You don’t need a grey, drizzly day, which is common in San Sebastián, to side-step into a pintxos bar in Spain. Come rain or shine, people make pilgrimages to these places and it’s no surprise: what they serve is utterly delicious.
Our first experience of pintxos was great fun and, before touring several in the narrow streets of the old town, we believe we stumbled on one of the best by chance (Bar Sport, yes, really). We returned later to chat to a Norwegian couple who had downed enough alcohol to sink a longship.
Older folks may remember the 1970s cubes of cheese and pickled onion on a toothpick – well pintxos (pronounced peen-chos) are a world away from those. Common throughout northern Spain including the Basque Country, they are a good way to graze and similar to tapas. Importantly, you get to see and choose what you want. You’re spoilt for choice and, if it wasn’t for a hike up to the castle, we could have stayed all afternoon watching Wimbledon on TV, munching on croquetas and juicy prawns.
At the end of the graze you tell staff what you’ve had – so it’s done on trust. It’s common to have a couple in each place – so six to eight is probably enough.
Prices range from around €1.60 to €2 a pincho (from the Spanish verb pinchar – to pierce – the Basque spelling differs) but some bars had a flat price for all of them. Most pintxos seemed to come on bread held together with a spike. There are cold ones and hot (the staff blitz ’em to heat).
Our advice is: head for the old town in San Sebastián, visit busy places full of locals and go around lunchtime.
[If, on the other hand, you have deep pockets and a desire to splash out, the city’s tourist board are very proud of their Michelin-starred restaurants.]
Will you still love me too, Moro?
© con jamón spain
We received this lovely feedback from Pennie:
When we go into Spain from France, we go to a tapas bar in Bossost and have food which looks just like the pictures you’ve shown. We go inside to choose what we want, putting items onto a plate, and go back to our table. If there are items we want heated they do that for us and bring them outside. The sticks are of different sizes and you are charged according to the size of the stick. I also quite often have a crema catalana which is priced according to the stick which is inserted!
One of our favourite items is fried baby peppers which go extremely well with the other richer things. You will be appalled that I usually have sangria which is most enjoyable sitting in this charming square at a table on the pavement. There is a very old tiny church which is always open. Our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs and we lose track of how many items we’ve had but they seem well able to keep track. There seem to be little pots to put the sticks into but even if you don’t take one they are able to cope. Of course this is open to dishonesty and we have checked to see if there are any sticks on the ground! There never are which speaks well for the system.