Often when we travel we run the risk of ending up in restaurants designed for tourists, where the first factor is usually the panoramic views, but the food does not usually coincide with the typical dishes of the region. In this article, we will show you how and where to eat Basque cuisine like a local– as if you have been living for years in the northern lands.
Although there are all kinds of restaurants in the Basque Country, there are some with more typical characteristics. Basque cuisine requires a relaxed atmosphere; today’s Basque culinary scene is in contrast to a formal one. In more authentic restaurants, the atmosphere is often a bit noisy; this is because it is very common to see large groups of couples or “cuadrillas” (married couples who meet regularly) chatting animatedly. If something is being celebrated, it is common for someone to dedicate a speech to the person being honored or even sing a song. These restaurants are dominated by a simple and even somewhat rustic décor where local motifs prevail; more and more, traditional elements are being mixed with modern decorative elements.
Basque cuisine is characterised by the special value it places on the quality of its raw products; for this reason, the preparations of the dishes tend to enhance what is already cooked rather than hide it with sauces that replace natural flavours. Another typical aspect of Basque cuisine is the large portions. In the Basque Country, there is usually an appreciation for abundant rations. If you thought your grandmother was the best at insisting that you eat a second plate, you should see how generously the Basques serve you. Don’t be surprised if they leave the whole casserole so you can have as much as you want to eat! To eat like a Basque you have to train your stomach to value the raw products used, in the same way the chef respects them.
Kate Zaharra, Bilbao
At Kate Zaharra, you can eat like a Basque in their traditional-style dining room, enjoy incredible views of Bilbao from their terrace, and try a drink from their cellar of excellent Basque wines. The dishes are made with the best products and the portions are generous. One of the most popular recipes is the chickpeas with lobster. You will find fresh fish and seafood as well as good meats. The price is on the higher end due to the quality of the dishes. It’s the perfect spot for your final meal in Bilbao, so you can always remember how much you enjoyed it there.
Trikuharri Bar, San Sebastián-Donostia
This is a restaurant in San Sebastián-Donostiahas a casual atmosphere and great prices where you can order small dishes or savour the varied menu of the day. The service is very friendly and this option is a “perfect 10” for where to eat like a Basque with your friends or partner. On the menu you will find homemade food and different recipes such as cod, turbot, rice with mussels and prawns, beans and entrecôte. Our recommendation is to order several different dishes so you can taste a little bit of everything from the Basque cuisine. The potato garnish is homemade, which is not the case in all bars. After eating like a Basque at this restaurant, you’ll be more than full.
La Cepa, San Sebastián-Donostia
If you are looking for variety, this restaurant is a possible answer. La Cepa is a cozy establishment that is characterized by the fact that the same people have been running the business for 70 years. It’s a classic choice in the historic district of Donostia with a well-stocked wine cellar and a large dining room. It has an extensive menu that includes pork chops, rice with clams and cheesesso you can take full advantage of Basque gastronomy.
The potato tortillas from this restaurant in Vitoria-Gasteiz have received several awards, and the chistorra and truffle stuffing stand out among them. Sagartoki has a rustic decoration and a modern atmosphere where you will be able to eat like a Basque while tasting exquisite creations such as blue cheese and walnut croquettes or txitxarro (Atlantic horse mackerel) with piperrada, a traditional Basque dish with peppers and tomatoes. Also, you can count on a wide selection of cheeses and sausages here.
El TabanKo, Vitoria-Gasteiz
This restaurant boasts traditional Basque cuisine with some sophisticated dishes and good portions. Located in the center of Vitoria, it also has a tasting menu and a menu of the day. In this pleasant place you can enjoy specialities such as cod with pil-pil sauce or Biscayan cod. On Thursdays, you can take advantage of the selection by asking for their offer of pintxos. The restaurant is small but charming and the service is very friendly.
Arandia de Julen, Bilbao
In this traditional Basque restaurant in Bilbaoyou can experience the iconic scene from the film “8 Apellidos Vascos” in which the protagonist is constantly served food. Although its exterior is not that spectacular, inside there is a cosy dining room where you can eat like a Basque or at least try to. The large portions will surprise you in this traditional food restaurant. A classic dish to eat at Arandia de Julen is “alubias rojas con sacramentos” (red beans with meat), served on Wednesdays or by request. This place is perfect for reserving a bean stew for groups. The menu is small but sufficient: Iberian meats, fish soup of 7-8 portions, steak of at least a kilo, and more. It’s an excellent value for your money. Arandia de Julen is located in the Atxuri district, one of the most authentic areas in Bilbao.
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