Tapas Restaurants in Granada, Spain
The proverbial free lunch may be a myth, but you'd never know it in Granada, where tapas are the most generous in Spain. As the rest of the country is agog over fanciful tapas creativas by big-name chefs, Granada sticks to basic dishes, but most bars accompany each drink with a small plate of food for no extra charge. It's easy to make a whole meal out of tapas, but you'll stand up to eat them. Tables and sometimes even barstools are reserved for diners ordering from the printed menu. Don't overstay your welcome. It's Spanish tradition to enjoy a drink or 2 and then move on to another place.
Venerable Castañeda looks as if it's been around since tapas were invented. House specialties include air-dried hams of Trevélez, from the Alpujarra mountains just south of Granada, and embutidos, or dry sausages. Don't expect expensive ham as a free tapa, but do enjoy the sausages or a montadito (finger sandwich) filled with cheese or pate. For a drink, try the house vermut, an herbed and fortified red wine made in the countryside. Don't confuse the atmospheric Castañeda on Calle Almireceros with its sister bar around the corner on Calle Elvira, which tends to be more of a tourist haunt.
Since it opened in 1942, the original Los Diamantes on Calle Navas has been Granada's favorite spot for seafood tapas deep-fried in olive oil. The tapas-sized servings of fried calamari, shrimp, anchovies and chewy razor clams just keep pouring out of the kitchen, and the bartenders have a rhythm down —they turn on the tap for a caña (a small draft beer), reach back for a tapa plate, and return to the tap seconds later to flip it off before the glass overflows. It can be mesmerizing.
Bar Casa Julio
On a small side street just off Plaza Nueva, Casa Julio is everything you ever imagined a Spanish tapas bar should be. Florid Andalusian tiles line the walls, and it's standing room only at the bar. The tiny kitchen maintains a high standard for such free tapas as fried eggplant slices drizzled with sugar syrup, flash-fried cuttlefish (chipirones), and garlic grilled shrimp.
Cunini Restaurante & Marisqueria
The city's fish market is less than 100 yards away, so it's not surprising that the best grilled, broiled and steamed seafood in Granada is served in Cunini's fancy dining rooms. A full meal can be expensive, but you get the same quality in small bites at the long, curving, marble bar that opens out to the plaza for the city's most convivial tapas scene. Even with the bustle, bartenders manage to keep track of how many drinks you've ordered and make each free tapa more special than the last. Once you work your way up to the fried red mullet, you've run the gamut and it's time to move on. Like many fish places, Cunini is closed on Mondays because the fleet doesn't fish on Sundays.
Join the international set at this friendly bar run by a Brazilian/English couple. You pick your free tapa from the menu, though the dishes are often not strictly Spanish. But a little bowl of feijoada (Brazilian black bean and pork stew) goes surprisingly well with a hit of absinthe, and chicken in coconut sauce on couscous mates nicely with a glass of sherry. The bar is south of the cathedral in the grid of modern streets.
Old-fashioned to a fault, this poorly marked restaurant on a narrow street bustles at lunch and dinner. In the early evening, though, you can enjoy drinks and tapas at the bar — and get a gander at the place where composer Manuel de Falla and poet Federico Garcia Lorca used to dine. The tapas progression is very conventional: olives or nuts leading to a small plate of potato salad or, on a good night, the octopus salad.
Built into the outside walls of Granada's bullring in 1928, Ermita is one of the most atmospheric places to dine in the city. The tapas bar lets you experience the setting without breaking the bank, though it's easy to get carried away by the outstanding wine list. Free tapas usually include stuffed mushrooms, small casseroles of meatballs or sausage, or (if you're lucky) a little rabo de toro, or stewed oxtail.
The literary circle led by Federico Garcia Lorca, which called itself El Rinconcillo, used to plot the future of Spanish literature at this establishment, then known as Café Alameda. Although the dinner menu has a North African influence, tapas at the bar are reassuringly old-line Spanish: sliced sausage, potatoes in garlic mayonnaise, or tiny anchovies preserved in olive oil. If good weather permits, opt for the outdoor plaza across the street.
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