San Sebastián, located in the Basque Region of Spain, is not only at the forefront of the country’s culinary scene but also a key player in the international gastronomical arena. Though known for its high-concentration of Michelin-star restaurants, the city is also famous for its delicious and creative pintxos—Basque-style tapas that generally features a slice of bread topped with a variety of different meats, fishes, sauces and seasonings.
Typically served in specialty pintxo bars, it is common practice to go on pintxo crawls across the city, especially in San Sebastián’s old town district, where most of these bars are concentrated. While you can’t go wrong with the vast majority of pintxo joints, here are my top picks on where to gorge yourself when in San Sebastián:
A personal favorite of the many bars that I visited (I went three times over the course of one week), La Cuchara manages to achieve a level of gastronomic refinement with its incredible dishes, while still retaining a rustically unassuming ambiance. Serving the richest, most delectable foie I have ever tasted, La Cuchara’s version is almost too good to be true. Also featuring a tender octopus tendril tapa, a delicate-but-mouthwatering red tuna, and a blissfully-creamy risotto, make sure to hit up La Cuchara at least once over the course of your stay in San Sebastián.
Recommended to me by one of the Basque Culinary Center’s head chefs, Gandarias’ solomillo tapa was amongst one of my favorite meat-based pintxos. Other standouts include the bacalao (salted cod), the gambas (prawns), and a soufflé-type creation stuffed inside of a sea urchin shell.
3. Borda Berri
Formed and administered by the same group as La Cuchara, Borda Berri is another must-try San Sebastián institution. From the silky mushroom-cheese risotto, to the savory octopus tentacle, and the veal cheeks (don’t be a wimp, try it) Borda Berri has some truly delicious options. Though I wasn’t able to taste it, the pork rib kebab is highly rated, and recommended as well.
4. Bar Sport
If you’re a mushroom fan, this one’s for you. Featuring a warm, mushroom-cheese-ham topped baguette pintxo, bar sport’s “champi” will most definitely fulfill all of your shroom cravings. Also serving a very solid squid, as well as a fulfilling foie, Bar Sport doesn’t mess around.
5. Bar Zeruko
Though the overwhelming majority of the Basque Region’s culinary hype comes from its savory offerings, Bar Zeruko—one of San Sebastián’s more experimental pinto bars—serves up an truly delectable sweet lemon creation. Dubbed the “bob limon,” this fragmented dessert features a rectangular dish plated with a currant cake, and a lemon cream gently topped with a egg-shaped passion fruit sphere.
Also serving atypical pintxos with inventive culinary twists, Bar Zeruko is a great option if you’re looking to experience San Sebastián’s more avant-garde culinary scene.
Dubbed the “cathedral of anchovies” by the natives of San Sebastián, Txepetxa has been a classic spot beloved for their salty staples for quite a while now. Serving both traditional anchovy pintxos as well as more innovative anchovy-featured plates, Txepetxa is a must-try for any anchovy-enthusiast.