… or how to get the most out of of going for pintxos!
While eating great pintxos in Donosti is about as hard as falling off a log, there are things you can do that will make the experience doubly good. Clear your mind of pre-conceived ideas of how to eat and dive into the pintxo culture as it should be experienced. Here are my top 10 tips for getting the most out of Sanse´s pintxo bars…
1. Go to Busy Bars
Simply put – a bar which doesn’t sell good quality won’t last. The locals won’t go and any bar will struggle to live off exclusively tourist trade. That means that the best bars are usually the ones that are the fullest. So don’t be put off, dive into the crowd and lean over people to grab a pintxo off the bar or holler your order over the crowd. You´ll be rewarded by what comes.
2. Be prepared to Stand
If you want to sit, go to a restaurant. The best bars often don’t have much seating and the poorest ones, targeting the tourist trade, usually do. Locals, especially in the old part, are usually small, often with people spilling out into the street, and there´s no space for tables.
3. Order from the Blackboard
It´s tempting I know. You walk into the bar and there´s 50 pintxos aligning the top of the bar, each one looking more appetizing as your eyes dance from plate to plate. ¡Resist! The best pintxos are the ones freshly prepared from the kitchen. Order from the blackboard, whiteboard or menu. You won’t be disappointed.
4. Go to Gros
Without doubt the heart of the pintxo culture is the old part but there are a dozen or more exceptional bars in Gros, from along La Zurriola to around the Plaza Catalunya. These shouldn’t be missed on any trip to San Sebastián. Gros has far more of a pintxo culture than other areas such as Amara or El Antiguo, although there are good bars to be found in these areas also.
5. Drink Small Drinks
Don’t accompany your pintxo experience with pints of beer or Kalimotxo. Try the local Txacoli, a refreshing white wine best taken in a cider glass. Or a zurrito, a smaller version of the caña.
6. Do a Tour
Star your trip to donosti doing a pintxo tour. There´s nothing better to introduce you to the culture and secrets of the place than going with a local. Friends of mine often comment that the experience of going for pintxos with me is totally different to going by themselves. You benefit from being with someone who knows what to ask for, what bars to go to at what time, who has little secrets that aren’t widely known. Then once you have the lay of the land, go off and discover for yourself….
7. Have 2 pintxos in Each Bar
Why 2? Cause you risk being put off a bar by having one pintxo you´re not enthused by and never going back. Also, it gives you a good time to be in one bar before heading off to the next.
8. Start Early
It takes longer than you think to order, receive and eat you pintxos, especially ordering off the menu. You´ll need 20-25 minutes in each bar, add walking time between them, and if you start at 21.30 you may find kitchens closing by the time you get to the 4th or 5th bar. Also, it allows you to get to busy bars when they are a bit quieter – if you go to La Cuchara, go between 12-12.30 at lunchtime for example, the crowds start to hit around 13.00.
9. Be Adventurous
Try stuff you´d never think of going for. You may not like something because of the way it has been prepared in another place, and fall in love with it here. Just cause pigs ear or fish throats sound a bit grim, doesn’t mean they are going to be gross when it comes. Give it a go, if you don’t like it, it´ll only be one of the 50 pintxos you can have.
10. Do Some Research
But leave your options open to be spontaneous. It´s a good idea to have some must do bars with some must do pintxos planned before you come, make sure you check opening times and what the recommended pintxos are. But leave time to wander into whichever bar grabs your attention and to spend more time in those that hit the spot.
Ok, and 1 don’t!
1. Don´t try and do every bar
Cause it´s impossible. You´ll end up being exhausted and you won’t enjoy the bars you´re in. Plus you have to leave some excuse to come back…
What do you think? What are your tips for pintxoing in sanse? Any of the above you don’t agree with? Let me know your thoughts!