anointed with olive oil and fresh tomato, inlaid with slices of Serrano ham and Manchego cheese, this is one sandwich worth going out of your way for.

4. Bar Paquiqui
c/Pérez Galdós 4
Zahara de los Atunes (Cádiz)
(no phone)

Francisco Martínez. alias Paquiqui, was a cook on fishing boats until he retired onto dry land and set up this busy bar in the dusty seaside town of Zahara de los Atunes. The south Andalusian coastal culinary repertoire is well represented - try the tortillitas de camarón, the cazón en adobo, the cuttlefish croquetas, and the locally-fished tuna steaks. The bar has a charming courtyard setting in the oldest part of town.

5. Hostal Remigio
c/ Gaztambide-carrera 4
tel: 948 820850
Tudela (Navarra)

The ancient town of Tudela, on the Ebro River, has a culture of vegetable growing and cookery second to none. Various restaurants in town show off the local repertoire but this is one of the simplest, a wood-panelled dining room where the menu centers round locally-grown specialities such as artichokes, asparagus, cardoons, peppers, peas, beans, onions, and lettuces. At midday the room heaves with noisy, exuberant locals who know their onions - and their artichokes, asparagus, cardoons, peppers, peas.

6. Casa Ricardo
c/Fernando el Católico 31
Tel: 91 447 6119

Madrid's casas de comida (eating houses) are modest eateries, mostly family-run, offering home-cooked Spanish food at bargain prices. Quality naturally varies, but this little place in the Arguelles district, is a brilliant example of the genre. Generous servings of rabo de toro (bull's tail) gallina en pepitoria, or lentil estofado, with torrijas or filloas to follow.

7. Los Arcos
Plaza Mayor
Gata (Cáceres)

This homespun bar-diner on the main square of Gata, a historic village in the mountains of northern Extremadura, does a splendid range of raciones from local specialities like mojo de bacalao (salt cod with sliced orange and black olives) and sirloin of Iberico pig to timeless tapas classics like patatas bravas and tigres (deep fried mussels on the shell with a béchamel-based filling). Grab a table in the square and watch the village world go by.

8. Restaurante Rio-Oja
c/Perro 4
tel: 944 150871

Of the myriad tapas bars in Bilbao's old town, this one stands out for its speciality cazuelas - wide pans of bubbling casseroles which are displayed in rows along the bar. On a given day there might be marmitako, bacalao a la vizcaina, hake in salsa verde. The idea is to sample a tapa of one or two cazuelas together with a big glass of red or white Rioja.

9. Cal Campaner
c/Mossen Carles Feliù 23
Roses (Girona)
Tel: 972 256954

Possessors of a dinner reservation at a well-known joint just up the road, elBulli, have been known to come here the night before and (whisper it) perhaps enjoy themselves rather more. This family-run restaurant prides itself on top-quality fish and shellfish (all landed at local ports). Feast on rock-mussels, clams a la marinera, and succulent local prawns, washed down with the crisp, white, faintly sparkling 'needle wine' (vi d'agulla) made hereabouts.

10. La Nueva Allandesa
c/Donato Fernández 3
Pola de Allande (Asturias)
Tel: 985 807027

Pola de Allande is a village in deepest, greenest Asturias; La Nueva Allandesa is its main social hub and an entirely unpretentious eating-place. This is where you should come to try fabada and pote, the take-no-prisoners Asturian dishes in their various combinations of pulses, vegetables, sausages and cuts of pork. Drink cider (the logical choice in this wine-less region) and clear your afternoon for several hours of digestion.

© 2018 The Culinary Institute of America