If there is something that all non-Spanish know about Spanish gastronomy, then it’s tapas! Or any of the tapas ‘cousins’. Tapas are served at most bars and many cafés. Often with local specialities. Sometimes very simple, but sometimes amazingly sophisticated.
There is no real difference between tapas, pinchos and pintxos. It is primarily a question of language, depending on where you are in Spain. In the Basque Country, Rioja and Navarra, it’s called pinchos, or pintxos on Basque. Some argue that there is some kind of fundamental difference, but that is mostly a little bit of showing off.
In some places tapas are free (if you drink something) but in the majority of cases you pay for la tapa / el pincho.
There are both hot and cold tapas. It can be something very simple, for example, a jamòn iberico (good examples are expensive) or the most strange creations. Omelettes (tortilla) can often be very good. Patatas bravas is another classic (fried potatoes with spicy sauce).
For most Spaniards, tapas is a small snack with an aperitif before the meal, when stopping at a bar for a glass, before arriving at the evening’s restaurant.
But tapas can also be a very good alternative to a traditional seated restaurant dinner, especially if you want to start dinner a little bit earlier than when the restaurants open. You start with one tapa and then take another one and another until you are satisfied. A nice way to do it is to take one at each bar / café and then go to the next, making it into a real bar crawl, or rather a tapas crawl.
Calle Laurel in Logrono:
If you take several tapas, it is a good idea to remember what you have had so that you can tell (or point it out) to the waiter when you pay. He will not always remember. Or, you pay each time you order.
In most cases all tapas are displayed on the bar counter. Sometimes some things can be cooked or heated behind the counter when you order it. It is impossible to know what one or the other tapa is called, so it’s often just as well to point to what you want. But even if everything is displayed easily within reach on the bar counter you never help yourself to it, you always ask for it.
In Rioja’s capital, Logroño, there are two famous streets, Calle Laurel and Calle San Juan (plus Calle San Agustín and others nearby), full of bars offering tapas of many different kinds. Many bars are specialized in a certain kind of tapas. Going there in the evening (after 9PM or so) is a peculiar festive experience. More congested than on the subway. In Bilbao, Plaza Nueva in the old town and Calle Ledesma in the newer part of town, are the most famous.
But tapas are everywhere in all cities! It can be an even more fun experience to go somewhere where not all other tourists go.
Join us on a wine tour in Spain and you will experience this fantastic feast yourself!