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Spain’s second largest city, and capital of Catalonia, is rightfully known for its rich cultural heritage. Following a drastic transformation speared by hosting the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, Barcelona has evolved into a global city. A food city. Here's where to eat.

Barcelona bites (clockwise from top left): The owners of Tickets, Restaurant Me, bomba at Paco Meralgo, open kitchen at Koy Shunka, Milk Bar & Bistro, local sausage with beans at Cal Pep.

Spain’s second largest city, and the capital of Catalonia, is rightfully known for its rich cultural heritage. Following a drastic transformation speared by hosting the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, Barcelona has evolved into a major global city.

In addition to renowned attractions highlighted by the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, the artwork of Joan Miró, and the bicycle kicking of Lionel Messi, Barcelona is also home to a storied and diverse restaurant tradition.

While much of the world may know it as “The ham capital of the world,” or immediately associate its dining scene with casually sitting down for paella at 11 p.m., the city offers a number of fine dining options that feature quality cuisine from around the world. Here is a look at some of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona, sorted by type of cuisine (yes, tapas do still reign supreme.)

TAPAS
Tickets

Ferran and Albert Adrià’s most recent project requires diners to reserve online 60 days in advance to win the chance to taste tapas from the minds behind elBulli. Lucky guests sample from an extensive and intricate menu including sangria-infused peaches and mini airbags stuffed with liquid manchego, and the waiters are quick to provide knowledgeable guidance. The brothers have revamped their adjacent cocktail bar, 41 Degrees, to present a 41-course food “experience.” Together, the two venues are the hottest and most difficult seats to get in town. Avinguda del Parallel 164, 932 924 253, ticketsbar.es/web

Paco Meralgo
The contemporary establishment located in the Eixample District doles out some of the freshest tapas in Barcelona. Locals flock to the restaurant’s wooden tables for both lunch and dinner to try the seafood-focused cuisine: a seat at the counter will give you a close-up view of the day’s catches. The bombas (meat and potato balls with peppers) and tuna carpaccio are must-tries. Calle Muntaner 171, 934 309 027, pacomeralgo.com

Cervecería Catalana
This tapas cafeteria has long been a favorite of locals and tourists alike. The exhaustive menu includes classics like broken egg with fried potatoes and brava sauce, as well as intriguing, uncommon tapas (think mini hot dogs). The cavernous interior is especially busy during prime dinner hours for good reason. Carrer de Mallorca 236, 932 160 368

Cal Pep
Cal Pep is one of the most famed tapas spots in Barcelona, and the ungodly wait times during lunch and dinner reflect this reputation (reservations can only be made for groups of four or more). The staff will first ask your preferences before bringing plate after plate to your table, as there is no menu available. The clams are some of the freshest in the city, and several of their items are portioned larger than typical tapas: the local sausage with beans is a heavenly example. It is (understandably) a bit pricy for tapas. Plaça de les Olles 8, 933 107 961, calpep.com

La Flauta
Located in the Eixample district, La Flauta is similar to Cerveceria Catalana, with a bit more of a local atmosphere. The broken egg with fried potatoes and brava sauce is mixed tableside by the waiter, giving it extra aesthetic appeal. Straying slightly from typical tapas selections, La Flauta also features tasty sandwiches and salads. Try the ham, cheese and dates sandwich and the arugula and parmesan salad with candied pears. As is customary with the best tapas venues in Barcelona, expect to wait for a table. Carrer d’Aribau 23, 933 237 038

BRUNCH
Milk Bar & Bistro
Run by an Irish couple, this cozy spot near La Barceloneta has always teemed with tourists. The brightly colored bistro recently began serving its “Recovery Brunch” menu daily, giving partygoers a place to stumble into as late (early?) as 4 p.m. The pancakes are a godsend, as are the eggs benedict, which are almost impossible to find elsewhere in the city. Carrer d’En Gignàs 21, 932 680 922, milkbarcelona.com

Picnic Restaurant
Picnic is busiest over the weekends, when it offers its brunch menu, with options ranging from tapas-style dishes to the scrambled eggs that you have been craving since arriving in Barcelona. The fried green tomatoes with feta cheese and corn salsa are a perfect complement to the egg and meat brunch entrées. Carrer del Comerç 1, 935 116 661, picnic-restaurant.com

CATALAN
Moo
Located in the Hotel Omm right off Passeig de Gràcia, Moo was awarded a Michelin star in 2012. The gastronomic restaurant serves dishes featuring unusual combinations that draw from the Catalan cuisine. The changing tasting menus are a treat, allowing diners to choose from seasonal, gourmet or vegetarian creative options paired with wine. Carrer del Rosselló 265, 934 454 000, hotelomm.es/moo

Cinc Sentits
Continuing the growing trend of restaurants offering (pricy) tasting menus, the centrally located Cinc Sentits provides some of the finest modern cuisine in the city. The romantic restaurant works with purveyors from around Catalunya and Spain to use a variety of local and seasonal ingredients. Diners can sample from a complex menu including tapas, starters, fish, meats, cheeses and desserts, or opt for the simpler and more appetizer-oriented “Essènica” menu. Carrer d’Aribau 58, 933 239 490, cincsentits.com

INDIAN
Mayura

Yet another Eixample district representative, Mayura serves authentic Indian food in an elegant lounge setting. The three-course prix fixe menus available at lunch are an absolute steal, starting at around 10 euros. The restaurant is highly recommended for a combination of top-notch Indian dishes and pleasant ambiance. Carrer de Girona 57, 934 814 536, mayuralounge.es

Bombay Spicy
You may have been told to avoid restaurants that display pictures of food on their front door. Briefly ignore this rule of thumb, take a trip to the overlooked El Raval neighborhood, and step inside Bombay Spicy to taste irresistably saucy and spicy classic Indian food. Calle Sant Pau 16, 933 174 918

ITALIAN
Da Greco
While printed reviews touting it as “the best Italian food outside of Italy” might be slightly exaggerated, the old-fashioned setting on the ever-fashionable Passeig de Gràcia presents mouthwatering homemade pastas and Italian classics. The restaurant offers set menus at lunch and dinner, relative bargains at 18 and 35 Euros, respectively. The beauty of the palace-like, romantic spacious interior comes second only to its policy of bringing diners small portions of their companions’ orders to sample. Passeig de Gràcia 116, 932 186 550

JAPANESE
Wakasa

Barcelona receives a justifiably large amount of attention for its expansive, often locally caught sushi. Even though the secret is not fully out about Wakasa, it is still nearly impossible to secure one of its four tables, which fit a total of ten people. Call early and often to beg for a reservation: its fish is the freshest in the city. Order a set plate of sushi, and be sure to make room for their non-fish dishes: the natural tofu and kimchi udon noodles are both delectable. Carrer de Nàpols 347, 932 076 395

Koy Shunka
The sister restaurant to well-known and acclaimed sushi joint Shunka, Koy Shunka was opened by chef Hideki Matsuhisa in 2008 with the aim of focusing on a wide variety of Japanese delicacies. The open-kitchen establishment located on a small road off Via Laietana has quickly received much recognition, and offers exquisite items in an upscale setting. The seasonal tasting menu that features both sushi and dishes like Wagyu beef and noodles with salmon roe is a real treat, albeit a splurge at just over 70 euros. Carrer de Copons 7, 934 127 939, koyshunka.com

Wagokoro
This intimate Japanese eatery is a gem found in the north of Barcelona, an area that remains unexplored by the majority of tourists. Their non-sushi set menus change every month to accommodate seasonal ingredients, and feature a choice of six, seven or eight intricate fish, meat and vegetarian courses. At around 60 Euros, the food is expensive but not extravagant for its quality and large quantity. Carrer de Regàs 35, 935 019 340, wagokoro.es

SANDWICHES
Bo de B

It is impossible to get better bang for your buck in Barcelona than at Bo de B. The tiny sandwich joint near the marina dishes out crusty breads packed messily and to the brim with a choice of marinated meats and fresh ingredients, including feta cheese and seasonal vegetables. The lines usually spill down the block during lunch hours, but it is possible to snag a table inside and avoid the take-out wait. Carrer de la Fusteria 14

Sandwich and Friends
The chain of four reliable eateries – one is located smack in the middle of Plaça Catalunya – showcases a menu that includes over 50 diverse sandwiches (salads and burgers are also featured). With MTV blaring on television and a casual approach, the sandwich stops are instant hits with tourists looking for a quick and inexpensive lunch. Various locations, sandwichandfriends.com

THAI
Bangkok Café

This bustling small joint serves traditional Thai in the seldom-visited Sants district of town. The open kitchen churns out authentic dishes, like larb gai (ground mint chicken salad). Go out of your usual tourist path and call to secure a table. Just keep in mind that anything labeled “spicy” packs a serious punch. Carrer d’Evarist Arnús 65, 933 393 269

Thai Thai
The neighborhood favorite features Thai classics in a serene setting. The coconut milk–based tom ka gai soup explodes with flavor, and the sauce for the spicy green curry is delicate and not overwhelming, always a plus when dealing with curry. Save room for dessert and order the sticky rice with coconut milk and sweet banana. Carrer de la Diputació 91, 620 938 059, thaithaibcn.com

PAN ASIAN
Dos Palillos

Albert Raurich, formerly the head chef of elBulli, opened this tapas bar in 2007, combining Asian dim sum with the Spanish tapas philosophy and Catalan cuisine. The restaurant presents a unique take on appetizers from the Far East, as well as Japanese raw fish. Go for any of the dumplings or temakis and be sure to taste a dish you surely have never come across before: chicken sashimi! During dinnertime, the main dining room is prix fixe only, but the laid-back bar counter seating continues to offer à la carte options. Carrer d’Elisabets 9, 933 040 513, dospalillos.com

Restaurant Me
New Orleans architecture professor Javier Navarro Alemany collaborated with a Vietnamese student to open Restaurant Me near Avinguda Diagonal in 2007. It’s a fusion of Cajun, Catalan and Vietnamese food that incorporates seasonal ingredients and a constantly changing menu to complement the restaurant’s serene setting and reasonable pricing. Carrer de París 162, 934 194 933, catarsiscuisine.com


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