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Top 10 Restaurants We Love in Spain


By Lu Sobredo


Gastronomy and Spain have become synonymous. Writing this photo essay makes me think of scrumptious meals. My mouth is literally watering with great longing to return. 

Since starting my blog in 2016, my husband and I are often asked for recommendation of places to eat when in Spain. I have given recommendations in a private message through my travel Facebook Page: Lutravelsabroad. And I do it happily. But there is no reason to keep our recommendations private.

When one finds a gold mine, I believe it is important to share the wealth. My family and I have managed to partake in culinary feasts on a budget when traveling. When we do some modest splurging, it is all planned and calculated into our travel expense. Why not live a little while we still can? If curious, you can still access my first Blog post on the subject: Happy Eating on a Budget in Spain. This earlier essay takes you from the Madrid area and Barcelona, to the Galician region in Santiago de Compostela including the small town of Foz. Foz is a small seaside village we once spent a week in the summer 2016. Some of our familiarity with Spanish food came from having walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Spain is also one of our favorite destinations in the past 12 years. First, because of my husband’s university-related research work. Second, for family vacation.

For this piece, I am delighted to showcase places we have visited in the past couple of years. Each featured eating establishment has its unique brand of gastronomic offerings. Some places are accentuated by breathtaking surroundings. And sometimes my husband's camera captures the magic of the place in just the precise moment, as in the panoramic photograph of the full moon below. 


River Urumea under the Full Moon in San Sebastián, Spain. ©James Sobredo
Here are the top 10 restaurants we love in Spain. I have selected one or two photos for each featured restaurant. These places are disability friendly--manageable for someone like myself who walks with a cane. For those needing more information or images, just send me a message or comment. 

10. CASA LUCIANO (MADRID)
This place is ideally situated near the Atocha train station in Madrid. Tourists and visitors new to the area could easily spot the bustling place as they walk around the corner after emerging from the subway exit onto the street. It is adjacent to the famed Reina Sofia Museum. It is near a spacious Starbucks and popular hotels. Even though we mostly stay away from touristy eating places, CASA LUCIANO is an exception. It is frequented by locals and tourists both. More like a casual diner than a place for fine dining, it is perfect for breakfast. Less crowded early in the morning and especially in the wintertime. 


Churros Con Chocolate, ©Lu Sobredo

A Nice Cup of Coffee, ©Lu Sobredo

I recommend the iconic Spanish churro con chocolate. Available are combination menu items that include eggs. The prices are reasonable. Under €5 or €10 is a good value. They also serve lunch and dinner. If you’re looking for a full hearty breakfast, good tasting meals in a clean environment and attentive staff, this restaurant is for you. 

9. LA GLORIA DE MONTERA (MADRID)
In the summer of 2016, our favorite go-to restaurant while in Madrid was three blocks from our hotel in Puerta del Sol and located in what might look like an isolated alley and less frequented by tourists. What we found was a place where locals go for their evening out. LA GLORIA DE MONTERA was recommended by a hotel staff. We gave it a try for dinner when we rolled in after a long bus ride from Porto, Portugal. 


Menu Selection: Winter 2018, ©Lu Sobredo

Main Course: Roast Pork Knuckle, ©Lu Sobredo 

The food selection was exquisite and at reasonable prices. The service staff were friendly. We returned more times for lunch (hours open: 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.), and dinner (hours open: 8:30 p.m. - 12:00 a.m). Menu-del-dia for lunch was €11 per person. Dinner at €40 for three was delicious and filling. A €70 dinner, ordered family style for three when we splurged, was out of this world. And the staff kept telling us, if there’s any menu item that was not cooked to our liking or expectation, the chef could prepare something else at no additional charge. The total cost depended on what menu items you ordered. My husband and our son shared a bottle of wine and a couple of appetizers in addition to the main course. When too satiated, we shared a dessert. Otherwise, when not too full and feeling like splurging, we each ordered a dessert. We return to dine each time when in Madrid—my husband did in the summer of 2017, and as we did in winter 2018. Some of the the same wait staff were still working there and remembered us fondly. 

8. ZABAL KAFETAK (DONASTIA-SAN SEBASTIÁN)
When in Madrid, our breakfast (desayuno in Spanish) usually consists of orange juice, mini croissants and coffee or churros con chocolate. When in Donastia-San Sebastian, we indulge. ZABAL KAFETAK is a favorite breakfast place for both residents and tourists. 


Zabal Kafetak is Behind the Trees Across the Festive Park. ©Lu Sobredo

Our Delicious Choices for Breakfast. ©Lu Sobredo

You can have a light delectable treat with coffee or as many pastries from their selection. An array of croissant, brioche and other pastries—a feast for the eyes and palate! We also tend to purchase treats to be consumed later in the day—maybe while sitting on a bench at a park or at the promenade while people-watching by the La Concha Beach. Prices are reasonable. We got carried away one time with our extensive selection, and still only paid less than €20. 

7. LA CARÊME (ARANJUEZ, MADRID)
I had to include this once-Michelin star restaurant in our adopted hometown. Aranjuez is a 45-minute train ride from the center of Madrid. It is our Spanish family’s beautiful hometown. I highlighted Aranjuez in an earlier blog post about reasons to visit small towns in Spain: 5 Reasons for Visiting 5 Small Towns in Spain: Aranjuez


Sign By the Door of the Restaurant. ©Lu Sobredo

Garden at the Royal Palace Complex. ©Lu Sobredo

Here’s what I wrote in the previous blog post: Our friends go-to Michelin restaurant was being refurbished during our 2016 summer visit. For the next best thing, a Michelin chef and cafe owner recommended an alternative—LA CARÊME. La Carême Restaurante was a recognized Michelin Star restaurant in 2007 and 2015. Having a meal there was special. My palate was in seventh heaven. Located in one of the wings of the historic Royal Palace complex, it overlooks the elegant water fountain surrounded by an expansive meticulously-cared-for flower garden. During summer months when dining, one is refreshed by periodic misting of the balcony. The outdoor balcony was  where we chose to dine. Cost could vary from less than €50 - €100 per person. It is worth setting aside an amount to splurge on yourself.

6. PASEO DE ARTE LOBBY CAFE (MADRID)
This was a pleasant surprise from our winter 2018 visit to Madrid. I usually don’t expect much from a hotel restaurant unless it’s a resort. Yes, the Paseo de Arte Hotel is a 4 star, and some rating might even show it as a 5 star hotel, still the restaurant looked small and understated. But my husband and I were so hungry from the long trip, a four-hour layover and a couple of luggage to haul onto the metro ride. We were exhausted. Our menu del dia (€25 per person)—a three course meal was delicately prepared. The taste was clean and simply delicious. My dear husband kept saying, how do Spaniards turn a simple looking meal into something elegant and delicious? 


Menu for the Day. ©Lu Sobredo

Fig Sorbet with Caramelized Cream. ©Lu Sobredo

Impressive too was the fact that there was one server for the whole restaurant, and one bar tender. The meals were served timely and yet the wait staff, Cesar took the time to get to know us. He looked to be in his early or mid-20s. We returned for additional meals during our stay, and he always greeted us by name. My favorite dish there was anything squid. My choice of dessert was tarta de manzanas (apple). Although the fig sorbet with caramelized cream (featured photo) was refreshing as well. 

5. KATA.4 OYSTER BAR (DONATIA-SAN SEBASTIÁN)
Located near the River Urumea and a short walk from our Pension/Hotel where we stayed our first week in winter 2018. I was drawn to the place during our first morning in Donastia-San Sebastián. Early morning taste of coffee and pinchos of eggs, crabmeat and the iconic Iberico ham made for a breakfast feast. 


Pinchos for Breakfast. ©Lu Sobredo

Pulpo (Octupos Dish) for Dinner. ©Lu Sobredo

We returned for a light dinner of pulpo that night. The quality of the food was tops. Breakfast I shared with my husband was less than €10. A  light dinner for two of two pinchos, one main course, a glass of wine and a dessert cost €30. We are not oyster consumers, but we understand KATA.4 OYSTER BAR is known for their vast selection of oysters, thus the name. After dinner, we took a short walk while the full moon lit up the promenade by the river. The light from the moon, the lamp post and the colorful lights donning the building across were too irresistible not to photograph. (See photo at the start of this essay).

4. LA ESPIGA (DONASTIÁ-SAN SEBASTIAN)
If Tapas Bar hopping the Basque Country, one must make a stop at LA ESPIGA. The manager at the hotel where my husband stayed in the summer of 2017 in San Sebastián recommended the Tapas Bar La Espiga. The hotel manager said that he has been going there for decades along with his grandfather. His great-grandfather frequented the place from 100 years ago. La Espiga’s reputation is well-known among the locals. So the place is a true landmark where locals apparently like to eat. Word must get around as the place was also packed with visitors like ourselves. The online reviews mostly say it has excellent food, nice atmosphere and reasonable prices. When we ventured in during the lunch hour—that would be around 2 p.m., the place was wall-to-wall customers standing at the bar and by the side counter along the wall opposite the main bar. The few tables inside and those outdoors were completely filled. The place was buzzing with energy of lively conversations. Service was excellent. 


The Lunch Crowd at Espiga. ©Lu Sobredo

Our Corner at La Espiga. ©Lu Sobredo

My husband and I were satisfied inching into a space by the side counter. Try it for lunch and/or dinner. Our choices of wine and four small plates of pinchos cost around €20. The food was as good as the locals say.

3. LA TAURINA (MADRID)
Tucked away along a street near the bustling Puerta del Sol, or as the residents say simply “Sol,” we could have easily just walked passed LA TAURINA. Thanks to our dear friend/Spanish family Ruben, he made reservations for lunch. Although he could only join us for a drink and the first course, we were fortunate to have him give us a guided tour of the art works inside—mosaics and pictures that decorated the walls of this incredibly enchanting place. The art works are paintings of historical Madrid, celebrated national holiday and the town of Aranjuez. Aranjuez--where the artist is from; a place our friend happily calls home. 


View of La Taurina From Our Table. ©Lu Sobredo

James Befriending Staff. ©Lu Sobredo
The staff are charming, friendly and attentive. We had the best time sharing stories with them. Menu items are typical Spanish dishes. Dishes are priced from under €10 and as high as over €30. La Taurina also offers daily specials and creates menus for groups.  This place comes highly recommended and for good reason. If you want quality and tradition, you are at the right place in Madrid. And it is walking distance from the Metro and landmark attractions. If interested in taking a group there, message me and I'll connect you with the event coordinator.

2. LA BRASSERIE MARI GALANT (DONASTIA-SAN SEBASTIÁN)
While staying at the Hotel Londres by the La Concha Beach in Donastia-San Sebastián during the last few days of our travel in winter 2018, we invited friends Alicia and Thierry to join us for lunch. Residents of this alluring town, our friends were quite familiar with the quality offerings at the restaurant located at the hotel’s ground floor. We enjoyed our friends’ company. We all celebrated friendship over an elegant and delectable lunch. The three-course menu del dia (meal of the day) was  the best bargain at €29 per person. Menu choices were from  a grand array of appetizers/starters, main courses and desserts plus a bottle of wine. 


Wine Flows Abundantly in Spain as Part of the Meal. ©Lu Sobredo

My Main Course: Squid in its Own Ink. ©Lu Sobredo
The three course meal could easily run you €50 per person most days. So look at the listed daily menu for prices. The prices could vary depending on what time or day of the week. This is a place where one could splurge a little. Staff were professional and friendly and all spoke English. This was not a crucial factor for us as our friends handled the more complicated conversation with the servers. Show up hungry or at least bring your curious appetite to thoroughly luxuriate in the taste of your meal and the ambience of the place. The wide picture windows at LA BRASSERIE MARI GALANT gave us the  feeling that we we were dining outdoors. Of course, outdoors boasts the La Concha Beach. 

1. NARRU (DONASTIA-SAN SEBASTIÁN)
This restaurant has earned the number one spot on my list. Located right off the lobby of Hotel Niza, NARRU is my number one choice of restaurants in Spain. Influenced by my husband James Sobredo’s first time at Narru in the summer of 2017, the place was all he said it was. Since we are drawn to the water, it comes as no surprise that this restaurant has a view of the La Concha Bay. 


Finding Narru Restaurant. ©James Sobredo

Bacalao Dish: My Main Course. ©James Sobredo

Highly recommended by our Spanish family and other close friends who are long-term residents of Donastia-San Sebastián, Narru is indeed representative of new Basque cooking. Be prepared to spend around €100 or less for two, depending on what you order for dinner. Allow yourself to be pampered by professional & caring staff. They do their best to elegantly serve the gastronomic vision of a celebrated young chef. Narru boasts a creative young Chef, Iñigo Peña (now 28), who at the age of 16 trained under the best, Chef Juan Mari Arzak, known as the father of new Basque cuisine. Yes, of the famed Restaurante Arzak, aptly named after the master. Find out more about the young chef: http://narru.es/en/chef/. Chef Peña was also named in the top ten young European chefs. (http://www.gastroenophile.com/2010/11/top-10-young-european-chefs.html)
See an earlier blog post singly showcasing Narru: High End Spanish Food: Affordable Dining at Narru.

WATCH FOR A GROWING LIST
There were other restaurants and cafes we have visited in Spain worthy of mention.  At this writing these 10 left us wanting to return to each one.

However, I would be remiss not to mention one more place even though it did not make my top 10 restaurant list. It’s hard to resist CAFE PRADO when talking about tasty and fun food. 


Mother & Son at Cafe Prado. ©James Sobredo

When in Madrid we visit the Prado Museum or Reina Sofia Museum. It has become a family ritual. The Prado Museum’s appeal outside of the amazing art works of the Masters is their Museum Cafe. Its cafeteria-like dining set-up is charming. Food is beautifully displayed. The delicious choices could easily make for a multi-course meal: appetizers/starters, main dishes to desserts and coffee drinks. Pay close attention to the prices displayed for each item or your bill could run high. It is too easy to be tempted by the aroma and the attractive presentation. It is definitely a recommended stop for a late lunch. Then, take a tour of the museum to walk off the calories. Just remember, the museum is expansive and there is so much to take in. It might take a couple of visits. Or as we have personally done, each time we travel to Madrid, we focus on certain wings of the PRADO, one which features specific artists,  artistic period or historical timeline.

I know the list of restaurants we love in Spain will grow when we return later this year 2018. Please be reminded that food is only one aspect of the allure these places represent. Go discover for yourself. Bon appétit!


Essay ©Lu Sobredo 2018
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

SPECIAL THANK YOU to my husband James Sobredo for helping with the photos; to our long time dear friend/brother Ruben Lopez who’s always there to take care of our needs and new friend Sonia Postigo for the restaurant recommendation. 

And to dear friends Dr. Thierry and Alicia Juteau for being so welcoming and helping us feel at home in Donastia-San Sebastián. 

About the Author 
Lu Sobredo is writer/publisher at Lu Travels Abroad, a blog dedicated to folks whose limitations do not hamper them from traveling. About a year into early retirement came the diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Her world collapsed from under her as the disability rendered her nearly-immobile and wheelchair-bound for almost three years. Her family's life changed. Her total life changed, but she did not let RA define her. With much will & love from family, friends and an awesome doctor, she regained some functionality--her new normal. She will have RA all her life. And she now writes about life and travel with RA.

Comments

  1. I am excited to share a comment from a respected journalist, author and dear friend, Prosy Delacruz about this blog post. Thank you, Prosy:

    "Reimagine your daily lives with a travel abroad, then, relish these suggestions and enjoy as Lu and James did. Oh, I would want to book a trip now to Spain. Great blog, Lu Sobredo, it makes me jump off my writer's chair into the plane and train."

    I hope to someday soon figure out how to make this Comment section "user-friendly."

    ReplyDelete
  2. I received a comment from a dear friend after he read my latest blog post. The comment gave me pause and I wanted to share this here. It was affirming and at the same time it gave me pause. Writing is an amazing vehicle for growth. Writing when uninhibited evokes joy. And the truth peeled is sometimes unintended. And the writing blossoms: the heart blossoms. So grateful for the words below:

    "I'm discovering that your blog which began as traveling with a disability is becoming more of grand disclosure of Life, History, and Civilization while still maintaining its original focus..."

    ReplyDelete

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