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.]
© con jamón spain