Places to Eat in Barcelona: Find the Best Paella in Barcelona

Places to Eat in Barcelona: Find the Best Paella in Barcelona

by George Mouratidis
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Searching for the best paella in Barcelona? If you’ve watched enough Seinfeld re-runs, then you should’ve heard the word “paella” before. As George Costanza puts it, paella is “a Spanish dish. It’s a mélange of fish and meat and rice. Very tasty.” Kramer goes so far as to say paella is an “orgiastic feast for the senses.” Yes, paella can be an “orgiastic” experience…provided you’re dining in a well-established restaurant. Let’s go over the fascinating history of paella and share a few tips on how to best experience this national dish in Barcelona.

What’s The Deal With Paella? A Brief History

Nobody’s quite sure how paella began, but most scholars agree it was invented in the southern city of Valencia between the 10th – 15th centuries. Supposedly, this dish evolved as a kind of “pot luck” amongst Spanish farmers and peasants. People would throw rice, veggies, stock, meats, and saffron into a flat-bottomed pot over extremely high heat. Not only was this a satisfying meal, but it also seems to have brought the community together.

Although there’s some debate over the origins of the term “paella,” most historians believe it’s derived from Latin and refers to the unique flat-bottomed pot that paella chefs use. The other proposed explanation of “paella” is an Arabic word used to describe “leftovers.” There’s no doubt, however, that both the Romans and Moors had a significant influence on this dish. The Romans brought the necessary cooking equipment and irrigation into Spain, whereas the Moors brought rice cultivation.

As paella spread outside of Valencia, different cities put their own spin on the dish. Unsurprisingly, coastal cities like Barcelona started to incorporate seafood into their paella mixes. Typical ingredients you’ll find in paella include Bomba rice, green beans, garlic, onions, saffron, and rosemary, but these can vary greatly from region to region.

Tips For Eating the Best Paella in Barcelona

The most common mistake tourists make when eating their first paella is to throw away any rice that sticks to the sides of the pan (aka socarrat). While they might look burnt, these heavenly morsels are held in high regard by paella pros. Since this rice tends to absorb all the soupy broth, it’s jam-packed with flavorful goodness. Whatever you do, don’t throw away your paella dish until you’ve at least tried some socarrat.

OK, now you know about the socarrat, but what proteins should you choose for your first paella? Well, considering Barcelona is on the Balearic Sea, it’s no surprise the city’s paella specialties are seafood-related. A few of the freshest ingredients to look out for include mussels, shrimp, and calamari. Typically, travel experts advise tourists to taste the regional specialties instead of hunting down an “authentic” paella.

If you’re determined to have a traditional paella, then you should look for a restaurant that specializes in Valencian cuisine. An authentic Valencian paella will not have seafood; instead, it will feature rabbit, snail, and/or chicken.

A Few Words Of Warning: Paella Scams

Since Barcelona is such a hot tourist destination, it’s chockfull of scam artists looking to make a quick buck off of unsuspecting tourists. Indeed, many restaurants rake in tourist cash using pre-mixed, frozen paella, and passing it off as “authentic.”

With a little dose of common sense, however, you could often tell the difference between a touristy destination and an authentic restaurant. For starters, it’s almost impossible to find a good restaurant in the ultra-touristy areas like Las Ramblas or near the Sagrada Familia cathedral. Tourist traps often have glossy menus filled with pictures, and they might have an employee outside encouraging passersby to try their paella.

Besides looking for these obvious warning signs, you could always ask your hotel concierge or a reputable cab driver where they recommend getting paella. Also, check out online reviews of restaurants in the area before heading out.

Where To Find the Best Paella in Barcelona

Before we get into our list of Barcelona’s best paella restaurants, keep in mind that paella is traditionally eaten on Thursdays and Sundays. If you’re dining out during these days, you might have to wait a little longer for your order to be filled.

Also, although Spaniards eat dinner around 9:00 PM, many Barcelona restaurants open between 6:00 PM – 7:00 PM. No matter what time of day or year you visit, however, it’s always a good idea to book a reservation.

Merendero de la Mari

Merendero de la Mari is an elegant seafood restaurant with excellent views of the yachts docked at Palau de Mar. The chefs at Merendero de la Mari take great pride in using fresh, locally caught seafood in all of their daily dishes. For those interested in paella, this restaurant focuses on recipes that prominently feature shrimp and clam. Anyone feeling extra adventurous can order their paella with a base of black rice doused in cuttlefish ink. Besides their seafood selection, there are vegetarian paellas available, including one with cucumbers and artichokes. Price range: £££

7 Portes

7 Portes is a high-end restaurant that has been serving up tasty Catalan cuisine since the 19th century. This restaurant was a major hub for 20th-century artists like Picasso and Miró, and you’ll see evidence of 7 Portes’s glorious past adorning its walls. Besides its prominent paintings, 7 Portes cooks up many fabulous paellas. One of 7 Portes’s most popular paellas is a surf ‘n turf dish called the “Manolete,” which includes chicken, sausage, pork, cuttlefish, shrimp, crayfish, and mussels. Other paellas on 7 Portes’s menu include the fish & lobster, the veggie & meat, and the fideuà, which uses special noodles as a base rather than rice.

  • Price range: ££££
  • Cuisine: Catalonian
  • Area: Near Barceloneta Metro
  • Address: Pg. Isabel II, 14 08003, Barcelona
  • Reservations: +34 93 319 30 33
  • Website: https://7portes.com/en/
  • Map location

La Mar Salada

La Mar Salada is a nautical-themed restaurant within walking distance of the Platja de la Barceloneta. Opened in the 1990s, this sleek eatery has become a hit with tourists looking for a high-quality meal at a reasonable price. The menu at La Mar Salada varies day-by-day, but they usually offer their highly praised paella with shrimp and mussels. Other items you might see on La Mar Salada’s menu include salmon tartar with avocado and soy, grilled squid with fresh veggies, and shrimp scrambled eggs. Please keep in mind this restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

  • Price range: ££
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • Area: Near Barceloneta Metro
  • Address: Passeig. de Joan de Borbó, 58-59, 08003 Barcelona
  • Reservations: +34 93 221 10 15
  • Website: http://www.lamarsalada.cat/
  • Map location

Elche

Elche in Barcelona’s Poble Sec district has the high honor of being the city’s first restaurant to focus primarily on rice dishes. Founded in the 1950s, Elche was named after the original restaurant owners’ hometown, from which they drew recipe inspiration. Most of the paellas on Elche’s menu feature fresh seafood like the wild mushroom & cod, lobster, and paprika-spiced shrimp and crayfish paellas. Patrons looking for a little surf ‘n turf might want to try Elche’s chicken & seafood paella, which could be ordered with or without shells.

  • Price range: ££
  • Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • Area: Near Paral·lel Metro
  • Address: Carrer de Vila i Vilà, 71, 08004 Barcelona
  • Reservations: +34 93 441 30 89
  • Website: http://elcherestaurant.es/
  • Map location

Güell Tapas

Güell Tapas is a funky gastro-pub that has earned quite the reputation for its small dishes and big paella plates. Although distinctly Spanish, this restaurant strives to offer guests as international a menu as possible. In terms of their paellas, Güell Tapas has a wide variety of different styles such as seafood, chicken, and veggie. You could also mix-and-match meats with seafood and opt for noodles or black rice as your base. For those who like their paella extra soupy, Güell Tapas even has a loose rice stew with lobster meat.

L’Arrossería Xàtiva

L’Arrosseria Xàtiva is a stylish restaurant in the Les Corts section of Barcelona. A major draw to this cozy restaurant is its wide selection of authentic Valencian paellas. Here you could try a “classic” paella with rabbit, chicken, and veggies. L’Arrosseria Xàtiva also offers a soupy seafood paella, an organic veggies paella, and a rice dish with chicken, onion, and a hard-boiled egg.

Can Solé

Can Solé is a historic Barcelona restaurant dating back to the early 1900s. Interestingly, many of the dishes at this fine dining establishment are drawn from old sailor recipes. With that in mind, it’s no shock that most paellas at Can Solé feature seafood. Some of the top-rated paellas include lobster, shrimp, and crab. Be prepared: many of Can Solé’s rice dishes are prepared in a soupy style.

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