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I was surprised that I didn't end up enjoying Barcelona as much as Sevilla, Granada, or Madrid.  Parts of it are quite pretty (Gaudi is great, and the Poblenou Cemetery is positively astonishing), but it just takes so damn long to get from one neighborhood to another.  We also had a much tougher time getting into bars and restaurants in Barcelona than in any of the other cities; there were at least a dozen instances over five days where we tried to eat/drink somewhere and failed because it was too crowded, it was closing, the wait was too long, and/or the servers just flat-out didn't acknowledge us for long enough that we felt embarrassed and annoyed and left.

We stayed in El Born, which was cool-looking and chock full of bars and restaurants, and yet somehow simultaneously didn't feel "real" to me, being as it was a kind of hipster/scenester/expat disneyland.

That being said, we had some great experiences there.

Disfrutar was simply phenomenal and one of the best high-end meals I've had in a long, long time.  The service was incredible, the food was inventive and delicious, and the sommelier (who I think is the sister of the chef, unless I misunderstood?) was soooooo friendly and passionate and knowledgeable (and suggested top-notch pairings) that she elevated the dining experience single-handedly.  The meal was also a damn good value, all things considered (we did the middle option of the three tasting menus, the Festival menu, and it was 105 euros for ~20 separate dishes).  Don't miss this place.  Go here.  Now.

Another amazing place is La Pubilla, a Catalan restaurant next to La Llibertat market.  We walked in for a late breakfast at the bar here, having an egg-and-bacon dish that was lusciously rich and decadent, and loved it so much that we phoned them for to book a table for dinner on our last night in Spain.  (Apparently we were lucky to be able to sneak in for their last breakfast service, as I've read that there are habitual lines for lunch and reservations are highly recommended.)  The service was awesome and the food was phenomenal (and very, very reasonably priced); as soon as I look through my photos I'll remember what we had and post a follow-up with visual evidence.  The menu is very market-focused and is always changing, so just order whatever looks tasty to you and you'll have a great time.  So good.  So, so good.

(By contrast to both these places, we had a dinner tasting menu at Michelin-starred Hisop, and while the food was good, the experience was both strange and underwhelming.  For such a small place, the service in particular was at times bizarrely slow and inattentive, as if they were missing a member of the waitstaff that night -- at least one person looked to be pulling double duty.  I was so excited for this place beforehand, and we left feeling like we could have gone any number of other places and had a better time.) 

We ate at the bar at highly-regarded Llamber (around the corner from our AirBnb) twice and it was excellent both times, though in neither case did we have a full meal.

And Bar Tapeo was one of my favorite places on our whole trip, the kind of cozy, unassuming tapas bar with a wonderfully hospitable owner, a relaxed atmosphere, and (most importantly) absolutely KICK-ASS food that I had despaired of finding in Barcelona until we ended up there on our final full day.  I don't remember exactly what we had except that he was clearly quite proud of one of the daily specials (something with cock's comb? pig's feet? beef cheeks? i need to ask my girlfriend; she'll know), and when we ordered it we loved it so much that we sung its praises to the American couple who came in after us and made them order it too.  And the wine here is, happily, well-curated and awesome.

I also had a great breakfast in this place in the Gothic Quarter (can't remember the name, but will try to find it) after being turned away from the brunch place I was trying to go to (i was eating by myself and they had a single open seat at the bar, but they said i needed to put my name on the waiting list for a table because the bartender decided not to fill that seat with anyone. I mean!).  The place i ended up was everything i love about Spain; a single small room with a couple of cheap tables and chairs, overseen by a crusty-but-affable old guy who's probably been there since 1963, with a couple of guys in the corner reading newspapers who have probably been there since 1964, serving a limited breakfast menu which at its most fancy consisted of bread with tomatoes and olive oil (unlike virtually everywhere else in Spain, he didn't have ham because "ham is too expensive!"), drinking wine from one of the many barrels that line the wall behind the counter, and the whole bill comes to $4 or $5.  That was fun.

...Okay, I think I had more good meals in Barcelona than I initially remembered.  I would happily go back and explore more.

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Grilled seafood from the Boqueria market, foie gras and ox tail from Bar del Pla 7 euros!

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In the first place, I have little respect for Michelin stars, less for guides that rate a restaurant just on the size of its wine list.  Not everyone is a full-bore wine geek and most will only sample a bottle or two or a degustacion anyway.  And how many times will you go to a place like this anyway, let alone go there just for its wine list?  I have never paid much attention to the wine lists in most of these restaurants because I know that many of the somms are out to make a name for themselves by having multiples of all the darling wine stars of the moment, most of whose wines are undrinkable to me.  As to ABaC as a restaurant, I have been following Chef Jordi Cruz, now a rock star chef, for a long time and he is a friend of mine.   I gravitate more towards great traditional cuisine restaurants, both modern and classic, but I have a lot of experience in Spanish Michelin starred restaurants and Jordi Cruz at ABaC is one of the very best and his food is usually delicious. 

I wrote this back in 2011 and predicted Jordi Cruz would get three stars: 

ABaC Barcelona (From my article in Departures, May 2011)

Want to catch a true rising star in the Spanish food firmament, one that many predict will soon be awarded three Michelin stars? Jordi Cruz first cooked at the restaurant L’Estany Clar in the village of Berga, north of Barcelona, where at the age of 26 he became the youngest chef in Spain to receive a Michelin star. He then moved further into the Catalan hinterlands, to Món St. Benet, near Manresa, where he cooked at L’Angle, the restaurant attached to Ferran Adrià’s food research center Fundació Alícia. Anyone who ate there immediately recognized his rare talent. Cruz is now lighting up the sophisticated Barcelona culinary sky at the glittering new ABaC Restaurant & Hotel, which opened in 2008. Dishes might include smoked salmon with cauliflower purée served under a smoke-filled cloche, or an ethereal mushroom-and-truffle focaccio accompanied by a little tumbler of champignon bisque with hazelnut foam. Not to be missed is Cruz’s extraordinary extraterrestrial gin-tonic, made with cucumber and a dollop of lemon sorbet. Cruz is not just creative; his food is as delicious as that of any Spanish modernista cuisine chef today. Dinner, $215. 1 Avenida Tibidabo, Barcelona; 34-933/196-600.  (Photo by Gerry Dawes©2011)
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5 minutes ago, Gerry Dawes said:

Because it is Michelin doing the rating.  Don't get me started!

Ah, got it! Well, this is why I always recommend you.

The problem is (and you are one of only a handful of people on Earth who knows this better than I do) ... one individual can only cover so much turf. After that, it begins to unravel at a geometric, if not exponential, rate. I can no longer cover all of *Washington, DC* - how you cover all of Spain like you do is beyond me, but you somehow manage.

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Over the last 5 or so days, we have managed to eat in the following:

1.  My Fucking Restaurant:  don’t be put off by the name. The chef/owner worked at a lot of restaurants until he could open his own a, thus the name. One of the absolute best restaurants we’ve dined. Small on the outside and buried away in Calle Nou la Rambla and only open Thursday to Sunday and only for dinner. Food is fresh every day and very well done. We had toast with cheese rubbed with tomato, Iberico ham, burrata with iberico ham, and shrimp with potato.

2. The La Boqueria Bar:  in the heart of La Boqueria market. Great and very friendly service. We liked it so much that we took some people we met on a tour to dinner there. The squid ink croquette, the king prawns, the razor clams all amazing. BOQUERIA MARKET, Stall 218-223 & 282-287, Aisle 9. 

3. Agua:  we celebrated our anniversary here. We were very happy we did  

more to come including pix. 

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29 minutes ago, Escoffier said:

2. The La Boqueria Bar:  in the heart of La Boqueria market. Great and very friendly service. We liked it so much that we took some people we met on a tour to dinner there. The squid ink croquette, the king prawns, the razor clams all amazing. BOQUERIA MARKET, Stall 218-223 & 282-287, Aisle 9. 

That's where I went.  I picked the place because they have a great variety of pristine seafood displayed in cases all around the bar.  

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On 10/16/2019 at 10:51 AM, Escoffier said:

2. The La Boqueria Bar:  in the heart of La Boqueria market. Great and very friendly service. We liked it so much that we took some people we met on a tour to dinner there. The squid ink croquette, the king prawns, the razor clams all amazing. BOQUERIA MARKET, Stall 218-223 & 282-287, Aisle 9. 

This kills me, because when I went to Barcelona last year (and in 2011), I passed on La Boqueria Bar both times, but I went to "the other" tapas place (Bar Joan), in the corner of "the other" market (Santa Caterina) - and it had the best seafood of any tapaseria (just made that up) in Barcelona. Txakoli was something like 1,50 Euros a glass. 

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