I’ve compiled a selection of my favorite restaurants in different genres for those who are looking for something similar – great food that is both cheap and delicious. Keep in mind that I generally stick to my ‘hood (El Raval – don’t knock it), and all these places will fill you up for under €10.
If you have been living above ground at all during the past 5 years, chances are you know what a ‘foodie’ is. You probably also know how to spot one in the wild – you can find them choosing the most exotic dish on the menu, critiquing the presentation and plating of even the most basic food, and going to great lengths to get the perfect Instagram shot.
I am not a foodie. I don’t have the refined palate or adventurous taste buds necessary for this label, and only 1 in 10 of my Instagram posts are of food. That being said, I love food. I am also cheap and lazy. Grocery shopping, cooking, and ESPECIALLY doing dishes are not my things. I’ll choose French fries over foie gras every time, and anything from the ocean makes me preemptively nauseated.
-Traditional Catalan/Tapas – Elisabets is my pick for traditional tapas and Catalan food. Not only is it delicious, it is the cheapest restaurant in the area. While their tapas are always a great option (DO NOT miss the Patatas Bolognese – potatoes covered in Bolognese sauce), they also offer a wide variety of seemingly basic sandwiches that will blow your mind. It’s bustling with a mix of locals and tourists, but you can still expect to pay only around €6-10 per person for tapas, sandwiches and drinks.
-Mexican – Rosa Negra – People are going to fight me on this, and I will say right off the bat that it is probably not the best Mexican food in the city, but what the heck, I love it. I discovered this place and it’s ketch when I was finishing up my TEFL certification, and I have never needed a burrito more in my life. I lived in Texas the year before moving to Barcelona, and basically my first month of life here was a slow and painful withdrawal from tacos, burritos, and nachos. Cheap drinks, good food, and, to be honest, a very American crowd, made this relapse feel like I was home again. Skip this if you’re looking for locals, but when the homesickness kicks in for all you Americans reading this, it’s the perfect place. Most meals are under €10, not including drinks.
-Non-American Fast(ish) Food – Rekons – EMPANADA HEAVEN. What looks like your typical local bar/café on the corner is actually a life-changing experience. €2-3 per delicious, melt-in-your-mouth empanadas of all varieties. While one (or let’s be real, two) empanadas are enough to fill you up, they also have a great meal option with 2 empanadas, a drink, and a giant salad (you know, to be healthy) for €10. After eating here for the first time, I went home and started looking up jobs in Argentina, just so I could be in the homeland of this delicious food. That is not a joke.
-Vietnamese – Bun Bo – Spoiler alert – this is a chain. There is more than one in just the old city of Barcelona, but it probably needs more than one location to deal with the crowds. Generally, locals, though some tourists can be found here enjoying curries, spring rolls, and pho. Having never been to Vietnam, I can’t rate its authenticity, but I can say that it is damn good food. Nothing I’ve ordered here has been more than €10 – and I’ve been here so much, I’ve ordered almost everything on the menu.
-Vegetarian/Vegan – Veggie Garden – My roommate and good friend here is gluten and dairy free. Recently, she also decided to cut meat out of her diet because I think she actually lost her mind. Needless to say, finding food we can both eat is a challenge. Enter Veggie Garden – a super delicious, super hippie, Vegan restaurant with the most amazing fixed price menu I have ever seen. €8.50 gets you wine, soup or salad or hummus, an American-sized delicious and healthy entrée, and a dessert you will swear is not made of rabbit food. They also have a huge selection of juices and smoothies that will make you feel super healthy and fashionable, like a celebrity on their way to spin class.
-Café – Buenas Migas – Again, I will have people fight me on this, but bear with me. Buenas Migas is a chain, almost like Starbucks, but with a more European feel. The glass cases are filled with beautiful pastries, pastas, and focaccia pizzas, and their coffees are served in LARGE CUPS. I repeat, LARGE CUPS. Coming from the US, the hardest thing for me to get used to was the coffees that looked like they were made for dolls. When I am in desperate need of caffeine, I head here for a large café con leche (con leche de soja, which they have), and a delicious and warm scone that comes with a beautiful selection of jams and spreads. While the coffee is kinda pricey, they do have a reasonably priced lunch menu that gets you a drink, a salad, a pasta or pizza, and a dessert for €8. They also play the strangest variety of music, and the vibe is tres chic. It’s definitely my pick for a place to go for a serious round of blog writing. (I may or may not be there right now…)
-Cheeeeeeeeaaaaappppp – Nostrum – If you buy the membership card for a one time €5 fee, literally everything in this store is between €1-3. You can get coffee, pastries, snacks, and a selection of pre-made food that you stick in the microwave they provide. They are also almost as common as Starbucks in NYC, so you will be able to find one wherever you are running to. Great when you are on the go, or if you can’t figure out how to work your oven but payday isn’t until Friday.
-Paella – El Glop – This is a “take your visitors here” kind of place. Not that it is crazy expensive, but you should never expect decent paella at a low price. They have traditional tapas, meats, and cheeses available, but my favorite dish here is the paella. Actually, it’s their imitation paella, which is green instead of yellow, contains no meat, and comes with a layer of Parmesan cheese baked on top. With my aforementioned aversion to all things fishy, this is a perfect option (though they do have traditional paella as well!). This place is pricier – closer to €20 per person – but as I said earlier, you really should not expect anything less for good paella.
By Sarah Melville