UPDATE: I moved back to Barcelona! Click here to see my latest guide to the best restaurants and tapas bars in Barcelona!
As much as I loved living in Barcelona, I often found myself paying over the odds for tapas that I knew the locals would never consider eating. Eventually, I made friends with Catalan locals and they took me to their favourites spots. Typically, they were hidden away from tourist areas but not as difficult to find as you might imagine. Years later and my friends still ask me for restaurant recommendations when they fly to Barcelona.
Here are my 3 favourite budget, non-touristy Barcelona restaurants – introduced to me by Barcelona natives. Vamos!
1. Los Toreros Restaurant – (€15-€20 per person)
Address: Carrer Xuclà 3-5, Raval (Just off La Rambla)
Nearest Metro: Liceu (Green Line)
Tucked away on one of Barcelona’s many narrow streets, Los Toreros offers some of the finest Catalan tapas and wine at the lowest prices. Better still, even though it’s right next to La Rambla, most tourists don’t know it’s there! The service is unpretentious and the atmosphere is very much one of ‘Grandma’s kitchen’. It hasn’t been decorated since they first set up shop and the walls are still adorned in bull fighting paraphernalia – ‘Los Toreros’ means ‘The Bull Fighters’. A Catalan friend introduced me to Los Toreros and ordered a selection of personal favourites, which I am now going to recommend to you:
Tapas at Los Toreros – Recommend by Locals
- Pa amb tomàquet (€3-4) – Classic Catalan delicacy that you HAVE to try whilst in Barcelona. It’s basically just bread with olive oil, garlic and tomato rubbed all over it. The guys at Los Toreros make it the traditional way – one portion should be enough for 2-3 people. Delicioso!
- Pimientos de Padrón (€4-5) – Juicy little green peppers that are gently fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. These are classic Spanish/Catalan tapas that add a little excitement to the meal. They say that in one portion, there will be one or two super spicy peppers; the rest are sweet. It’s a kind of Russian Roulette – Spanish style!
- Calamari (€5-6) – The ringlets of squid heaven are amazing at Los Toreros, as are their many other fish dishes. They really seem to make an effort to serve it as fresh as possible and serve it with lemons from the nearby Boqueria market – Que rico!
- Chocos (€5-6) – Another essential fish dish to experience in Barcelona, chocos are chunks of fried cuttlefish that are drenched, like the calamari, in fresh lemon juice!
- Patatas Bravas (€5) – No Spanish meal is complete without a portion of spicy fried potatos! There’s a lot of controversy over who makes the best patatas bravas in Barcelona, but Los Toreros’s have a good reputation!
- House Wine! (€8-12 per bottle) – Los Toreros is not a lavish restaurant, it’s more about home cooking. Stick to a bottle of house wine and keep it simple (and cheap!)
2.La Dolça Herminia (€25 per person)
Address: Carrer Magdalenas, 27, Barcelona (Just off Via Laietana)
Nearest Metro: Urquinaona (Yellow or red line)
A little more up scale than your average Barcelona budget restaurant, but still incredibly good value. La Dolca Herminia is housed in an old theatre and has high-vaulted ceilings with rows of white-table-clothed tables and cruise-ship-lighting. The staff are a little cold but incredibly efficient. Stick to the set menus (€20 drink included) which take you on a Catalan culinary adventure, and indulge in their ridiculously cheap jarras de vino (jugs of house wine).
Personal recommendation: You MUST try the Crema Catalana for dessert. It’s like a creme brulee, but better. And the Profiteroles de nata con chocolate are literally worth dying for.
3. La Flauta – The Locals’ Local (€10-€30 per person)
Address: Carrer Aribau, 23, 08011, Barcelona
Nearest Metro: Universitat (Red line)
Like most of the best restaurants I discovered in Barcelona, I was first taken to La Flauta by a Catalan native. We arrived early for lunch but they were too busy to seat us. Booted and suited men stood in the street outside, smoking and discussing moustache grooming techniques. I returned a few weeks later, this time armed with a pre-booked table and a healthy appetite. Their menu is simple and offers what must be the widest variety of ‘typico’ tapas in town. Their house classics, las flautas, are tiny little sandwiches rolled up in to the shape of flutes – hence the name. But what really keeps the locals coming back is their rigid dedication to fresh produce. Dishes are prepared and rotated throughout the year, so as to get the best out of the season’s produce.
Extra: It’s also very popular for desayunos where they offer freshly-baked pastries and strong cafe con leches – if you can get a table for breakfast, lunch, dinner or pica pica – you’re in for a real treat!