EL TAPEO IS one of the most convivial ways to spend an evening, and there is nowhere better to experience it than Granada. That said, if you don’t take a step away from the tourist hotspots, you could find yourself fobbed off with a packet of crisps. It won’t happen in any of these places, though.
Casa Torcuato has been a fixture on its pretty plaza in the Albayzin Alto for years. This is a no nonsense place where classic tapas are served in generous portions. The pescaíto, or fried fish, is particularly good and comes with pasta salad. Weather permitting, and mostly it does, tables are set up in the square for some idyllic al fresco dining. Quintessentially Spanish, Granadino and wonderful.
31 Calle Pagés , Albayzin Alto, 958 20 28 18
Casa Julio is good at fish, which is obvious as soon as you walk in. There are tapas of gambas (shrimp), rape en adobe (marinated monkfish), calamares (squid) and berenjenas (deep fried aubergines). The boquerónes (deep fried anchovies) arrive in batter spiced with cumin. A firm favourite with the locals and you can smell why.
5 Calle Hermosa, a side street where Calle Elvira meets Plaza Nueva
This place has been here since early last century and probably hasn’t seen a lick of paint since. Cavernous, with an elegant bar and the ubiquitous fluorescent strip lighting; the walls are covered with ceramic tiles interspersed with hand painted depictions of Andalusian life. Interior decorating with the baking heat of the summer in mind. More than Andalusian or Spanish; this is the South.
I have pisto (a ratatouille-like vegetable stew) topped with a quail’s egg. Cute and tasty, and since I go back for more, albóndigas de carne (meatballs) served with fries.
A good selection of sherries from the barrel; we choose the bone dry Fino. If you have a sweet tooth, go for Moscatel.
59 Calle Gran Vía de Colón at Calle Tinajilla, 958 20 21 38
Everything is a sandwich. Tapas of stewed pork and tortilla with spinach arrive in pulguitas (tiny bread rolls). The place is feet from the intersection of Calle Elvira and Plaza Nueva, is small, warm, nicely cramped and friendly. The kitchen is more of a cupboard. This is salt-of-the-earth territory. I never see it closed, or quiet.
Calle Elvira, just off Plaza Nueva, 958 22 80 62
Calle Navas, an upscale equivalent to Calle Elvira, is lined with tapas bars and Los Diamantes, not at all upscale, is the star attraction. It looks unpromising and I’m disappointed when I’m handed fries for my first tapa, but they turn out to be batons of deep fried courgette (zucchini). Yummy. The place is strip lit, loud and cramped, and is deservedly a favourite amongst Granadinos for its fish specialities. I wonder if there’s rivalry with Casa Julio, a similar operation.
26 Calle Navas, 958 22 70 70
At the shabbier end of Calle Elvira, there is nothing shabby about Páprika, with its smart, canopied terrace and beatnik interior. It looks too posh for tapas, but it isn’t. I get some vegetable paella with a glass of local wine. The place is also a sharp restaurant, though for that you pay. The paella is packed with flavour, and the food here is largely vegetarian and very good.
3 Cuesta de Abarqueros, near the old city gate at the other end of Calle Elvira, 958 80 47 85
In the Albayzin, this pretty place has a popular terrace. I have habas con jamon – broad beans with ham, a local classic. The youthful staff exude cool. I bet they listen to difficult jazz. The tapas are great, but even if there were no such thing, this is one of Granada’s nicest bars. A reward for walking up the Calderería, the steep Moroccan souk that leads here.
22 Cuesta de San Gregorio, where the Caldereria Nueva ends and the Cuesta begins in the Albayzin
A fantastic tapas bar, named for Egypt’s great chanteuse and specialising in tapas with a North African twist. As in many of Granada’s bars, impressive food emerges from an unfeasibly small kitchen. They do a plato degustación, or tasting platter, for €12. Order it if you are hungry and there are at least four of you, otherwise go with the ample and tasty tapas that will come with your drinks. They are accommodating for vegetarians.
17 Calle Jardines
Is it a bar with a chacinería (pork butcher’s shop) at the entrance or a chacinería with a bar at the back? Either way, you need to duck beneath the hanging chorizos and salchichónes, squeeze past the till and behind the counter to find yourself in this cosy, surprisingly chic little place. Trastienda translates as “behind the shop”, I discover later. The tapa, unsurprisingly, is a nice bit of salchichón.
11 Calle de los Cuchilleros, just off Plaza Nueva
10. Café Bar Elvira
A decent selection of beers and you get to select your tapa. This only happens in a handful of bars; in most places the tapa will be dictated by the house. Open from 1pm on a Sunday and otherwise from 7pm. Impromptu flamenco sessions erupt here in the evenings, I’m told. Good choice for a locale if you’re in Granada for a while because of it’s relaxed, no fuss atmosphere.
85 Calle Elvira
Granada in your future? Check out community member and Spain Expert El Lobo‘s impressions in Dream Awake in Granada. And not to toot our own horn, but Matador Nights has the Top Ten Flamenco Clubs in Granada.
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Robin Graham has written for Matador Nights, The Expeditioner, Literary Traveler, Travel Thru History, GoNomad, and Bootsnall. He is on the move again and blogging at www.alotofwind.com.