It is not easy for someone to understand how incredible San Sebastian is, and I know this because I myself did not know it, or rather, I felt it, until I saw it, walked it and tasted it for the first time a couple of years ago.
San Sebastian is a beautiful city but without stridency, it has the calm elegance of those who know and do not need to show off. It is a city that has everything: hills to be admired, beaches to relax (or surf), an international film festival that makes it a must in September, an admirable network of bike paths to ride around it, and, what concerns us in this minimap, a gastronomic culture that -as it could not be otherwise- is recognized worldwide.
In Donosti there is a bar or a restaurant for every 200 people and it is the second city in the world with the highest number of Michelin stars per inhabitant (the first is Kyoto), so you can imagine that the gastronomic offer is enormous, even overwhelming. That’s why this minimap is intended to help you locate some of the essential places that you have to visit when you indulge in the pleasure of walking the streets of this city tasting the minimum expression of the admired gastronomy of Donostia: the pintxo.
Remember that in almost all the places I recommend you can try a gilda! The gilda is not only the characteristic pintxo of Donosti, named in Casa Valles (see point 7), it is also an intense and perfect mixture of tastes, a “lightning of flavors“, umami in its purest state.
Edited & illustrated by Ana Laya.
[La versión en español de este minimap está aquí]
1. Parte Zaharra (Old Town)
We start by cheating a bit, and once you are in San Sebastian you will see why. Both here, in the old part, and in the Gros, the density of great places to try pintxos is such that it is both impossible and impractical to recommend just one place, so we will recommend three and with that we are making a titanic curatorial effort.
The first is Txepetxa, if you are fans of anchovies, please do not fail to stop by because this is the temple. Two of our favorites: the vinaigrette (vinagreta) and the anchovy with spider crab cream (crema de centollo). The second is Borda Berri where Basque and Catalan cuisine is combined. From here we loved the puntalette risotto with idiazabal and the rib kebab (kebab de costilla). The third one is Txuleta, their cutlet croquette (croqueta de chuleta/txuleta) right now has the distinction of being among the best in town. And obviously if you want to try a cutlet pintxo, this is the place.
Special mention should also be made of Gandarias, the restaurant with a large menu and pintxo area that was the first one I visited on my first visit to the city. Great service and the beef pintxos, both tender and delicious. Our favorites: the shrimp and steak skewers (brochetas de gambas y de chuleta). If you want to dine, it is advisable to book, especially in high season.
Borda Berri: Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 12, 20003 · 943430342 · @borda_berri
2. Bodega Donostiarra
In the Gros the density of bars is still abundant, but we have chosen two solid and different alternatives. We start with Bodega Donostiarra a traditional bet (they have been around since 1928!) that bets on high quality and proximity produce.
La Bodega Donostiarra has a wide selection of classic pintxos that are part of the gastronomic heritage of Donosti, its quality (they are made at the moment), its good atmosphere and its commitment to sustainability, make it a must. If you travel in high season it is essential to book. What to order? Well, their two signature creations never fail: the mini completo de bonito, the Indurain (both in the photos), and, since we are in classic mode, I would not fail to try the tortilla and the ensaladilla rusa.
Matalauva, a tiny, unpretentious and charming place frequented mostly by locals. Perfect to escape the crowds and try some original and delicious pintxos. Not to be missed are the kokotxa pintxo and the Euskal Txerri and Xixa-Hori cheeks at low temperature (carrillera Euskal Txerri y Xixa-Hori a baja temperatura).
Tip: Ask for their specialties out of the menu, they always have an exquisite surprise.
Antonio is legendary and delicious. We love its relaxed atmosphere and how friendly everyone is, managers and clients. Whenever we have been there, there is always a great atmosphere.
You can’t miss the tortilla here, but you have to get there early to be able to sample it. We found their gildas to be generous and well balanced. And you also have the very nourishing Igeldo, a glorious pintxo of tomato, ventresca, anchovy and chili pepper (in the photo, although live it is much more beautiful), and the grilled scallops with truffled mashed potatoes. On egin!
Technically it is not a pintxo bar but a restaurant-restaurant, but as it is one of my favorites it is impossible not to mention it. The portions at Narru are incredibly generous so it is recommended to order half portions and try a little bit of everything. The ensaladilla and torreznos are incredible, but our favorite (half) portion is definitely the steak tartar.
But as delicious as everything is at Narru, this place not only stands out for its fresh and quality cuisine, and its way of combining innovation and tradition, I think what has always captivated us about this place is the service. So far in all our visits to the restaurant, despite always being incredibly crowded, we have been treated remarkably well. But hey, while the staff will do everything they can to get you a table when you go, I recommend you make a reservation.
6. Biarritz Jatetxea
A classic on the boulevard of La Concha, undoubtedly the most beautiful view of all the places on this route. If you visit between May and October you can enjoy the terrace and if not you also have two more areas: the bar and the restaurant. Here we ate one of the best tortilla de patatas (potato omelette), that’s why it is our recommended one, but don’t miss other dishes like the Completo del Cantábrico and the anchovies. All delicious.
7. Casa Valles
To close, a legendary place that preserves that character of bar-de-toda-la-vida, Casa Vallés has the honor of having been the birthplace (or baptism or recognition, according to some) of the Gilda, the Donostian pintxo par excellence.
The story, as told on their website, is as follows: In the humble beginnings of this family establishment that served students and workers in the area, in addition to Navarrese wine, they began to offer pickles and anchovies in oil as a side dish. One day, “Joaquín ‘Txepetxa’, a friend and customer, first skewered the three elements (olives, anchovies and green chilli peppers) that would give shape to one of the most famous and versioned banderillas of our gastronomy: La Gilda. The name would later be given by the similarities that many found between the taste of the pintxo and the character of the [then recently released] film starring Rita Hayworth, Gilda: “Green, salty and a little spicy.””
Ordering the gilda here is a delicious tradition and if you accompany it with tortilla de patatas you won’t regret it, it’s delicious and the portion is quite generous.
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