Hi Wanderful Wednesday friends! Sorry for my unexpected absence last week. To be completely honest, life has been a complete hectic whirlwind lately and blogging has taken a bit of a back burner. I had a bad case of strep throat, still tried to celebrate my 25th birthday and am wrapping up work this month here in Chile. And to my blog’s dismay, life is only going to get crazier in the coming weeks as I embark on my first ever real backpacking trip and then prepare to move back to the States from Santiago. (More updates on all this coming soon!!)
Anyway, in the midst of all of the craziness, I’ve been lacking in time, energy and inspiration. So this week, in honor of a trip I booked myself to Spain for my birthday, I’m throwing it back and reposting a previous post about one of my favorite Spanish cities, San Sebastián! In truth, I don’t feel like this post got the hype it deserved when it first went live, mostly because I posted it in the early stages of my blogging career. Eating my way around San Sebastián was an experience I’ll always remember and so I’m hoping to share this guide with a few more people!
A Self-Guided Pintxos Tour in San Sebastián Spain
If I’ve ever visited a city that I feel comfortable labeling the capital of taste bud euphoria, it is San Sebastián. I may even say that this city has been my top gastronomic stop thus far. (That’s saying a lot after Capri’s fresh cheesy pizzas and Lisbon’s warm flakey pastries!)
Food is more than just food in the Spanish Basque country. It is a way of life. Similar to the rest of Spain, much of Basque culture revolves around their eating culture. The value of food isn’t even close to merely nutritional. Eating is a social affair, an art form and a complete sensory experience.
The Basque Country may have a dense concentration of Michelin Star Restaurants, but their true contribution to Spanish cuisine is the pintxo (pincho). A relative to Spain’s infamous tapa, the pintxo is a small bite sized snack typically served at the bar alongside a mug of beer or glass of wine. Unique from the Spanish tapa, the Basque pintxo (Spanish for “spike”) is usually speared with a toothpick or a wooden skewer.
Traditionally in the Basque Country pintxos were served as a small helping of typical Spanish foods, such as ham or tortilla, atop a small piece of toast. They were served with drinks to sober up the bar’s patrons so that they could continue their night and keep on drinking. Today, these scrumptious little finger foods have transformed from simple Spanish toasts and are considered luxury treats in the country of Spain, as well as many other metropolitan cities all over the world.
Txikiteo or pintxo’s hopping has become the norm in Spain’s picturesque coastal city, San Sebastían. Day and night you’ll find Basque locals roaming the streets from bar to bar, sampling different wines and indulging in gourmet goodies. Parte Vieja, or Old Town is a popular place for the pintxos crawl as its streets are lined with restaurants overflowing with delectable snacks with enticing aromas.
So, I’ve convinced you to make the trip to San Sebastián, but where do you start?
- Go hungry! Prepare all day long, eat light and go with an empty stomach! If this list really seems like too much, because it probably is, go for lunch, take a break and return for dinner!
- Share! Pintxos may seem like very small portions, but they are deceivingly filling. Start small and order only a few. If you’re with a group, share with friends to sample all the different tastes.
- Be ready for a crowd. During prime eating hours, most restaurants will be fairly crowded, but in San Sebastián if a restaurant is crowded, you can be sure that’s the place to be! Still, if you’d rather avoid the claustrophobia, try visiting the restaurants on the earlier or later side of the rush.
- Ask for recommendations! Don’t hesitate to ask your waiter or waitress for their guidance when ordering- they really know their stuff! Most bars have a specialty and it would be a sin to miss out.
1st stop- Ganbara
San Jeronimo, 21
Ganbara is a small, traditional-style Basque pintxos bar located smack-dab in the middle of Parte Vieja. This warm and welcoming tavern is a must stop for fungi fans and croissant enthusiasts. Stand upstairs along the bar in awe of the colossal wild mushrooms and watch the man behind the counter hand-roll fresh gooey croissants. Catch one right out of the oven and melt in its warm flakey, buttery goodness.
- “Croissants”– served with ham or salmon
- “Sautéed mixed Mushrooms”
- Fried white asparagus– only available in season. Crisp and lightly battered tempura style
- Soft shell crab pastry
2nd Stop- La Cuchara de San Telmo
Calle 31 de Agosto, 28
Hidden on a side street off of the well-known pintxos strip “Agosto 31,” is La Cuchara de San Telmo. This long, narrow bar may be off the beaten path, but don’t let that fool you- it’s always crowded. Once you taste their food, you’ll understand why. The chefs stick to a pretty traditional menu, perfecting what they know and highlighting the natural flavors in each individual bite. Expect a bit of a wait, as every dish is fresh and made to order. Also, don’t be shy making your way to the bar. Rubbing elbows with other pintxos patrons is all part of genuine local experience!
- “Carrilleras de tenera al vino tinto”– beef cheek in a red wine sauce
- “Ravioli de Margret de pato”– duck sirloin ravioli with leek and lemongrass
- Foie Gras
- “Bonito Rojo”– Red seared tuna with ponzu sauce and sesame seeds
- “Pulpo a la plancha”– grilled octopus
3rd Stop- Borda Berri
Fermin Calbeton, 12
A newcomer to Borda Berri may be thrown off at the sight of an empty bar and a limited chalkboard menu. Unlike most popular pintxos bars, at Borda Berri there is no extravagant display and only a short list of delicacies to choose from. But don’t let that discourage you, because nothing on the small chalkboard menu will disappoint. In fact, I’d order one of each. The food may not be fancy, but it is fairly priced and expertly prepared. Trust me, your taste buds and your wallet will thank you.
- “Kebab de Costilla de cerdo”-Pork rib with kebab sauce- a meat lover’s must
- “Tomate relleno de atun”– Tomato stuffed with tuna
- “Rissoto de puntalette de hongos”– Risottos with mushrooms
- “Oreja de cerdo con romesco”– pig’s ear (if you’re brave enough)
- Basqueland Brewing Beers
4th stop- Zeduko
Calle Pescaderia, 10
Food fanatics get ready to drool. Entering Zeduko, you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store. Every surface in the place is bubbling over with platters of eye-catching colorful delights. This vision of mouthwatering morsels come from Zeduko’s modern take on pintxos. The chefs experiment with inventive combinations of traditional Basque cuisine. Each and every bite makes for a truly unforgettable eating experience. I could hardly keep my hands to myself.
- “La Hoguera” (bonfire)- cod on an onion and parsley toast served with liquid salad.
- Sure Zeduko’s displays are alluring, but don’t let them distract you from the hot pintxos menu, offering some of their leading dishes. Finish cooking a pintxo yourself with the “Hoguera” atop your own little personal metal grate fire.
- “Rosa de bogavante”– lobster rose
- “Hamberguesa de chipirón”– squid hamburger
- Egg and eel salad
5th stop- Aatari Gastroteka
Calle Mayor, 18
In the corner of the quaint plaza shaded by San Sebastian’s Basílica de Santa Maria is Atari Gastroteka. It may be one of the Old Town’s newer pintxo establishments, but it hasn’t wasted any time building a reputation. The menu is a tad pricier than some other nearby restaurants, but they make up for price with quality ingredients and a contemporary chic ambiance. As a popular destination for late night cocktails and dessert pintxos, Atari is the ideal spot to end your crawl. Grab your drinks and head outdoors for some magnificent people watching. You’re also bound to find live music or street entertainment right in the plaza outside!
- “Basatxerri” – pork steak with a red pepper sauce
- Brownie- caramel brownie served with chocolate ice cream
- Torrija– bread fried in milk
- “Helado de tarta de queso y arándanos” (cheesecake ice cream with blueberries)
Wines to pair with your pinxtos
- Txakoli is the slightly sparkling white wine famous of the Basque Country. Order a glass at any bar and watch the bartender aerate your beverage by pouring 2 feet above your glass.
- Rueda- a dry white Spanish wine.
- Crianza Roja- a famous red wine from the Rioja wine Region of Spain.
If you don’t want to go at it alone, or would simply prefer to pick the brain of an expert local foodie along the way, try out Devour Spain’s incredible pintxos tours in San Sebastian. I’ve been on a few tours with them myself, and I even used to intern for them! I couldn’t recommend them enough!
Where to find the above Pintxo Bars:
Happy Txikiteo !!
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Have you ever been to San Sebastián? Where is your favorite “foodie destination?” I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!