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  • Cathy Pendleton

Spain: Ten Travel Tips for Eating & Drinking Like the Locals

Updated: Nov 23, 2021


There's nothing worse that eating bad food, especially when visiting a country known for its cuisine. After traveling Spain for a month, here are a few tips worth sharing so you can eat and drink like a local.


#1 No Photos, Please

There are going to be lots of tourist-trap places hoping to lure you in. Try to avoid restaurants that have photos of the food posted outside or on the menu. Locals don’t need to see pictures. Those pictures are traps to catch naive tourists, which you are not.


#2 No Sweet Talk

If someone is standing outside a restaurant and trying to talk you into eating there, no matter how cute or persuasive they are, do not do it. Instead, follow your intuition. If a restaurant looks interesting, check it out and if locals are outside a tapas bar, gathered around tables, that's a place worth trying.


#3 It Get's Hot at Eight


In Sevilla, most authentic tapas bars don't start serving hot tapas until 8pm. Any earlier, and whatever hot tapas you ordered may taste good, but you might be in a tourist trap.


One of the best tapas bars we found in Sevilla, Bodeguita Casablanca, doesn't even open until 8. Make a reservation if you want to check out Casablanca and ask the waiter for suggestions.




#4 Look For a Sign

When visiting tapas bars, be on the lookout for lots of pictures of Mother Mary. According to the tour guide from Devour Tours in Sevilla, Mother Mary's visage in a true indication that you are at an authentic tapas bar and will be blessed with the real taste of Spain.


#5 Try the Vermouth

Authentic tapas bars should have their own house-made vermouth; look for a jar or canister somewhere on the bar or ask if they have vermouth de casa. If a bartender starts to pour your vermouth from a bottle, don’t order it. Also, it's usual for a glass of vermouth to be served with a green olive and orange slice, and perhaps a bowl of potato chips on the side. When we were sitting at a bar on a gorgeous terrace overlooking a public garden in Sevilla, after ordering a vermouth, we naively watched the bartender open a bottle of Martin & Rossi red vermouth and fill our glasses. Wait a minute! We were in Spain, why would we drink vermouth bottled in Italy?


#6 Sangria is For Tourists, But It's Really Good

It's true that mostly it's only tourists that drink sangria and it's also true that most sangria isn’t going to be the real deal.


To make authentic sangria, different fruits like apples and oranges are cut up and soaked in wine for some time. Tourist spots usually don't have the time or counter space for this to happen. So, unless the sangria is coming from large glass jars filled with wine and fruit, it may still quench your thirst, it just won’t be great. Case in point, at one spot in Cadiz, we watched clear liquor be poured into our glasses, then topped with a sangria mix from a cardboard box. Good, not great. A bit like a frat house version of sangria.

#7 Check Out the Cones on Those Hams

Iberian ham is delicious and you’re going to want the good stuff so here's a tip. Take a good look at those legs hanging from the ceilings in the tapas bars. There should be little colored plastic cones at the bottom of each leg.


The cones not only catch fat drippings, they also let you know the quality of the ham on the leg. It's a rating system. Go for the black cone; It’s the gold standard of Iberian ham!



#8 Don't Try This

More about Iberian ham…right now you can’t bring this tasty treat back to the United States so eat your fill of it in Spain. Yes, we learned this fact the hard way at the Miami Airport. Check out the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for the most current information.

#9 Read the Room

Pay attention to what the locals are ordering and definitely ask the server for recommendations, too. I would have totally missed out on these light, crispy shrimp omelets at El Chicuco in Cadiz if I hadn’t been scoping out what was being delivered to the table behind to me.


#10 Find the Experts

It is worth your time to research and watch some travel videos on YouTube or try a food tour when you first arrive at your destination. We viewed a lot of Devour Food Tours videos and did two tapas tours with them, one in Barcelona and the other in Sevilla. The tour guide in Sevilla even emailed us the name of Tabankino, a great restaurant we checked out on our day trip to Jerez.

Hope these tips help you get the most out of your meals in Spain. If you have any tips to share, please put them in the comments for this post.



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