Mastering the art of tapas

The art of tapas is quite simple to master. All you need is some practice and a few go to dishes. The idea is to simultaneously enjoy bites of food with sips of wine or sangria. It’s all about grazing, not gorging.

Take a few bites, take a few sips, then order again. The beauty of tapas is that you’re always satisfied, never full, and continue to eat, drink and be merry at a leisurely pace. Let’s begin with a quick history of tapas:

  • The definition of tapas is “A small portion of any food served to accompany a drink.” Love it.
  • Style of eating dates way back toKing Alfonso 10th, who, upon getting sick, doctors only allowed him to take in small portions of food with small amounts of wine.
  • The original of the word comes from the verb tapar, which means to cover. Makes sense.

Portions are small. Do not expect a plate full of food. The hungrier you are, thee more dishes you will need to order, and heads up, this can add up and make your bill quite expensive (or “caro” in Spanish). 

How To Order

All restaurants are different, but most of the old school, traditional tapas places you will find in Barcelona will have a stick system. You can order and take as many as you want off of trays and then at the end, you will present your sticks. The waiter or cashier tallies them up individually and then presents you with the bill at the end. Note: some are more expensive than others, so be sure to ask the price range before you go ham. 

Rule of thumb, order about 2-3 dishes per person. For two people, I would recommend ordering 4 dishes. For four or more, I would recommend 8-10 and maybe even through in some paella for the finale. Depending on any food allergies, dietary needs or preferences, variety is key. You want a couple plates of bread, fish, meats, cheeses and veggies, although those can be more limited.

What To Order

Pan con tomate

An easy, go to dish that comes out fast. It’s fresh, lightly toasted bread with an olive oil, tomato tapenade spread on top.

Olives

Another quick snack to dig in on, you will get a small bowl of an assortment of olives. 

Patatas bravas

As an American, I hate/love to say this, but these are better than french fries. I can usually eat an entire order myself, so I recommend ordering at least two if you are dining with a group. Patatas bravas, or bravas for short, are perfectly fried small potato chunks enhanced with a balance of a red sauce (think spicy marinara) and a white sauce (think mayo or aioli). The combination of these two makes for a unique spicy mayo type sauce that will make your mouth drool just saying them outloud. 

Croquettes

Small, fried bites of cheese and a variety of meats and fish. Ham croquettes are quite popular for the Iberian ham that is famous for Spain, but there are also bacaolo (cod), crab and mushroom. These are always a crowd pleaser. 

Pulpo (Octopus)

Some of the best octopus I’ve had has been at tapas restaurants. Perfectly grilled, a small dish of a few tentacles of cubed tentacles that will tickle your fancy.  

Pimientos padrones

A veggie dish that’s grown in popularity and expanded beyond a typical tapas menu, these are the dried green peppers doused with olive oil and sea salt you just bite off the vine. But be careful, there is one VERY hot one in each group. It’s kind of like picking straws, you don’t want the short one.

Paella

Perfect for larger groups, it’s a beautiful medley of rice, spices, seafood that’s served in a large, wrought iron bowl. 

Calamares (calamari)

Delicious morsels of calamari that usually come grilled vs. fried so make sure to ask your server how they’re prepared before you expect  golden rings of seafood to be placed in front of you with dipping sauce. 

Favorite tapas in Barcelona

  • quimeti i quimet
  • casa de tapes canota
  • Lolita
  • la tieta
  • el xampanyet
  • la cova fumada
  • la esquinica
  • las delicias
  • el vaso de oro
  • gata mala

In Barcelona, you will also find an assortment of various small combinations of cheese, meat and veggies with a stick. Go nuts, these are all amazing and if you don’t like it, just order another one. And don’t forget to wash it all down with some sangria.

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