Friday, June 29, 2012

Barcelona, Spain (June 2012)

Barcelona is a great food city, and vegetarians visiting it have three primary options.  If you do your research and plan ahead before you go (don't forget my travel tips), you'll enjoy some great meals and shouldn't go hungry. 

Your first option is traditional Spanish and/or Catalan cuisine, which is the easiest to find and, in my opinion, what you should be eating if you're in Barcelona!  While many arrocerias (restaurants specializing in rice dishes) now serve vegetable paella, I prefer tapas restaurants and bars, where you can enjoy a variety of small plates, including some with protein (unless you're a vegan).  Most tapas places serve a handful of standard, meat-free dishes:  gazpacho, Spanish tortilla (egg omelet with potatoes and onions), patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce and alioli), sauteed mushrooms (often with garlic), pan con tomate (toasted country bread smeared with fresh tomato, olive oil, and sea salt), olives, cheese plates, and various kinds of grilled vegetable dishes.  A Catalan version of the latter is escalivada, which consists of grilled eggplant, sweet red pepper, sweet onion, and sometimes cheese and tomato. 

Although you can find these dishes almost anywhere, I especially liked the ones I had at Lonja de Tapas, Taller de Tapas, and Cerveceria Catalana.  The first two places have multiple locations, but the hyperlinks will take you to the specific locations where I dined. 

The grilled vegetables with romesco sauce were outstanding at Lonja de Tapas.

The pan con tomate at Lonja de Tapas is also excellent.
TIP:  Be sure to tell your servers if you don't want this dish, as they will bring it to you automatically and charge you for it if you don't tell turn it away.

Spanish tortilla at Lonja de Tapas

This assorted cheese plate, served with bites of guava paste, is quite tasty at Taller de Tapas.

Sauteed seasonal mushroom dish at Taller de Tapas

Cerveceria Catalana serves excellent grilled vegetable dishes, including this escalivada.
The grilled mushroom and asparagus dish was also delicious.

A second good option in Barcelona is to dine at one of the city's many vegetarian restaurants, which are not typical in other Spanish cities.  Two that I tried and would recommend as "first class" are Sesamo and Teresa Carles.  Sesamo makes the cut for its creative and well-prepared cuisine, which blends Spanish and international flavors.  Try the seven-course tasting menu, which costs only 25 euros per person and includes two glasses of wine and also dessert.  The food at Teresa Carles is more standard, but its pleasant atmosphere and central location near Plaza Catalunya can't be beat.  It's also open for breakfast/brunch.  

The smoked watermelon gazpacho at Sesamo is creative and bursts with flavor.

Sesamo serves a perfectly prepared spinach curry dish, made with spices that the Argentine chef
(an omnivore, believe it or not) picked up in India.
Sesamo also serves a unique escalavida dish, which comes on toast and with olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzle.  The one on the left is topped with soy cheese and the one on the right with brie.  The chef is very accommodating of dietary restrictions.

Seitan burger and fries at Teresa Carles

Teresa Carles's smoked tofu ravioli is served in an escalivada sauce and topped with mushrooms and shaved cheese.

At Teresa Carles you can top off your meal with a cafe con leche made with soy milk.
A third option for vegetarians in Barcelona who want a little more variety is to dine at one of the city's many Indian, Middle Eastern, Asian, Cuban, or other international restaurants.  I really enjoyed Nanaya, a Japanese restaurant near my hotel on Avenida Diagonal that has several sister restaurants throughout Barcelona.

Nanaya's veggie rolls are made with avocado and a variety of fresh, Japanese vegetables. 
Pictured in the back is an interesting crispy potato dish.  You can also get other Japanese staples such as edamame, seaweed salad, and vegetable tempura.

Finally, if you just want a quick bite and/or tire of eating in nice sit-down restaurants, you can always pick up some healthy snacks at Barcelona's famous La Boqueria Market or a falafal sandwich or veggie burger in George Orwell Plaza, where there is a vegan deli and several other casual vegetarian cafes and shops.