ColumnSometimes it is worth ditching the guidebook.
Barcelona, the land of tapas and Tempranillo.
I was there for a few days exploring the food scene, pretending I knew how to speak some odd combination of Spanish and Catalan while on an ongoing mission to eat pimientos padrón.
“That place looks perfect. Let’s come back here.”
We were on a small street just off of popular pedestrian route Passeig del Born. There was a corner bar, filled with locals, simple interior and a few stragglers outside smoking a cigarette with a glass of beer in hand. What about that place screamed, ‘get your next round of tapas’? I have no idea, but there was something about it that made it pop from all of the others.
And so we returned, ordered a round of patates bravas, pimientos padrón, a Spanish tortilla and a few glasses of vino tinto. It was the best meal of the entire trip. Simple. Delicious. Relaxed. Unpretentious.
I looked around the bar. There were mostly locals, of all ages. The decor was modern but relaxed, the drink selection written above the bar on a black chalkboard in all caps. This wasn’t a trendy spot. It was just a good spot. The kind of place you go for good food and good conversation.
There is a sense of pleasure derived from finding a good food spot all on my own. Following intuition until it takes you somewhere you never would have expected or would have planned. The serendipity of searching for food.
In the information age, there are a multitude of ways of finding a place to eat, and even if you skimped on buying a guidebook, there’s always Google. While this keeps us on our toes, and with a laundry list of culinary hotspots we should visit while we are in a new place, does it detract from the magic of finding something spontaneously? We’re so glued to our smartphones, reading reviews of what other people thought of a place that we have a preconceived notion before we ever even walk in and order.
There is something to be said for doing your research beforehand. If you love craft roast coffee then it can be hard to blindly wander the streets of a new place in search of a cafe. And if you want to taste local artisan beers, you might want to track down an address or two before heading out. But there is something to be said for not knowing, not having a plan and simply following your intuition, wandering until something strikes your fancy, trying something without knowing what it is, or asking a local where to go. You know, all those things we used to do.
I have a long list of places in Barcelona that were the result of lots of reading and Googling. But my two absolute favorite spots in the city? Two places that I randomly happened across. Maybe because I found them myself, maybe because they were the kind of places that I like to frequent – simple settings with good ingredients – but also maybe because they were both a reminder of the essence of travel: exploration. And when it comes to food, we could all explore a little more.
My two favorite spots? Really I should let you find them on your own, but if you are in Barcelona don’t miss Bormuth for simple, cheap and fantastic tapas and Granja Petitbo for coffee and baked goods.
This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Images: Anna Brones