Specialties to buy
Spain's most popular sausage is spiced cured, made from pork, ham, salt, garlic and pepper and is produced in multitude of varieties, in different sizes, shapes, short and long, spicy, in all different shades of red, soft, air dried and hard or smoked. frequently contains emulgators and conservatives, so check ingredients if you feel sensitive.
Jamón (air dried ham)
Jamón serrano serrano ham: is obtained from the salt meat of the back legs of the pig and air dried. this same product is given the name of trowel or paletilla when it is obtained from the front legs. also it receives the names of jamón iberico iberian and jamón of bellota acorn. they are specially famous jamones that takes place in huelva spain, in guijuelo province salamanca, in the pedroches province cordova and in trevélez province of granada. jamón iberico is made from free range pigs.
Typical Spanish dishes include:
Aceitunas, Olivas: Olives, often served for nibbling.
Bocadillo de Calamares: Fried battered calamari served in a ciabatta sandwich with lemon juice.
Boquerones en vinagre: Anchovies marinated in vinegar with garlic and parsley.
Caracoles: Snails in a hot sauce.
Calamares en su tinta: Squid in its ink.
Chipirones a la plancha: Grilled little squids.
Churros: A fried horn-shaped snack, sometimes referred to as a Spanish doughnut. Typical for a Spanish breakfast or for tea time. Served with hot chocolate drink.
Empanadas Gallegas: Meat or tuna pies are also very popular in Madrid. Originally from region of Galicia.
Ensaladilla Rusa Russian Salad: This potato salad dish of Russian origin, widely consumed in parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, is strangely enough, extremely popular in Spain.
Fabada asturiana: Bean stew from Asturias.
Gambas al ajillo: Prawns with garlic and chili. Fantastic hot stuff.
Gazpacho Andaluz: Cold vegetable soup. Best during the hot weather. It's like drinking a salad.
Lentejas: A dish made from lentils with chorizo sausage and/or Serrano ham.
Mariscos: Shellfish from the province of Pontevedra.
Merluza a la Vizcaina: The Spanish are not very fond of sauces. One of the few exceptions is merluza a la Vasca. The dish contains hake fish of the cod family prepared with white asparagus and green peas.
Potajes or pucheros: Garbanzo beans stew at its best
Paella or Paella Valenciana: This is a rice dish originally from Valencia. Rice is grown locally in what look like wheat fields, and this is the variety used in paella. The original paella used chicken and rabbit, and saffron el azafran. Nowadays varieties of paella can be found all over Spain, many containing seafood. Locals suggest to find true paella in large parties like a wedding in a village, but few restaurants still can compete with it.
Patatas Bravas: Fried potatoes which have been previously boiled, served with a patented spicy sauce. They are potatoes cut in form of dices or prism, of one to two centimeters of size approximately and that they are fried in oil and accompanied by a sharp sauce that spills on potatoes using hot spices.
Pescaíto frito: Delicious fried fish that can be found mainly in southern Spain
Pimientos rellenos: Peppers stuffed with minced meat or seafood. The peppers in Spain taste different than all other peppers in Europe.
Potaje de espinacas y garbanzos: Chick pea stew with spinach. Typical of Seville.
Revuelto de ajetes con setas: Scrambled eggs with fresh garlic sprouts and wild mushrooms. Also commonly contains shrimps.
Setas al ajillo/Gambas al ajillo: Shrimps or wild mushrooms fried in garlic.
Sepia con alioli: Fried cuttlefish with garlic mayonnaise. Very popular among tourists.
Tortilla de patatas: Spanish egg omelet with fried potato. Probably the most popular dish in Spain. You can easily assess how good a restaurant is by having a small piece of its potato tortillas. Frequently it is made also with onion, depending on the zone or the pleasure. The potatoes must be fried in oil preferably of olive, and they are left soaking with the scrambled egg for more than 10 minutes, although better if it is average hour so that they are soaked and they acquire the suitable consistency.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner times
lunch la comida starts at 13:30-14:30 though often not until 15:00 and was once typically followed by a short siesta, usually at summer when temperatures can be quite hot in the afternoon. This is the main meal of the day with two courses (el primer plato and el segundo plato followed by dessert. La comida and siesta are usually over by 17:00 at the latest. However, since life has become busier, there is no opportunity for a siesta.
between the lunch and dinner times, most restaurants and cafes are closed, and it takes extra effort to find a place to eat if you missed lunch time. Despite this, you can always look for a bar and ask for a bocadillo, a baguette sandwich. There are bocadillos fríos, cold sandwiches, which can be filled with ham, cheese or any kind of embutido, and bocadillos calientes, hot sandwiches, filled with pork loin, tortilla, bacon, sausage and similar options with cheese. This can be a really cheap and tasty option if you find a good place.
Normally, restaurants in big cities don't close until midnight during the week and 2-3AM during the weekend.
The Spanish are very passionate about their food and wine and Spanish cuisine. Spanish food can be described as quite light with a lot of vegetables and a huge variety of meat and fish. The Spanish cuisine does not use many spices; it relies only on the use of high quality ingredients to give a good taste. There are usually a variety of restaurants in most cities Italian, Chinese, American fast food if you would like to experience a variety of flavors.
In most cities you can also find international cuisine such as Italian, Chinese, French, Thai, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Vietnamese, Argentinian, etc. The bigger the city, the more variety you can find.
For the past decade there has been a surge in the number of Irish pubs and Japanese restaurants to be found in most cities.
food & wine tours
Those looking for some orientation to the rich and diverse culinary traditions of Spain can consider going on a food tour. Options are plentiful in every city, and especially in Barcelona, San Sebastian, and Madrid. A quick Google search will reveal the most popular ones.
Foodie&Tours (https://www.foodieandtours.com) is a Spanish company that has compiled a portfolio of food and wine tours and activities across Spain, with a focus on small group experiences run by grassroots companies. The experiences can be found and booked through their website.
The entry level to Spanish food is found in bars as tapas, which are a bit like "starters" or "appetizers", but are instead considered side orders to accompany your drink. Some bars will offer a wide variety of different tapas; others specialize on a specific kind like seafood-based. A Spanish custom is to have one tapa and one small drink at a bar, then go to the next bar and do the same. A group of two or more individuals may order two or more tapas or order raciones instead, which are a bit larger in order to share.
tipping and vat
Service charges are included in the bill. You are free to tip if you are very pleased: you would typically leave the small change after paying with a note. Maybe at the most touristy places they expect you to give some extra, but Spanish people do not commonly do it.
VAT is-not-included is a common trick for mid-range and splurge restaurants: always check in menu whether VAT 8%, IVA in Spanish is included in menu prices.
Breakfast is eaten by most Spaniards. Traditional Spanish breakfast includes coffee or orange juice, and pastries or a small sandwich. In Madrid, it is also common to have hot chocolate with "churros" or "porras". In cafes, you can expect varieties of tortilla de patatas see the Spanish dishes section, sometimes tapas either breakfast variety or same kind as served in the evenings with alcohol.
Seafood: on a seacoast, fresh seafood is widely available and quite affordable. In the inner regions, frozen and poor quality seafood can be frequently encountered outside few highly reputed and expensive restaurants. In coastal areas seafood deserves some attention, especially on the north Atlantic coast.
Quality seafood in Spain comes from Spain's northwestern region of Galicia. So restaurants with the words Gallego Galician will generally specialize in seafood. If you are feeling adventurous, you might want to try the Galician regional specialty Pulpo a la Gallega, which is boiled octopus served with paprika, rock salt and olive oil. Another adventurous option is Sepia which is cuttlefish, a relative of squid, or the various forms of Calamares squid that you can find in most seafood restaurants. If that isn't your style you can always order Gambas Ajillo garlic shrimp, Pescado Frito fried fish, Buñuelos de Bacalao breaded and deep fried cod or the ever-present Paella dishes.
Meat products are usually of very good quality, because Spain has maintained quite a high percentage of free range animals.
Ordering beef steaks is highly recommended, since most comes from free range cows from the mountains north of the city.
Pork cuts which are also highly coveted are those known as Presa Iberica and Secreto Iberico, an absolute must if found in the menu of any restaurant.
Soups: choice of soups beyond gazpacho is very limited in Spanish restaurants.
Water is frequently served without a specific request, and is normally charged for--unless it's included in your menu del dia. If you would like free tap water instead of bottled water, request "agua del grifo" water from the tap. However, not all restaurants will offer this and you may be forced to order bottled water.
Appetizers such as bread, cheese, and other items may be brought to your table even if you didn't order them. You will be charged for them. If you do not want these appetizers, politely inform the waiter that you do not want them.
Tipping is not observed in Spain so don't tip unless there was something absolutely exceptional about the service. As a result, people from countries where tipping is the norm primarily the US may find that waiters are not as attentive or courteous since they don't work for tips. This is less true in major resorts and cities where tipping is common. Look around at other diners to assess if tipping is appropriate.
World-level restaurants: There are several restaurants in Spain which are destinations in itself, becoming a sole reason to travel to a specific city. One of them is El Bulli in Roses.
Fast food has not yet established a strong grip on the Spaniards and you will find McDonalds and Burger King only in bigger towns in the usual places. The menu can be a surprise since it has been customized to appeal to the locals and beer, salads, yogurt primarily Danone, and wine are prominent. Pizza is increasingly popular and you will find some outlets in bigger towns but it can be their own homegrown franchises, such as TelePizza. In spite of beer and wine on the menu, fast food is often seen as "kiddie food." American franchises generally charge higher prices than in the United States, and fast food is not necessarily the cheapest alternative for eating out.
Typical Spanish food can be found all over the country, however top tourist destinations such as Costa Brava and Costa del Sol have turned all existing traditions upside down. Meaning that drinks are generally more expensive about double and quality is at its lowest. It is difficult to find proper Spanish food in the tourist centers.
Instead, you will get Schnitzel, original English breakfast, Pizza, Donner, and frozen fish. However, if you are prepared to look a little harder, then even in the busiest tourist towns, you can find some exceptional traditional Spanish restaurants. If you are on the coast then think fish and seafood and you won't be disappointed.