When it comes to eating in Barcelona, you're spoiled for choice. With everything from humble, rustic restaurants serving traditional fare, to avant-garde locales cooking up recipes you won't find anywhere else, there's nothing you won't be able to find here as far as food goes.
But knowing what, exactly, to try can be daunting, especially for new visitors to the city. To get you started, here are some of the essential bites you can't miss on your next trip to the Catalan capital.
Mashed potatoes and ground beef deep fried into one bite-sized ball of deliciousness: what's not to love?
That's all there is to the potato bomba in its purest form, though you'll also find it topped with spicy brava sauce and homemade aioli (garlic mayo) nowadays.
Step aside, paella. While it is possible to find decent versions of the iconic rice dish (which has roots in the neighboring region of Valencia) in Barcelona, fideuà is generally a much more authentic alternative.
What's the difference? Fideuà forgoes the rice in favor of small noodles, and is always prepared with seafood. It's hearty, filling, and the definition of Spanish comfort food.
Few dishes are as undeniably Catalan as esqueixada.
Made with salt cod, onions, peppers, tomatoes, olives, and vinegar, this tasty, refreshing salad is often likened to Catalonia's answer to ceviche. You'll find it at bars throughout Barcelona, but it's particularly popular in the summertime.
Botifarra sausage is one of the most popular staples of the Catalan diet, thanks in part to its versatility.
You can stuff it into a sandwich for a quick, on-the-go meal. You can serve it alongside vegetables for a hearty lunch. You can even go to a local cookout and eat it fresh off the grill (highly recommended, if possible).
No matter what you do, just don't leave Catalonia without trying it.
Charcuterie and Cheese
Many places in Europe have their own version of the classic charcuterie-and-cheese board. But few places do it as well as Spain, and Catalonia is on another level entirely.
With influences from nearby France as well as the rest of Spain (jamón ibérico, anyone?) alongside homegrown favorites such as fuet and llonganissa, Catalan charcuterie boards are unlike any other. Throw in some fabulous local cheese and wine, and you've got all the makings of an exquisite aperitif.
Where to try it: Even the tiniest hole-in-the-wall bar is likely to have some kind of cured meats and cheeses on hand. For the best quality, head to a gourmet shop like Vila Viniteca–La Teca.
You'll find patatas bravas on tapas bar menus throughout Spain, but there's something special about the way Barcelona does this dish.
It all starts with fried-to-perfection potatoes, which then get topped with a semi-spicy bravas sauce and aioli. Simple, delicious, and perfect to share with friends, they pair especially well with an ice-cold draft beer.
Croissants may not be the first thing you think of when considering Catalan food. But when you take into account the region's proximity to France, it all makes more sense.
When done well, a simple, buttery, flaky croissant is nothing short of perfection. Enjoy one with your morning coffee while people-watching at a sidewalk cafe for the idyllic European experience of your dreams.
Where to try it: Every pastry shop in town will have croissants, but not all of them are created equal. Try Baluard Bakery or the famous stuffed croissants at Pastelería Hofmann for a real treat.
Pan con Tomate
Classic Catalan tomato bread is one of those dishes that's so tasty, you'll be amazed how simple it truly is.
Take a freshly toasted piece of bread and rub it down with garlic and tomato. Then simply drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. That's all there is to it—yet it couldn't be more delicious.
Where to try it: It's hard to suggest just one place to try pan con tomate, or pa amb tomàquet as it's called in Catalan. Many restaurants will automatically place some on your table—either freshly made or with all the ingredients separate so you can make your own to taste.
If you find yourself in Barcelona between January and March, you're in luck. This is prime calçot season, and these fantastic local onions are a must-try.
The best calçots are harvested out in the countryside and grilled in the moment, then served with nutty romesco sauce. They're pretty messy to eat, but well worth getting your hands dirty for.
Where to try them: If you can't make it out to the Catalan countryside for a calçotada (the above-mentioned calçot-grilling cookout), Can Cargol is one of the best places in Barcelona proper for calçots when they're in season.
No matter how much food you eat in Barcelona, be sure to leave some room for something sweet—preferably crema catalana.
Often compared to crème brûlée, history shows that this Catalan version actually appeared in recipe books hundreds of years before its more famous French cousin. Some noticeable differences are the use of milk, rather than cream (as is the case in French crème brûlée), as well as swapping out vanilla for lemon peel and cinnamon.
Where to try it: Head to a traditional Catalan spot, such as Bodega La Palma, to try this classic dessert at its best.