If you’re in San Sebastián, there’s really only one thing you absolutely must do. And that’s eat pintxos!
Pintxos (pronounched pinch-oss) are the Basque Country equivalent of tapas, small plates of food. Here are my picks of the best pintxo bars in San Sebastián, and don’t miss my tips for a successful pintxo bar crawl below.
Atari Gastroteka serves excellent hot food, especially the foie a la plancha (foie gras) and revueltos (scrambled eggs done in various ways). Larger than some of the other bars, you can book tables here so it’s also good for when you’ve had enough of standing. Join the crowds drinking and chatting outside on the church steps afterwards.
Sirimiri is next door to Atari. Order from the menu – the octopus, baby squid croquetas and the mushroom risotto were all very good. The bar gets v busy and lively with drinkers (try one of their giant G&Ts) but there are also tables at the back.
Borda Berri – their risotto is meant to be legendary, sadly ours was given away by mistake (never take your eyes off the prize!). Their salty, crispy oreja de cerdo (pig’s ear) was probably our favourite dish of the trip, and the beef cheek was melt-in-the-mouth delicious.
La Cuchara de San Telmo – a tiny bar with great food (the house txakoli was less good!) it also has some tables outside. Media raciones were generously sized. We had the pressed pig’s ear with lentils, octopus, and an orzo risotto with mushrooms which were all excellent.
Bar Nestor is a San Sebastián institution – get there early if you want food! Bar Nestor is famous for their huge txuleta (large beef rib steak), tomato salad and pimientos de gernika (local green peppers). They also make very limited amounts of their famous tortilla every day, to be lucky enough to try and get a slice you will have to get there at 12pm or 7pm to put your name down.
Txepetxa – if you like anchovies Txepetxa is a must visit. Their only pintxos are anchovies on bread, with many different toppings. Try the anchovies with sea-urchin roe or spider crab cream and take in the traditional décor and pictures of their famous fans.
La Viña is the perfect place to head to for a sweet course – hands down the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten!
Tips for a successful Pintxo bar crawl
Ordering from the menu or boards as opposed to just taking montaditos (pintxos ‘mounted’ on bread) from the bar will normally mean fresher, hot food and a much better selection.
Don’t be shy – elbow your way to the bar and catch someone’s eye to order.
Although most people in San Sebastián will speak English, the menus in the small pintxo bars will generally only be in Castillian Spanish or Basque, so it would be worth knowing a few words if possible, or ask the bar staff.
Some bars will do different sizes of the same dishes – pintxo, media ración, ración. We mainly stuck to pintxo sizes purely so we could try more dishes in different bars! A media ración is likely to be generous enough for 2 or 3 people to have a good taste, a ración would be more like a main course size.
Try a local txakoli (pronounced cha-ko-li), a lightly sparkling white wine from the Basque region generally poured from a height to put in some bubbles. A glass of wine in most of the pintxo bars can be very cheap, around €2.