One of the main difficulties many pilgrims face during their walk to Santiago is finding a good, honest meal when they stop in villages and towns on the Camino. Of course, there are plenty of good restaurants and bars to stop along the way, but especially in most popular spots and during high season (from mid-June to September) it can be a bit tricky to find them or to differentiate them from places serving dull uninspiring food.
That means that in many cases you end up having overcooked pasta with cheap tomato sauce, a paper-thin steak and paying an extra charge for bread. Or you discover –too late- that your artisan-made pizza is coming directly from the freezer to your dish after just a few minutes in an overheated oven. So knowing where to stop can make a huge difference. And we are not talking about fine dining places but honest restaurants with tasty simple homemade food and convenient prices. After a couple of bad experiences in a row with these tourist-oriented places and once you get tired of those tortilla sandwiches you really appreciate a normal meal in a normal dining room.
That could be the case in Portomarín, a picturesque town 80 km from Santiago on the French Camino. With barely 400 inhabitants during winter, the town receives more than 1000 pilgrims a day (some days in July or August nearly 2000) during high season. That means you’ll find loads of places to eat with apparently convenient fix price menus or a good selection of tapas, sandwiches or portions to share. And that also means you won’t probably know which place to choose.
After a couple of bad experiences we’ve learned that the rules you would apply to tourist places anywhere else in the world work also in small towns like this:
- Take a look around, look for places in streets nearby. Sometimes 50 meters make a huge difference.
- Check what’s included in the fix price menu (dessert, drinks, bread, taxes…). And, if in doubt, check again with the waiter.
- If the place is perfectly located in front of the main monument you will pay for it, one way or another (we mean: in money or in a lack of quality). Just think of a similar location in Rome, New York, Paris or Barcelona. At a lower scale, things work exactly the same here.
- Keep in mind you won’t have fresh seafood, homemade pizza of first quality meat cuts on a menu below 13-15€.
- Always ask for the bill.
And, after many visits, we finally found a place we like: La Posada del Camino. It is nicely located on a corner of the main square, on its shady side. La Posada has a small old bar, but they serve reasonably good coffee at lower prices than their neighbors on the sunny side. And on our last visit, a few weeks ago, on one of the busiest days of the high season, we’ve discovered they also have a restaurant. It looks even older than the bar, probably the same as when the place opened half a century ago, but they offer a really nice fix price menu there (from May to October).
The day we ate there they offered as a first course a huge salad (with lettuce, tomato, onion, canned tuna, sweet corn, carrots…), potato salad (potato, peas, carrots, and tuna, with mayonnaise on the side) or lentils soup. As a second course, the options were a chicken breast fillet with fries, a pork chop with fries, baked ham with fries, grilled salmon with boiled potatoes or stewed pork cheeks. As a dessert, they offered ice cream, custard cream or fresh fruit.
We chose the potato salad, surprisingly good (actually, the best we have had in quite a while), the baked ham with fries and an ice cream. The portions were large, everything but the ice cream was homemade and properly cooked, the potatoes were of good quality, the ham was tender and juicy, bread and a drink were included in the price and we paid 10€ each. Add 1,20 if you like to have also a coffee.
When you are walking the Camino most of the time you don’t need tasting menus or high-end cuisine but a simple homemade meal at honest prices. And that’s exactly what La Posada del Camino offers. We’ve been visiting its bar for a couple of years and we surely will eat at its restaurant again.
La Posada del Camino
Calle Lugo, 1