As we wrote a couple of weeks ago, in February we headed down to Granada for a press trip organized by theAcademia Andaluza de Gastronomía y Turismo. It was a true tour de fork, and as true professionals we devoted ourselves to try as much as we could. This post is about casual places to eat, we’ll tell you about Granada’s fine-dining scene soon!
Granada is one of the most popular tourist spots in Spain and this is because of its impressive main monument, La Alhambra, a walled medieval moorish citadelle full of palaces, gardens, orchards and towers you definitely can’t miss if you visit the city. But it is known also for its old neighbourhoods like the Moorish Albayzin, the Gypsy Sacromonte and the Jewish Realejo. And it is known also for its free tapas which have become one of its culinary icons.
But free doesn’t necesarily mean good or interesting – actually most places, especially in the touristy area, serve free but uninteresting tapas with your drink. You can expect anything from a dull potato salad to loads of bread and mayonnaise, crab meat substitute and frozen fries. If you are travelling on a budget you could feel filled ordering two or three drinks and eating whatever they offer and you won’t probably pay more than 10€ in total, but if we talk about quality, you’ll have to choose carefully.
If what you’re after is culinary experiences and interesting tapas you will have to forget most of all that food for free stuff and focus on serious barras. You can translate barra as bar counter but here in Spain it means much more than simply the piece of furniture between you and the waiter. When we mention the barra of the FM or La Tana we are talking more about an experience than about a place inside the bar, we are referring to the atmosphere, probably to the tapas they serve and the selection of wines they have. Sometimes we say vamos al Bar Pepe (let’s go to Bar Pepe) but when we say vamos a la barra del Bar Pepe (let’s go to Bar Pepe’s barra) or vámonos de barras (let’s go to some barras) we are thinking about chatting with friends, meeting other customers and having a couple of tapas in a casual and friendly ambience.
This is exactly what you will find at La Tana (Placeta del Agua), a place packed with locals in the heart of Realejo. La Tana does not serve large free tapas (maybe some olives or a few slices of blood sausage) but they have really nice tapas to order with your wine. Their fried squash, with a hint of vinegar and cumin, served on a toast is really nice, but their salted sardines with salmorejo (thick tomato cream) or their tortilla española (Spanish potato omelette) are also excellent options.
La Tana hides another secret: its cellar. More than 400 references of Spanish and international wines and a collection of rarities wich will make every wine lover swoon. You could have a simple local wine with a portion of spicy blood sausage and pine nuts or order a bottle of your favourite champagne or a rare Rioja wine in this old-time style tavern, the choice is yours.
But as we are in Andalusia, you probably would like to try some good jamón. And we know the perfect place for that. Opened a few years ago, La Taberna de Jam (Plaza de los Campos, 1) soon became a landmark because jamón is a serious thing here. José Ángel, the owner, is also the official cortador (slicer) for Arturo Sánchez, one of the main Spanish ham producers so, as you enter the place you will see a battery of high-quality hams on the counter waiting to be sliced as soon as you order your portion.
Besides its ham and charcuterie, La Taberna de Jam also serves nice tapas such as spinach and pine nuts croquettes, Iberian pork carpaccio with salmorejo (cold tomato cream), fried eggplant with honey and thyme or potato salad with prawns. And, depending on the day, as you wait for your order maybe a tapa of their nice Iberian ham rice will arrive as a complimentary tapa.
These are two of our favourite places in town, barras where you will discover tapas means much more than frozen shrimps, mayonnaise and overboiled rice and where you’ll get to discover the true culinary Granada. But if you’d like to keep exploring here are more suggestions:
Bar FM (Avenida Juan Pablo II, 54): it is not centrally located and it is not cheap at all, but they serve amazing fresh seafood. Their grilled quisquillas de Motril, a local type of shrimp, are famous all over Spain, as their grilled langoustines, prawns and tiny squids or their dried octopus. A couple of portions and a glass or wine would easily cost 25/30€ per person and, if you choose to order a tasting menu (they don’t offer it on the printed menu, but if you ask the staff they will improvise one for you based on the freshest produce they have) expect to pay 75/90€ per person plus drinks. We warned you: it is nor a cheap place neither comfortable but the impressive quality of their seafood really worth it.
Chikito (Plaza del Campillo, 9): a well-known and centrally located traditional restaurant famous for its red meat, Chikito also has a popular barra where you can taste their fried fava beans with Iberian jamón or the potato salad.
Bar Los Diamantes (Calle Navas, 28): in the heart of Calle Navas, a street full of tourist traps, Los Diamantes is one of the few traditional places still standing in the midst of all the low quality tapas and frozen paella places. Opened in 1942 they have been serving the best fried fish and squid in town for more than 70 years.