Even though I spent three nights in San Sebastian, I think it’s impossible to have a bad meal. I hate to think under what circumstances that your meal was under-whelming.
When making your way around the Old Town of San Sebastian, you’ll just be over-whelmed with the choices. If you’re thinking that if it’s crowded, it’s must be good, you would be correct. If you need someplace quiet so you and your companion can have your peace, you can find a place and still be amazed by the quality of food.
The tapas crawl, or pintos crawl in Basque country, is a local activity. As I mentioned before, if you sit at a table and look over a menu, that’s what the tourist do and is considered sacrilegious. The best thing about this is that you go randomly and have amazing food or come with a plan and be satisfied.
On my first night, I have a trio of places that my research showed were popular and highly rated. Just as side note, don’t be surprised if bars are closed on random days. It tends to happen without reason.
Borda Berri was the one bar that I would see listed frequently on guides and articles as the top rated joint. I headed there and squeezed myself into the crowded bar. The menu on the chalk board was written in Basque, but I knew going in that their rice dishes and beef cheek are what to get. Not even Google Translate was able to decipher the menu.
I order some Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and the rice plate and waited patiently. I waited, and waited. I was started to think that order didn’t make it to kitchen. After 15 minutes, the guy looked at me and said “¿Recibió su arroz?” and I just shook my head no. He yelled at the kitchen and finally my seafood and rice dish was ready. It was worth the long wait. When I order the beef cheek, it came out instantly. That was some mighty fine cheek.
If this happens to you, just smile politely and eventually they will see that you’re food hasn’t come yet. Don’t make a scene, you’ll have a whole night to explore.
Next stop was Bar Zureko, on the same block. Just make a right and a right. Many of the pintxos bar complete in contests every year for taste, innovation and originality. Zureko has won many of these awards for their pintos. Just looking at their spread, and you’ll see why. Fried meatballs, seafood stuffed wontons and champagne glasses filled with anchovies and olives bathing in olive oil. Yeah, I went twice. Not ashamed. Those damn fried meatballs were insane.
Bar Cepa is another legendary place founded in 1948. You can tell it’s popular when they have a wall of celebrities. Hey, if it’s good enough for Joe Pesci and Willem Dafoe, it’s good enough for me. Their pintos and sandwiches come with English translations so it’s good for those who want to know exactly what they are eating.
They’ve got a good sidra if you’re looking for something unique.