- Cafes, bars and restaurants in Spain typically open at around 10 am (earlier for cafes) and close between 10pm and midnight or even later. Most eateries don´t observe the siesta, so you can wile away a couple of hours over food and drink before you get back to your day.You don´t need to seek out a restaurant, per se, in Barcelona; most bars cafes offer some form of solid sustenance. This can range from entrepans/bocadillos (sandwiches) and tapes/tapas (bar snacks), to more substantive raciones (basically a bigger version of a tapa), and full meals in menjadors/comedores (sit-down restaurants). Cerveseries/cervezerias (beer bars), tavernes/tabernas (taverns), tasques/tascas (snack bars) and cellers/bodegas (cellars) are just some of the kinds of establishment in this category.
For a full meal, you are most likely to end up in a restaurant/restaurante (make reservations here – bars and cafes are for walk-ins but reservations are required in most restaurants), but other names will pop out at you. A marisqueria specialises in seafood, while a meson (a ‘big table’) might indicate (but not always!) a more modest eatery.
Many straightforward Spanish dishes are available here as elsewhere in the country. The travellers’ friend is the menu del dia, a set-price meal usually comprising three courses, with a drink as part of the deal. This is often only available for lunch and can range from around €6 at budget places to €25 at posh establishments. A plat combinat/plato combinado is a simpler version still – a one-course meal consisting of basic nutrients – the ‘meat-and-three-veg’ style of cooking. You’ll see pictures of this everywhere. It’s filling and cheap but has little to recommend it in culinary terms.
You’ll pay more for your meals if you order a la carte, but the food will be better. The menu (la carta) begins with starters such as amanides/ensaladas (salads), sopes/sopas (soups) and entremesos/entremeses (hors d’oeuvres). The latter can range from a mound of potato salad with olives, asparagus, anchovies and a selection of cold meats – almost a meal in itself – to simpler cold meats, slices of cheese and olives. The hungry Catalan, after a starter, will order a first then second course. The latter may come under headings such as: pollastre/pollo (chicken); carn/carne (meat); mariscos (seafood); peix/pescado (fish); arros/arroz (rice); ous/huevos (eggs); and verdures/verduras (vegetables). Red meat may be subdivided into porc/cerdo (pork), vedella/ternera (beef) and anyell/cordero (lamb). Be aware that second courses frequently do not come with vegetables: You order a side dish of vegetables or salad. Often the first course is designed to take care of this side of your diet, though. Postres (desserts) are never ignored in the menu, either – gelats/helados (ice cream), fruit and flans are often the choices in cheaper places. Other offerings at restaurants will include a: tarta del dia (cake of the day), coulant de chocolate con healdo (chocolate flourless cake with ice cream) and crema catalana (local version of creme brulee), to name a few.
Alcohol is a widely accepted option with every meal (including breakfast) and the menu del dia will include a beer or glass of wine, although you can ask for a soft drink if you prefer. Don´t be surprised to see small children eating out with their families very late at night – kids are welcome everywhere in Spain.
For great up-to-date information on the best places to eat in Barcelona, use the following resources:
General Restaurant Information and Reviews
Reviewed and Recommended Restaurants in Barcelona
Local and International Flavours