First things first: Barcelona is NOT a city where you can walk into any random restaurant and expect an “at least decent” meal. Yes, this food Mecca is full of amazing cuisine, culture, craftsmanship, tradition and innovation; however, it’s also full of businesses (restaurants and otherwise) that are operated with the sole purpose of capturing tourist dollars by selling inferior products at a brutal markup (troubling, I know, but true).
One of the worst culprit neighborhoods for tourist price-gouging (after Las Ramblas) is the Barceloneta. Cafes and restaurants line the Passeig de Joan Borbó with photographic menus and overly-animated sidewalk hustles promising a delicious lunch of pizza and paella. Along the beach itself, plenty of Chiringuitos (beach huts) dot the sand, offering sandwiches, salads and seafood of varying quality levels.
In general, eating at a Chiringuito (Xiringuito in Catalan) is more about the weather, the view and your companions than it is about looking for an amazing gourmet experience. Chiringuitos are often limited in kitchen space and serve simple food. In choosing one of these seaside eateries, you’ll need to determine: Is the simple food well-prepared and fairly priced or carelessly cooked and expensive enough to metaphorically cloud a perfectly sunny day?
Here is a list of five “seaside” places—beach restaurants in and around Barcelona—that offer something worth trying and take the guesswork out of picking a Chiringuito. Whether they are on the sand, above the beach, down a side street, or a train ride away, all of these spots shine as something special in their own, delicious way.
Consisting of two parts—upscale dining on the promenade of Bogatell beach, and a casual “cabana” below on the sand—this oft-mentioned establishment stands up to its reputation. The Escribà family is now in their third generation of chef-owners, having begun in 1906 with the Escribà bakery (still found at Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes 546). Today, the family business is run by three brothers: Christian, Jordi, and Joan (the latter in charge of the restaurant). Famous for paella, seafood, and top-quality, creative cocktails (try the “electric mojito” with shiso leaf and kumquat), Xiringuito Escribà carries a slightly higher price tag than its neighbors, but the food—combined with the breezy, fun, energetic atmosphere—makes this beach hut a star.
Avenida del Litoral, 42, 08005 Barcelona – 932 21 07 29
This restaurant is set back from the sand but offers wonderful views of the sea from a street-level patio (and even more so from their bright, second-floor, window-filled dining room). The food philosophy of Executive Chef Xavier Pellicer is simple: Take his knowledge and passion gained while at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurant Can Fabes (2 Michelin Stars during his tenure) and apply them to a casual environment that focuses almost exclusively on rice dishes! When asked where one can eat a truly excellent paella in Barcelona, Barraca is always my first recommendation.
Passeig Maritim de la Barceloneta 1. 08002. Barcelona 633 241 253
If you have never tried a ‘Bomba de Barceloneta,” La Cova Fumada is the place to consecrate this sacred moment. Though not really tied to the sea, the bomba is a Barceloneta tapas staple; a large fried croquette of potato with a ground meat filling, topped with white aioli and spicy red sauce. Legend has it that the bomba was invented at La Cova Fumada, and regardless of historical accuracy, they are surely delicious. The reasons to eat at this tiny place with no signage and a constant crowd of regulars are many: Obvious historical value practically drips from the walls, the seafood is ultra-fresh and simply prepared (a common theme), and the owners can be easily seen with sauté pans in hand!
The squid a la plancha is exceptional, as are the clams, cockles, and sardines. Catalan specialties like cap i pota (calf’s head and hoof stew) are an acquired taste but much in demand. In the fall, huge boxes of wild mushrooms grace the marble bar top. The opening hours are less than reliable, and to enjoy an afternoon of tapas at La Cova Fumada, patience is most certainly required when dealing with the crowd of locals that pack into the tiny space as soon as the heavy wooden doors swing open. Note: This restaurant is a few blocks in from the beach
(Open 9:00am-3:15pm, then 6:00pm-8:15pm)
Calle Baluard, 56. Barceloneta, 08003 Barcelona – 932 21 40 61
A recently-opened beach bar that serves refreshingly-good food, La Deliciosa achieves its goal of “vintage” appeal and quality food at non-nosebleed prices. The iconic, modernist tiles of Barcelona are a recurring theme in the casual, pastel decor, and the chilled-out music sets a relaxed tone without requiring a conversation to be shouted over a deafening, thumping bass line (as in many beach bars in the Barceloneta). Nothing on the menu is overly elaborate or overwrought. On the contrary, La Deliciosa focuses on light, refreshing dishes that make you feel good after a day on the sand. Typical beach dishes (sandwiches, salad, and tapas) are given a youthful makeover, and plates like salmon tartare with apple, dijon mustard, and soy sauce are full of flavor but still “bikini-worthy” (as is the crudité of veggies with a dish of fresh hummus and tahini). If you fancy breakfast by the beach, a simple list of pastries, yogurts, teas, and sandwiches is available to help start your day.
Platja de Sant Miquel. Paseo marítimo de Barceloneta – 93 309 12 91 (Pantea Restaurant Group)
About 1 hour north of Barcelona (on the train) is the beautiful fishing village of Sant Pol de Mar. Home of the famous Restaurant Sant Pau by Michelin-starred chef Carmen Ruscalleda, Sant Pol de Mar is a quiet place with lots of charm. Warm, pebbly sand offers plenty of room to lay back and relax without the chaos of the city beaches. At the corner of the main beach (just across from the train tunnel) is a shady beach restaurant, with a dining area roofed by lush green leaves; vines trained to trellises to protect hungry diners from the midday sun. Terrassa Voramar is beautiful, calm, and inviting. The plates of grilled sardines—that will surely be gracing tables as you pass—bid you to opt for the whole bottle of crisp, cold white wine instead of just a glass. Maybe you’ll just catch the later train back to Barcelona…
Avenida Doctor Furest s/n 08395 Sant Pol de Mar – 937 60 06 54
As was noted at the beginning, the weather and who you choose to dine with makes a huge difference in your perception/enjoyment of any chiringuito. So relax, find some good friends, and let the afternoon turn into evening—one glass of wine into three—and be thankful for the simple fact that you are taking your meal along the Mediterranean coast in one of the best cities on the planets (in this writer’s humble yet stubborn opinion) for sun, fun, and fish. Enjoy!