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What to Know About Ordering Tapas in Barcelona
Author: Ashley Brown
Tapas culture in Barcelona is a quintessential part of the city’s culinary landscape, and these small plates of food have become synonymous with the Catalan culture. A must-try for any visitor to the city!
First off, what are tapas?
Tapas are small, bite-sized plates of food that originated in Spain. The word “tapa” means “cover” in Spanish, and it is said that the tradition of serving small plates of food with drinks dates back to the 13th century when King Alfonso X of Castile decreed that taverns and inns had to serve food with wine to prevent drunkenness. This led to the creation of small plates of food that could be served alongside a drink, acting as a lid or “tapa” for the drink.
Over time, tapas culture evolved and became a social tradition in Spain. It is now common for people to go out for tapas with friends, hopping from bar to bar and sampling a variety of dishes. In Barcelona, tapas culture is particularly strong, with many bars and restaurants specializing in traditional tapas dishes.
Tapa Ordering Tips
Ordering tapas can be a fun and delicious experience, but it can also be overwhelming for those who are unfamiliar with the tradition. Here are some tips to help you order tapas like a local:
Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations: Tapas bars are often crowded and noisy, but don’t let that stop you from asking for advice from the waiter or bartender! They will be happy to recommend some of their most popular dishes or tell you which dishes are their personal favorites.
Order in stages: Tapas are meant to be enjoyed slowly, over a long period of time. Don’t order everything at once, instead, order a few dishes to start with and then order more as you go. This way, you can take your time and savor each dish without feeling rushed.
Try a variety of dishes: Tapas are all about sharing, so don’t be afraid to try a variety of different dishes. Order some meat dishes, some seafood, and some vegetarian options to get a taste of everything.
Pace yourself: Tapas can be very filling, so it’s important to pace yourself. Take breaks between dishes, order some bread or olives to nibble on, and don’t be afraid to ask for a bottle of water (keep in mind you will be charged for the water).
Embrace the chaos: Tapas bars are often busy, noisy, and chaotic, but that’s part of the fun. Embrace the lively atmosphere and enjoy the experience of sharing delicious food with friends and strangers alike.
Remember that tipping is not expected: In Spain, it is not customary to leave a large tip. In fact, tipping is not expected at all in tapas bars. However, if you receive exceptional service, you can leave a small tip as a token of appreciation. Normally this is only a few euros.
Some authentic tapas to order in Barcelona:
Pan Con Tomate: One of the most popular tapas dishes in Barcelona is pan con tomate, a simple yet delicious dish of bread rubbed with ripe tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. This dish is typically served as an accompaniment to other tapas dishes or as a light snack.
Patatas Bravas: Another classic is patatas bravas, crispy fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce. This dish is a staple in many tapas bars and is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
Croquetas: Croquetas, or croquettes, are small fried balls of béchamel sauce and meat or cheese are a favorite snack or appetizer in Spain.
Vermut: Also known as vermouth, this is an authentic accompaniment to tapas. A fortified wine flavored with various botanicals and herbs, the history of vermut can be traced back to the 19th century when it was a fashionable drink among the middle classes in Europe. It has made a comeback in recent years and is a refreshing alternative to beer or wine.