Restaurants are one of the first places to suffer during times of economic austerity, and Barcelona has seen its culture of eating out change dramatically. Even Michelin-starred chefs are now offering lunch deals and cut-price menus to attract customers. Bueno, bonito, barato (good, attractive, cheap) has become the new mantra, making tapas bars the best option for any one who is looking for a budget Barcelona dining experience.
With eating out no longer part of many Catalans’ everyday life, tapas bars are filling the gap. The famous cava bar El Xampanyet, on Carrer Montcada, is a truly hip venue with great prices and excellent tapas. Recessionary pressures have not stopped the crowds coming here for cava, sundried tomatoes, boquerones, and delicious house pastries.
High-end fast food is a new twist on the tapas bars theme, with burger joints such as El Filet Ruso on Carrer d'Enric Granados 95 and montadito (mini-sandwich) bars, such as Bar Fidel on Carrer Ferlandina springing up around Barcelona.
El Ambiente el Sur
The practice of serving free tapas with drinks began in Andalucia and was brought north by restaurateurs including Eliseo Medina from Granada who, together with his Catalan partner, Luís Genoves, worked to establish El Ambiente del Sur ), an extremely popular bar on Carrer de Viladomat. You can buy a caña (a little glass of beer) and a tapa in El Ambiente del Sur for a euro or two. Bars in the Eixample, Gracia and Poble Sec districts are now buying into the tapas way, with quirky places including Bar Pasajes on Sant Pere Més Alt offering a beer and a croqueta for a couple of euro, and Gata Mala on Carrer Rabassa serving a different homemade tapa with every drink, from as little as a euro or two.
Poble Sec, between Barcelona’s Broadway (called the Parallel) and Montjuïc, is trying attract visitors to its labyrinth of streets and plazas with the promise of delicious snacks. The Poble Sec Tapas Route ran during 2012 to encourage people to indulge in a small glass of wine or a caña with a free tapa or pintxo (the Basque version, usually involving a topped slice of bread) for just €2, and new outlets are betting that the gastronomic attraction will be strong enough to convince people to cross the Parallel. Try the pedestrianised Calle Blai, a mecca of bars and restaurants, where locals and visitors alike go tapeando (eating small plates) in the evening. One of the oldest of these bars, Quimet & Quimet , serves the finest selection of cheeses in Barcelona - and possibly even the best tapas too. Around the corner, you’ll find the recently-opened Koska (meaning “bite” in Euskara, the language of the Basque Country), where the food is as homely as the surroundings.