Our hands-down favorite way to learn about any new place is to find out about the eating culture and sample the food. Our favorite part about meals in Spain is that they have a hobbit-like sensibility when it comes to second breakfasts. We generally eat some kind of cereal and yogurt in our apartment when we are on the road, hitting the local eateries at noon and dinner.
It is typical in Barcelona to pick up a ham sandwich or a light something around 11:00. Judging by the number of places where you can pick up a sandwich for around 2€ we believed what we had heard about this. We liked our own variation on this second breakfast of having coffee and a pastry for second breakfast. Our favorite place near the old town cathedral served the best chocolate croissants and delicious (and decaf!) café con leche, so we had to go there twice during our stay.
The big meal comes later in the afternoon, so around 2:00 or 3:00 (14:00 or 15:00) we found a place with a set menu where we would choose a first, a second as well as dessert and a beverage for between 10 and 12€ total. In our least favorite place, that beverage included the choice of beer or wine, and I was surprised when the waitress plopped down a half-full bottle of red wine in front of me. Then I tasted it, and I knew why she was giving it away so cheaply. H’s beer wasn’t too tasty either, but it was a large serving, nonetheless.
Oh, well, we had other very good menus in other places where wine or beer were good and only about 2€ per glass.
Dinner is a lighter affair, and my favorite was at the Sagardi Bar where you pick up a plate and wander past the bar, taking whatever tiny open-faced sandwich appeals to you. As you sit there enjoying the tasty morsels, the waitstaff comes around with other, fresh-from-the-kitchen goodies, like in a dim sum restaurant. Each item costs the same, so at the end, the waiter counts the toothpicks and tallies up your bill.
One night we had a picnic in our apartment from the grocery store with bread, fruit, cheese and wine, and that, too was tasty and satisfying.
It’s probably a sin, but we didn’t have tapas. (The little sandwiches are like tapas, we think.) We should have, but since neither of us is a huge seafood fan (due, we think, to our landlocked upbringing), we skipped those places, although we will probably return to Viva Madrid in Claremont.