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Indagare’s Guide to San Sebastián’s Best Pintxos Bars

The cultural capital of the Spanish Basque Region, San Sebastián is a culinary mecca, with the highest per capita concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world. You could easily fine-dine your way through the city, but no visit is complete without enjoying a taste of an authentic local tradition: the pintxo, or small bite. Nothing captures the gastronomic spirit of San Sebastián better than a pintxos stroll through the Parte Vieja (Old Town). Visiting the city’s pintxos bars is a pastime beloved by locals and tourists alike, who eat pintxos to socialize with friends and strangers. The convivial atmosphere is palpable in each bar: There is so much excitement in the room, and the staff is eager to showcase their craft.

In a city with such impressive culinary credentials, pintxos bars are a great place to try many dishes at a reasonable price (approximately two to 20 euros per plate/bite, as some bars are more “gastronomic” than others). Pinxtos bars do not take reservations, and while the bars can be visited on your own, we recommend contacting Indagare for assistance scheduling a privately guided tour. Most bars are known for a handful of particular dishes, so we suggest sampling one or two dishes per bar and then moving on to the next eatery to enjoy the greatest variety. Expect the bars to be loud and crowded—fighting your way to the counter to order is all part of the unforgettable experience.

Here, Indagare rounds up some of the best pintxos bars in the city, with notes on the house specialties. And be sure to enjoy your pintxos with Basque cider or txakoli (sparkling dry white wine).

Contact Indagare for assistance planning a customized trip to the Spanish Basque Region.

Note that most of the bars open for lunch at noon, and the perfect time to start your lunchtime pintxos adventure is around 1 p.m. For dinner, many of the bars open at 7 p.m., so 8 p.m. is your ideal start time. Be sure to check opening hours online, as some bars close on Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays. 

A Fuego Negro (31 de Agosto Kalea, 31): For more modern pintxos, mini burgers and fried Hake.

Atari (Calle Mayor, 18): For brocheta de langostinos, slow-cooked egg, Hake with seasonal vegetables and gin & tonics.

Bar Haizea (Aldamar Kalea, 8): For fried bacalao (cod fish) wrapped in fried caramelized onion with a drizzle of reduced vinegar. Haizea is also known for its foie gras.

Bar Martinez(31 de Agosto Kalea, 13): For stuffed pepper with tartar sauce and calamari.

Bar Nestor (Arrandegi Kalea, 11): Bar Nestor only makes two tortillas españolas (Spanish potato omelette) per day, so we recommend arriving early to reserve a slice. Nestor is also known for T-Bone steak, tomatoes and peppers.

Bar Sport (Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 10): For mini steak burgers. 

Bergera (Calle del General Artetxe, 8): For txalupa (small boat) mushrooms, king prawn cream and cava served in a puff pastry boat with grated cheese.

Casa Urola (Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 20): For seared mushroom with egg yolk and pine nuts, grilled tuna with marmitaka sauce, peas in a consommé of Iberico ham, octopus skewers, seasonal vegetables. Casa Urola also serves a popular T-Bone steak.

Casa Valles (Calle Los Reyes Católicos, 10): Casa Valles is known for its deep fried mussels and for inventing the Gilda, a popular Basque pintxo featuring a hot green pepper, olive and anchovy on a cocktail stick.

Ganbara (San Jeronimo Kalea, 19): For wild mushrooms with egg, crab tartlets, Iberico ham with mushrooms, puff pastry of txistorra (pigs in a blanket).

Iturrioz (San Martin Kalea, 30): For bread-based pintxos, confit of salt cod, quail egg with anchovy, stuffed asparagus and scallops a la plancha.

La Cepa (31 de Agosto Kalea, 7, 9): For bread-based pintxos, Iberian ham and stuffed pepper.

La Cuchara de San Telmo (Santa Korda Kalea, 4): For beef cheek, foie with applesauce and suckling pig. This bar serves larger, entrée-style plates.

La Viña (31 de Agosto Kalea, 3): For cheesecake (not to be missed). 

Paco Bueno (Calle Mayor, 6): For grilled shrimp coated in butter. 

Sirimiri (Calle Mayor, 18): For cod croquettes and Iberian pork “secreto” with apple purée and fried leeks.

Related: Barcelona’s Top Tables

Contact Indagare for assistance planning a customized trip to the Spanish Basque Region.

– Kathryn Nathanson on August 6, 2019

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