When researching our trip to Spain, I made sure to look up where to go for gluten-free eats. What I discovered was Spain is a very gluten-free friendly country. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to subject my poor husband to vegan joints or places that had only salads.
The most well-known style of food in Spain is something called “tapas.” These are small plates of delicious foods that are meant to be enjoyed over the course of a couple hours with drinks and conversation. They can be categorized as snacks, appetizers, or a full meal depending on how many plates you order.
The idea behind tapas is to make sure the people eating focus on the conversation rather than being face-first in your food. If you have plates coming and going in small portions, you can only have a bite at a time. I loved this idea and wanted to participate in the Spanish tradition.
We found some incredibly fantastic places around Spain, and I can’t go into detail about each and every one. But allow me to mention a few places in each city we visited so no matter where you go, you can manage to find some delicious delicacies in Spanish cuisine.
- Mercado San Miguel. In Spain, there are several markets where you can go to various stalls or booths and order some tapas style foods. We made sure to stop by this famous spot while wandering around the Gran Via in Madrid. Behind the obvious buildings is this two story structure. We stopped in and weaved through the throngs of what seemed like a hundred people. The olive stand took my breath away with the dozens of stuffed olives and goodies. But what we would up having was a glass of port wine sangria and Jeff enjoyed a nata to reminisce our days in Porto. But the olives are not to be missed!
- Lamucca. This place (which has a couple of locations around town) was definitely more of a restaurant with a full menu, but the appetizers were what were surprising. I had my first (and only) plate of padron peppers. I was floored! They were a lightly salted non-spicy pepper that was flash fried in a skillet. They tasted like a Spanish edamame, and they were absolutely delicious.
- San Gines Chocolateria. Off of the main drag that is reminiscent of Oxford Street in London is a famous hole in the wall chocolateria. What Spain is famous for dessert-wise is their churros. Now, these are not gluten-free. I could not have the treats, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be near them as my husband enjoyed them. What is common to get with the funnel cake fried dough is hot chocolate. My goodness. This thick and gooey concoction served in a coffee mug could easily resemble pudding rather than cocoa. Typically, you would dip your churro in the chocolate and enjoy a make-shift chocolate covered churro. I enjoyed a shot of liquor in my hot chocolate so I could have a little something extra with my “pudding.” For €4 and open 24 hours, you can’t beat it for a famous institution dessert.
- Rosa Negra. These were two restaurants that were casual and not technically Spanish. Rosa Negra is a TexMex place that was right around the corner from our place. It was perfect for a quick and delicious dinner when you’re exhausted and craving some tacos.
- La Tradicional: Bodega Bar Tapas. When we arrived in Seville, we managed to hit that limbo time between lunch and dinner, which in Spain is about 3p. It is very customary to have a very late and long lunch. But this little tapas bar was open near the Seville Cathedral. We ducked in and had our first official full-on tapas meal. We had tuna and peppers in oil, pork cheek, and paellea. The paella was nothing to write home about since it’s basically a seasoned risotto, but the pork cheek was actually quite delicious.
- Baratillo Tapas Bar. We did stop by this place ear the Plaza de Toros. We were very lucky this place was open on Christmas Day, but they were out of some of the favorite staples. That told us one of two things: 1) not a lot of places were open or 2) this was a popular place. We enjoyed some aubergine gratin and jamon con olives. A perfect start to our Christmas dinner of roast chicken stuffed with oranges.
- Like in Madrid, Seville also had a Mercado: Mercado Lonja del Barranco that the Isabel II Bridge. There are tons of counters full of pork cracklings, wine, and something called Tortilla de Patatas from La Salmoreteca, which were basically quiches. They were gluten-free and, when warmed up, they were delicious. I had a chorizo and potato quiche for my lunch with a fantastic glass of wine, which I’ll discuss more next week. But this was a fantastic place to go and find bits and bites of anything you wanted. Plus, in the evenings, there is live music.
- Granada has a lot of Arab and Muslim influences because of the proximity to Morocco but also due to the conflict of power Spain has had over the last 600+ years. When we arrived, we were ravenous, so we bee-lined it to the famous Elvira Calle for some traditional cuisine. We meandered through the sukes and traders to find Alfaguara. I had a delicious tagine that transported me back to our days in the Sahara Desert. Jeff also had an out of this world coffee that had condensed milk, whipped cream, and toasted almonds. The space was massive and a total hidden gem within the dark alleyways of the touristy marketplace.
- Baraka Coffee Shop. Midway through the last days of our trip, I got slammed with a massive headache. We stumbled into this coffee shop to grab a quick cup of joe to try and shake the pain. It was incredibly crowded at 430p, but the waiters were eager to please as they brought our coffees. But what was also lovely was they had gluten-free cakes. We had a delicious chocolate cake that also seemed to impress Jeff. It was a perfect pairing and the pick me up we needed after walking all over the city.
- Ras Café and Bar. We found this place along the way to the Alhambra and ducked in for a quick drink, but we wound up staying for some tapas. We had heard that some places give you a free plate if you order a drink, but we hadn’t experienced it yet until we got to this little dark and quiet bar. I was unable to enjoy it because it was cheese on toast, but we were impressed nonetheless. We had jamon con melon and olives. It was our last chance for Spanish olives, and it was totally worth it. But what impressed us all the more was how quiet it was. After 10 days in Spain, we wanted nothing more than silence.
The food of Spain was astounding and not to be missed. Although, it’s quite difficult to miss good cuisine while visiting. I hope you have the same luck we did in finding amazing eats!
- Ginger in Madrid (arrive early or make reservations).
- Yamato Sushi in Granada. Make sure to try the digestif shot they serve after the meal.