If you ask me to pick three words to describe the picture-perfect, gorgeous Basque city of San Sebastian, it would go somethin’ like this:
Rain, Pintxos & Hot Surfers.
It’s always raining, the city is jam-packed with delicious pintxo bars, and…well, we’ll get to the hot surfer part in the next post 😉 But first, you must get a gastro-tour of beautiful SS!
By who else, but a rainy pintxo. Ladies and gents, I present to you today’s tour guide:
Now, tell us Raina! What in the world is a “Pintxo”?
A pintxo (Basque spelling) or “pincho” (English spelling) is northern Spain’s version of a tapa. There are a few characteristics that make the almighty pintxo different from your regular tapa:
- Tapas can come free with a drink. Pintxos don’t.
- They are more elaborate and “gastronomic” than a regular tapa.
- They often come on a slice of bread, held together by a little stick. But not always!
- They often come displayed on a bar, with lotsssss to choose from. You take a plate, pick and serve yourself!
When you order a pintxo, I recommend ordering a hot one that’s not on display at the bar. This way, they’re guaranteed fresh! Or, if you want a cold pintxo, strategically pick it; go for the one that you just saw the bartender replenish with a new batch. Also, slow and steady wins the race: Order 1-2 pintxos per bar, if ya’ want to last!
Why are we taking a pintxo tour through San Sebastian? Well, pintxos define the gastronomy of the city. Not only is this coastal city known across Spain as one of the best culinary spots across the country, but it has been considered by many as Europe’s gastronomic star, known for its Michelin star restaurants. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the city’s best pintxo bars.
(Michelin Star restaurant post to come later in life when I’m not a wandering, broke Mexican-food-disguised blogger. Stay tuned…)
Ready kids? Put your ponchos on! This tour is about to get slippery. First stop?
Parte Vieja (“Old Part”)
The old city center: where the tiny cobble stone streets, centuries old plaza, and Gothic Revival Cathedral are what you imagine every Euro city to look like. Also, where all the tourists congregate! Go figure. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t amazing, local pintxo joints to be discovered!
Quick, run for cover! First dry stop: Astelena
Meet one of the most traditional pintxo spots in the city. Located right in Constitution Plaza, these guys have been servin’ up pintxos to tourists and locals alike since 1960! The star of this spot is the hot pintxo, pulpo a la plancha (grilled octopus in a caramelized onion sauce). Oh, and the bar-waiters are absolute gems! If they really like you, they’ll give you a shot of homemade Pacharan! A sloe-flavored liquor typical from Basque Country. DANGER…
Second Stop: A Fuego Negro. Ready…set…RUN!
A 4 minute walk from the last stop, head to this gastronomic gem with a modern-chic vibe. They don’t have any “display” tapas, as they make ’em all hot n’ fresh! They also rotate out their specialty pintxos every few weeks, so don’t get too attached to one. Drink your rainy pintxo with Txakoli, the typical white sparkling wine from San Sebastian.
Third Stop? La Cuchara de San Telmo. Worth trudging any monsoon.
I’d soak myself for these pintxos any day. Hands down, the most bangin’ pintxos devoured all trip! It’s tiny, it’s hidden, and it’s stuffy. You’ve got to fight through the soggy crowd to order, and you’ll probably eat standing up. BUT IT’S WORTH IT. Everything is amazing, but the cochinillo (grilled suckling pig) and carrillera (slow-cooked pork cheeks) had me rolling over in puddles of joy.
Fourth Stop: Sirimiri – Atari. Drink time! Incase you’re not wet enough.
Oh, hey look! It’s the cathedral! Drink the most amazing cocktail you’ll ever have while admiring the cathedral. I’m talkin’ some serious gastro-drinks. Paired with top-knotch pintxos, of course.
Let’s hop on our bikes! Wipe your seat dry. We’re gettin’ away from these soggy tourists.
Fifth stop? TrikuHarri
You won’t find any tourists in this zone, just pintxo-lovin’ locals. In fact, I spoke in Spanish and an old Basque lady told me I need to learn Euskera, aka native Basque language. We then made peace over an amazing pintxo.
Suns out? Quick, book it to the beach!
Hop on your bike and hustle to the beach as fast as you can! Before the clouds force you to eat more pintxos. (Or cake at Antojitos, the worlds most tempting bakery). Pull the “Beach Whale” as I like to call it, plop your pintxo-self down and dry off at the playa while the sun’s shinin’!
That’s all for today’s tour. Thanks Raina!
One thing’s for sure: Rain or shine, pintxos or no pintxos, txakoli or pacharan; San Sebastian is one of the most beautiful city’s I’ve even been to.
(But more beautiful with pintxos, of course 😉 )
Now that you’ve got your virtual rainy pintxos tour through San Sebastian, whattya say? Ready to have some pintxo-fun in the not-sun?