Sangria, Anchovies, and Patatas Bravas, oh my!

by Andy Steves
Spanish paella

Spanish paella

Spanish people know how to have a good time with delicious cuisine, nights out on the town, and great company. However, it is important to keep an open mind when experimenting in a new place, as many sights, sounds, tastes, and smells might be a bit out of your comfort zone. Try these favorite spots in Barcelona and Madrid to settle in to Spanish style dining and experience the local food culture while working abroad in Spain, from simple snacks to decadent wine.

Insider Spanish Dining Tip: If you choose to sit down and eat in a restaurant, be aware that quite a few restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona charge extra for this privilege. Instead, consider opting to stand and eat at the bar if you’re on a tight budget. If you order water, they will likely bring you a bottle and charge you unless you specify “un faso de ague” or “ague de grifa”.

Barcelona

If jobs in Barcelona are calling your name and you are curious what to expect from the local foodie spots, be sure to add these top places to your list of things to do during your first week:

Cocktail bar

  1. Cal Pep: What has been called the Best Tapas Bar in Barcelona, this spot is always hopping and can’t be missed on a crawl through town. Seafood and vegetables are their specialty, so be prepared to indulge in clams, tuna, and spinach. Is a bit pricey, so good for a quick little bite before heading onto the next spot if you don’t have a lot to spend.
  2. Bo de’ Be: Famous among the student population in Barcy for its overflowing panini supply at unbelievably cheap prices (only two or three euros!). Grab one to go on your way to the beach, as it’s located right at the bottom of Via Laietana.
  3. Champagneria (La Xampanyeria): The most legit spot on the list. Located in Barceloneta, you can get a glass o’ cava (Spanish champagne) with every order! Sharpen your elbows, as this place gets packed with locals.
  4. Travel Bar: Your standard international bar, but they redeem themselves with their incredible paella and Sangria Dinner class that breaks down Spain's most famous delicacy. The class kicks off with a tour and sampling of the fresh ingredients straight from the Boqueria market, and is capped off with a delicious dinner and unlimited drinks. Truly a great value, and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
  5. Tapas on Carrer de la Mercé: Catch some of Barcelona's most authentic Spanish tapas on Carrer de la Mercé. Do a lap up and back down this street, popping into a few places along the way. No menus necessary - just point to whatever you want, and you'll be dished up heaping plates that are great for family-style tapas. La Plata is a local favorite, a dish where lightly floured and fried anchovies are popped like popcorn. If you've never tried them before, this is the place to experiment!
  6. Sagardi: This chain has numerous locations across Spain with four in Barcelona alone, and all for a good reason: their incredible finger-lickin'-good tapas. Ask for a plate to start, move down the line, and pick whatever looks good to you on the bar. Go slow though, as dishes are refreshed periodically and hot dishes are paraded through every 15 minutes or so. Settle up your bill by turning in your toothpicks at the end of your meal. Their summer wine, Tinto Verano is especially delicious.
  7. Mescladis: Tucked away under an archway, this student run place is a quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of the famous Gothic neighborhood. Stop by for a refreshing drink or delicious salad and take in the scene.
  8. La Plata: Take in this entire street, where you will find tons of spots to pop in and out on a tapas crawl through town. Stop in here here for a heaping plate of fried anchovies. They only serve wine and the latter regional delicacy, so push to the front and snack on the crunchy fish while sipping on the house vino.
Madrid bar

Madrid

If working in Madrid seems more like your cup of tea, check out these amazing places you'll have access to any day of the week:

  1. La Bicicleta Cafe: The hub of the hipster, messenger bike scene, this is the place to be for a coffee and churro to start the day. Great place to work if you need a quiet place with wifi. Just next door is great tapas spot to hit up once you’re done working for a great happy hour too.
  2. Bodega de la Ardosa: Down a side street in our favorite neighborhood, Malasana, this place is a Spanish version of an Irish pub, with wooden barrels as tables and delicious tinto de verano, or Spanish sangria. Check out what others are eating and order by pointing if you see something you like! Many locals love the anchovy bread, patatas bravas, and tomato salad.
  3. Maricastana: This is the spot to satisfy your sweet tooth. The homemade desserts, from cheesecake to fried pastries, don’t disappoint!
  4. Miau: Right on the bustling Plaza Santa Ana is Miau, a local favorite for tapas tasting. Make sure to survey the scene and the day’s offerings on the bar, but the patatas bravas are definitely a can’t miss. Snatch a seat outside for a relaxing meal (and top notch people watching). 
  5. El Tigre: Beer and tapas for under €5? Yes please! Don’t need to say much more about this favorite budget spot in town. Students, backpackers, and those on a budget flock here for a great local meal in the bustling Chueca neighborhood.

If your mouth is watering and you are ready to taste some Spanish delicacies (like NOW!), then its time to begin searching for jobs in Spain!