There’s a Betty and Veronica situation between Spain’s two biggest cities. Capital Madrid claims its major corporations, some of Western Europe’s best art museums and an almost Italian devotion to traditional ingredients, simply and honorably prepared.
Sexy coastal sibling Barcelona has wild Gaudí architecture, nightlife to make Dina Lohan weep, eight miles of Mediterranean coastline and several of the world’s most influential and inventive chefs. Add in a few decades of 20th Century separatism, and a little city-to-city opposition is pretty much inevitable.
For all its regional differences, what unifies modern-day Spain is a national devotion to bar snacks. From Sevillan paella to Navarre’s now ubiquitous tortilla Española, Spain’s local bites are timeless, tasty and proudly defended against regional competition.
In snacking, unlike soccer, the advantage is clearly Catalonian. Barcelona’s culinary scene runs the gamut from tapas to Thai food, and its legendary nightlife necessitates sustaining bar snacks to keep the party alive until the wee hours.
Enter the bikini. Named for a concert hall in Les Corts, this seductive take on ham and cheese tips its hat to France’s Croque Monsieur but is an utterly Catalan affair. (A Madrilleño version goes by the decidedly less suggestive moniker el combinado.)
At Eixample tapas bar Tapaç 24, el Bulli alum Carles Abellán elevates the simple sandwich, using grated black truffles alongside local jamon iberico and queso Manchego on grilled, crustless white bread. Sliced into four delicate triangles, the result is a satisfying, sexy little bite that packs a lot of punch for a mere €8 (about $10) per plate.
One of Abellán’s four spots in Barcelona, Tapaç 24 is open all day. Bikini-bound travelers can sidle up to the lively counter, or request one of the outdoor tables on bustling Diputació, any time from 8 a.m. to midnight. And prepare to submit to sandwich seduction, Barca style.
24 Carrer de la Diputació,
269 08007 Barcelona, Spain
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