Spanish Snacks: The Foodie Guide To San Sebastian

So often an overlooked part of the European community, Spain is home to a great many gems, housing some of the most rich and cultural cities in the world. While Madrid and Barcelona may house many of the country’s finest landmarks, it is San Sebastian that is pulling in the punters from every continent. As well as being Europe’s official capital of culture last year, this Basque city is doing phenomenal things for the foodie scene, creating some of the tastiest dishes on the continent. Pushing its individual style of tapas, San Sebastian is rich in flavour and style, and a trip to the city is guaranteed to be a real culinary delight. If you’re heading to the city anytime soon, make sure you do so with an empty belly and an open itinerary. With a huge number of areas to cover and—if time is of the essence—multiple places to try in the same night, you’re going to want to savor each mouthful.

If fish is your thing, you would do well to set your sights on Txepetxa, a traditional bar that specializes in anchovies. Serving up its own take on pintxos, a style of tapas that is local to the region, the bar is the perfect place to start your evening with a light apéro. With small plates of papaya, sea urchin, foie and apple compote, Txepetxa is a great place to eat your fill of local treats.

With cheap bars a dime a dozen, you might be under the impression that finding a good quality meal is all but impossible in San Sebastian. In fact, the very opposite could not be more true. While food might be reasonably priced across the city, it is overwhelmingly of a good quality, meaning you can walk into any bar and be practically guaranteed a good meal. If you prefer to plan ahead, however, you might want to take a visit to Ganbara. Buzzing, even for San Sebastian’s standards, the bar is decked out with dried hams and local delicacies. Don’t be surprised if you don’t find a seat; here pintxos are often eaten standing, and doing so will only give you a taste of a really local experience.

If you prefer a more traditional approach to the menu, you would do well to focus on Néstor. A traditional pintxos bar, Néstor has a menu that is as pared back as it is delicious. While there might only be a handful of items to pick from, each one is prepared with loving care. Order yourself a few plates of each dish and accompany it all with a glass of local white wine.

With all of the pintxos on offer, you might feel hard pressed to find a full entrée that is really going to satisfy your appetite. In that case, you’ll want to try La Cuchara de San Telmo. Renowned for its hefty portions and landmark reputation, the restaurant is celebrated for miles around. Head to this spot if you’re in the mood for slow-cooked meats and rich baked puddings. The food is cheap, of incredible quality, and piled high on the plates.

Don’t be fooled by the interiors of La Bodega Donostiarra. While its whitewashed walls might be a world away from the woody tones of other local eateries, the spot is well established for its gastronomy, and people flock to the area for miles around. Pintxos might be the starring act, but you can also get your hands on a well-rounded selection of meat plates. Order more than you think you want; you’re going to want to feast.

With any number of foodie spots right on its doorstep, San Sebastian really knows how to do local cuisine for international tastes. Although pintxos are a popular option across the city, each place applies a different mentality to the dishes. So make like a local on your next visit and try a different food at a new place each night; eat as you go and cover some considerable foodie ground.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.