The Essential Local's Barcelona

Matt Goulding is a chef-turned-editor and founder of Roads & Kingdoms. He once (successfully) drunk-emailed Anthony Bourdain, and won over his now-wife with truffles and tickets to LCD Soundsystem. What a go-getter.

Here’s his ultra-local take on Barcelona, from the usual suspects to his personal favorite not-so-usual finds.

Obligatory Eats

Mercado de La Boqueria is a must. I'd go early on Friday for breakfast. Start with Xuxos (filled croissants) and a plate of garbanzos at Bar Pinoxto. Then go to Quim de la Boqueria for artichokes and fried eggs with baby squid—washed down with some Cava.

Bar Cañete is another sophisticated tapas joint, though more classic. Very high-quality product at a long, beautiful bar. A good option for a Friday lunch, possibly combined with a stop at Succulent, Carlos Abellan's other restaurant, in the nearby Raval.

Photo: @bar_canete

Run by the Iglesias brothers (partners of the Adrias in their Barcelona restaurants) Espai Kru concentrates on the best raw seafood of the Mediterranean and Pacific. Their other restaurant, Rias de Galicia, is more traditional, but with the same exceptional product.

Friday lunch is a good time for a little tapas crawl in the Barceloneta area. You could start early at Xampanyet in the Born for anchovies, white asparagus and tortilla, then move over to the chaos at Xampanyeria for cheap bubbly and jamón sandwiches.

Farther towards the coast, La Cova Fumada in Barceloneta is one of my favorite places in the city—a hole in the wall with great Catalan cooking. It's only open until 2:30pm, but it’s great for a few tapas or a whole breakfast or lunch.

I'd stop at Vila Viniteca, where you can arrange to do full charcuterie and cheese tastings—they carry the best of both in the city. It's also the best place to buy Spanish products to bring home.

Photo: @bar_canete

The Usual Suspects

I’d skip Tapas 24. Or just go for the Truffle Bikini and then move on. You could pop in next door to El Nacional, a huge high-end collection of restaurants—a gorgeous space with passable food.

Quimet y Quimet is a great concept and very Spanish, but it's generally overrun by tourists. Try to go at an off hour.

Cal Pep, Quimet, Bar Mut and Tapas 24 are all very well-traveled spots by now, but they've gotten that way for a reason. Cal Pep is probably my favorite of that group, especially for seafood. The best part of eating there is sitting at the long bar, so I avoid going in big groups.

The Current Scene

Though it’s centered in Valencia, Spanish rice culture is insane in Barcelona right now (think paella, arroz negro, fideua). Vermouth culture is also going really strong.

Photo: @bodega1900

Bodega 1900 is Adria's upscale spot, but there are a ton of places along Carrer del Parlament for sweet vermouth and late afternoon salty snacks. Vermouth and rice is a very Catalan experience. If you're really hungry, Spanish rice dishes also abound in Barceloneta. El Suquet de l'Almirall, Can Sole, and Barraca all do pretty solid work.

Mont Bar and Mano Rota: Among the new wave of tapas spots with a casual atmosphere but serious, inventive food that has taken shape in the past year or two, these are two of the best. 

Photo: @manorotabcn

Sunday Spots (most places are closed)

Sunday is a good day to do vermouth and rice. I would go to Morro Fi or one of the many vermouth places on Carrer de Parlament around 1PM, and then move on to a rice somewhere. I like Martinenz, up on Montjuic. There may be better rices in Barcelona, but the food is very good and the views and vibe are excellent.

Succulent is also open for lunch on Sundays.

Photo: @morrofi

Bar Brutal is another one of my favorite places in the city. It's the kind of place where chefs and wine geeks head to when they're in town. The natural wine selection is the best in the city, and the food is from my buddy Kaya, who worked for Adria for years.

Non-Food-Related

Of course, anything Gaudí is going to be excellent. I'd get up early on Friday or Saturday and get to Parc Guell when it opens. Stunning architecture, stunning views of the city. Walk down Passeig de Gracia to take in his two most famous apartment buildings: La Perdrera and Casa Batllo. If you want more contemporary architecture, the most famous stuff is in Poble Nou and out by the Forum. For boutique shopping, the small backstreets of the Born are the best.

Photo: @can_sole 

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