SAN SEBASTIAN is a little coastline city in northern Spain’s Basque Region. That might be a good enough reason to check it out, but it is also one of the world’s most refreshing culinary destination. This sleepy surfing town has built itself up as the spirit of the culinary world and one of the best influence of contemporary Western cooking. I discovered this cozy little surfing town from a recommendation of a hostel mate from Barcelona.
San Sebastián is well known for its Pintxos (pronounced “pinchos”) which are Basque-style tapas. These little appetizing hors-d’oeuvres are introduced in a heap of hues, structures and flavor mixes, laid out on titan platters and spread along every counter around at local bars and restaurants. That’s just a fancy way of saying this shit’s f*king good.
Tons of people fill the avenues daily for a conventional “Pintxos slither,” moving from bar to bar: tasting, drinking, and mingling. In San Sebastián, Pintxos are more than just tasty snacks; they are imbued with the city’s culinary history and tradition and is considered of a lifestyle.
These little Hors d’oeuvre, ranging from the first cut of bread heaped with toppings, to modest smaller than usual tapas type food were initially a cut of baguette bread heaped high with tasty toppings of any sort. It’s usually served to accompany a glass of wine when you order it at the bar. To hold its set up, a mixed drink stick or “Pintxo” was utilized. That usual style has advanced until turning into today’s smaller than normal cooking, flavors that are explained and gathered into little, mouth-watering experience.
Going for Pintxos in San Sebastián’s celebrated around the world Old Town as a way of life, yet knowing where to find the best ones is craftsmanship. While it’s difficult to have terrible food anywhere here, knowing precisely where to go is helpful and yields the tastiest Pintxos. You can even enlist knowledgeable Basque guides for their insider knowledge to help you along the way. But for the adventurous types, a day in San Sebastian is probably enough to get a true taste of the Pintxos lifestyle that’s the city’s claim to fame.
It’s not just about the food; great drinks are here too! You’ll be pairing each Pintxo with tasty ale, cider, local whites, and reds. You can walk up and down old cobblestones to the culinary heart of the city for a night of eating things from fresh prawns to line-caught baby squid to perfectly charred steak. There will be hundreds of choices in front of you, point to a single silver anchovy on toast, and the bartender will hand you the plate.
Here’s a list of a few places to start you in the Old Town.
Calle 31 de Agosto. Some of the town’s best Pintxos bars are on this street, sandwiched between traditional Bar La Viña (C/31 de Agosto 3) and A Fuego Nero (C/31 de Agosto 31). There’s also Bar Martínez (C/31 de Agosto 9) for cold Pintxos, La Cuchara de San Telmo (C/31 de Agosto 28) for made-to-order pintxos.
Calle Pescadería. This is between Plaza de la Constitucíon and Calle San Juan. You’ll find Zeruko, a very creative Pintxos bar (C/Pescadería 10) and their neighbors Txepetxa (C/Pescadería 5) for marinated anchovies and Bar Tamboril (C/Pescadería 2) for battered shrimp.
I can tell you it’s challenging to have a go at everything in a day. But if you arrive the evening before and stay at a surf hostel, you can start having a go at all the Pintxos bars in the old town. You can learn to surf in the surf beach and explore the town all the way to Castillo de La Mota and have a go at more Pintxos and delicious wines. There’s too many choices and flavor combinations with Pintxos, and they’re all phenomenal. Believe me; if you visit San Sebastián, the Pintxos will blow you away.
Once you’re done with a day in San Sebastian, I recommend you visit one of Spain’s best kept secret beach, Lekeito. It’s just an hour away from the city.