A guide to pintxos…in San Sebastian
San Sebastian is a food lover’s dream and pintxos are the stars of the show: the city’s old town is packed with more than 100 pintxos bars. In the evening, rather than a visit to one of the Michelin-starred restaurants for which the city is famed, the locals will visit a few different bars to have a couple of drinks and their favourite pintxos in each, before moving on to the next.
One of the easiest ways to spot a good bar is to look at the floor. If it’s covered in napkins and skewers, it’s worth going in. Those in the know drop everything on the floor after finishing, leaving the waiters to quickly clear the plates (until the bar closes). The bars are lined with plates of different cold pintxos that you help yourself to. Be sure to save room for the hot ones, which are listed on blackboards and cooked to order. Expect to pay €3 for a cold pintxo and around €4 for a hot one. Keep tabs on what you’ve eaten as the Basques are very honest and don’t write your order down, and you simply pay as you leave. They do have an impressive memory though!
Lourdes Erquicia, a culinary guide and chef from San Sebastian Food, who grew up in the old town, shared some of her favourite haunts with us and told us what we should eat in each (as well as the Spanish so you know what to order).
La Mejillonera, Calle Puerto
It may not look that nice from the outside, but they have the best patatas bravas and tigres (mussels with spicy tomato sauce).
Gandarias, 31 de Agosto
Solomillo (tender loin of beef), Hongos a la plancha (grilled wild mushrooms), jamón de Bellota (Iberian acorn-fed ham) and fantastic kidney skewers.
Goiz Argi, Calle Fermín Calbetón
Brocheta de gambas (prawn skewer), pimientos de padrón (green peppers).
Egosari, Calle Fermín Calbetón
Brocheta de rape (monkfish skewer), gulas (false baby eels), queso de Idiazabal (local sheep milk cheese).
Borda Berri, Calle Fermín Calbetón
Kebab (slow cooked spare rib), ravioli de txipi (squid in black ink ravioli), risotto de Idiazabal (local cheese with orzo pasta).
La Cueva, Plaza de la Trinidad
Champis (grilled mushrooms in garlic), guindillas (local peppers in batter), caracoles (snails in tomato sauce)
Casa Urola, Calle Fermín Calbetón
Vieira (scallop in ajo blanco sauce), pulpo con papada (octopus with pork), hojaldre de Idiazabal y hongos (pastry with wild mushrooms, pine nuts and cheese).
La Viña, Calle 31 de Agosto
Tarta de queso (cheese cake) and Pedro Ximénez sweet wine.
San Telmo, by the San Telmo Museum
An assortment of desserts
To help remain relatively sober through the evening, the Spanish will order their beer by the caña (less than half a pint) or zurrito (less than a caña) of beer, or a small glass of wine or Basque cider. Txacoli is a local wine that is light and served in small quantities. It’s served from a height to ensure it has plenty of air and bubbles in the glass, and is worth trying simply to see it being poured.
The hardest part of any tour of the pintxos bars is leaving after one (or maybe two drinks!) and moving on to the next one. But it’s worth it.
You can enjoy the delights of San Sebastian on a tailor-made holiday of Spain.