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Eat on-the-go in Madrid & Barcelona

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Mar 27th, 2014, 09:48 AM
  #1
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Eat on-the-go in Madrid & Barcelona

When we travel abroad we try to spend our time touring places, see as much as we can. We prefer quick, light meals, on-the-go, rather than spending leisure times at nice restaurants...

So short of junk food joints (years ago we witnessed a McDonalds & Burger King across from each other right in the heart of Champs Elysees... we were shocked), what places should we look for in both Madrid and Barcelona?

Thanks...
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Mar 27th, 2014, 11:20 AM
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Eating "on the go" is not really a a european thing - except for kids or small snacks (gelato or frits ina cup). Even for a casuale meal european are much ore likely to sit down for a an omelet or grilled sandwich or salad at a cafe or brasserie or trattoria, etc.

Frankly I gave up gobbling food while walking when I was about 25. IMHO life is too short not to enjoy even a casual meal.

That said, almost every city has snacks (frites or herrings or wursts or waffles) that can be bought at a street stand and eaten on the run - if you don;t want to take 10 minutes to sit down on a park bench. Although I must admit I didn;t see much of it in Madrid.
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Mar 27th, 2014, 11:33 AM
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In Madrid, indulge in Bocadillos. They come in many variants, but the Bocadillo de Calamares (deep-fried squid baguettes) is quintessentially Madrid. The very affordable bocadillos (around 3-4€) comes with all kinds of tasty grilled meat, seafood, cheese and ham. Apart from the calamares variant, I can higly recommend a bocadillo with a juicy lomo (pork tenderloin) and cheese and the bocadillo de chorizo (Spanish sausage). And a Bocadillo with cured ham can of course be just divine.

Bocadillos are sold in almost every bar or cafeteria, but some of the most famous and genuine bocadillo places in Madrid are La Campana and La Ideal on Plaza Mayor and El Brillante just outside the Reina Sofía museum.

La Campana: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...na-Madrid.html
La Ideal: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...al-Madrid.html
El Brillante: http://www.barelbrillante.es/

You can find great bocadillos all around in Barcelona also, and in both cities tapas is of course the obvious answer. Just go up to the counter in any of the thousands of tapas bars and point at what you want, and in ten minutes you are out and happy. In Barcelona there are many places specializing in Basque pintxos, small bite sized goodies, both cold in the counter and warm all the time directly from the kitchen. Txakolín is my favourite pintxos bar in Barcelona, but you'll find pintxo places more or less like this all around town: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...Catalonia.html

Pintxos in Barcelona: http://www.timeout.com/barcelona/foo...s-in-barcelona
http://suitelife.com/2012/03/15/tapa...elona-pintxos/
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Mar 27th, 2014, 01:14 PM
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Tapas are very quick to buy and eat in Spain.

In Madrid it's very easy to buy a sandwich at the many Museo del Jamons everywhere.
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Mar 27th, 2014, 03:32 PM
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Thanks for the info, so far. We're necessarily looking for "on-the-go" per se, I used it more as an expression, spending 15-20 minutes at an eatery is fine, occasionally sitting on a bench for a quick lunch is OK too... It's those heavy meals that take an hour each, and for which one needs to dress up, and feel like taking a nap afterwards — that's the waste of time (and money) we prefer not to, when traveling abroad...
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Mar 27th, 2014, 03:38 PM
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Searching Bocadillos/images, they look like Subway sandwiches.... But — if those images are not professionally photographed for ad agencies — they sure look more yummy, crispy and inviting than our local mushy, wet Subway sandwiches...
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Mar 27th, 2014, 04:21 PM
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Bocadillos are for sure a tasty, fresh and very Spanish eat-to-go thing. Miles away from soggy Subway sandwiches. Fresh and crispy bread filled with yummy. Every Spaniard knows where to get a great bocadillo for a quick and affordable lunch or a late night filling. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bocadillo
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Mar 27th, 2014, 08:05 PM
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Are you planning on visiting museums in Madrid? Unlike many other European capitals the museums of Madrid generally have quite good cafes.

Please don't listen to this uninformed nonsense that "eating on the go is not really a a european thing." Every single blessed city in Europe has quick food and street food and lunch food for the working class. Pizza, suppli, tapas, boccadillos, crepes, cicchetti, fish and chips --- the list just goes on and on and on. If you want a long lunch in Spain, you can get it. But you can eat well without it. One of my favorite memories of Madrid was sitting down in Retiro park for a sandwich next to a tableful of nuns who were drinking lemonade and eating potato chips. In another part of Madrid, I stopped at a lovely cafe and ate an order of red peppers in olive oil and slices of cheese, plus a glass of wine.

In Barcelona, the options multiply, including heading straight for the famed markets and eating at the many food stalls or picking up your own items for a picnic.

Spain is a modern country that has many ways of enjoying food, including the quick meal when needed.
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Mar 27th, 2014, 08:10 PM
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(PS: I'm not sure there is still a Kentucky Fried Chicken opposite La Sagrada Familia In Barcelona, but please realize that in Barcelona, there is a deliberately open attitude to innovation and other cultures -- which includes an openness to American ideas and foods. Try to appreciate it as part of the history of Catalonia that put it into opposition against dictatorship and imposed notions of what is historically "Spanish". The people of Barcelona have proved to be among the most creative and dynamic in Spain, and that Kentucky Fried Chicken is less out of place there than one might automatically think.)
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Mar 27th, 2014, 08:19 PM
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(Final PS: Reading Fodor's forum you could end up giving up totally on the idea that travel is broadening, a way of challenging preconceptions, or just generally learning about what the world really is and getting a little humility about one's own provincial "verities." If there was ever a culture in love with small bites and eating while standing on the street it is Spain, and if ever there was a culture more forward looking in recent years, it has been Spain. But what some people travel to Spain -- or Europe -- what conclusion do they draw? Well, first of all, I am a superior person seems to be the most unshakeable conviction, but also that ye quaint olde Europe a la Rick Steves is the only Europe there is, so aggressively stick with the tourist dogma and scold anybody who asks otherwise with your supposedly "experienced" knowledge. Bottom line: Try to keep your eyes open when you travel in Spain. It is a surprising place, full of change and new ideas.)
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Mar 27th, 2014, 09:10 PM
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"In Madrid it's very easy to buy a sandwich at the many Museo del Jamons everywhere" I feel like gagging every time I pass one of the museums of ham. Surely you have better taste than that, but I guess if you're "eating on the run", in the land of great cuisine, then almost anything will do.
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Mar 27th, 2014, 11:03 PM
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Some people have a tendency to bring home with them, wherever they go. If food is secondary to seeing whatever sights they want to see, sobeit, but food and the way and when it is eaten is part of understanding Spain.

We were in Paris when shortly after the first McDonald's opened there and you would have thought Hitler was coming down the Champs again. Now there are more McDonald's in Paris than Parisians who lie in wait to correct your accent and manners.

We also like to sit at cafe and watch the world pass, but others consider that a waste of time as well.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 01:07 AM
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I can´t stand people eating or drinking on the street, at least in Spain. That means a loss of quality of life, a loss of tastes, sensations and conviviality with others. A loss of good manners, a loss of quality in meals and quality of ingredientes...I´ve started to see this in my hometown with coffee cups, something we have imported from the US. Still rare and not socially acceptable, but it´ll arrive. Coffee for an American (on a general basis) means a large cup of a tasteless dark liquid. Coffee for a Spaniard means seating down, chatting, a small china cup, dark and strong contents inside...So many good things in the US and we have to bring the worst...
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Mar 28th, 2014, 01:19 AM
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mamamia2 on Mar 27, 14 at 11:32pm

Thanks for the info, so far. We're necessarily looking for "on-the-go" per se, I used it more as an expression, spending 15-20 minutes at an eatery is fine, occasionally sitting on a bench for a quick lunch is OK too... It's those heavy meals that take an hour each, and for which one needs to dress up, and feel like taking a nap afterwards — that's the waste of time (and money) we prefer not to, when traveling abroad...


Maybe some pointers are needed here. Spain has a different set of ideas when it comes to meal times.
1)You do not need to dress up when eating a midday meal.
2)You will find a lot of places close during the midday meal time then stay open later in the evening. So it is not important you have to rush any midday meal.
3) The Menu del Dia will save you a lot of money compared with evening meals.
4) No meal is "heavy" even with a Menu del Dia you will have a choice in courses.
5) You will find even in a bar standing up at the counter it may take as long to pay as it does to eat and drink.
6) I cannot think of the last time I saw some one eating in the street.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 02:20 AM
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Full support for all points in ribeirasacra´s post
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Mar 28th, 2014, 07:00 AM
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It's not a very European thing to eat on the go. There are plenty of fast food options, sure, (sandwich bars, cafes etc) but most people would grab a table and sit down even if only for 20-30 minutes. The exceptions would be stalls selling burgers, hotdogs, hog roasts etc in parks, or maybe at fairs and festivals - but its not an everyday thing to eat your lunch while walking round. Not very healthy or enjoyable either!

Decent food - even if cheap - is all part of the holiday experience for me. Sitting down with a coffee, cake, plate of pintxos, sandwich, seafood or whatever and watching the world go by is all part of the experience. Some of the cafe interiors if in a historic area are beautiful. Some of the outside seating has great views. It's a chance to rest your legs and also to plan what you're doing next, consult maps, review pics etc away from the crowds. Don't rush it! An hour is not a long lunch
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Mar 28th, 2014, 09:34 AM
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Mikelg, seeing as you are true Basque I thank you for your kind words on my post. I thought I was sounding too hard, but something had to be said about Spain's eating culture.
I did not say much abut how The Spanish eat late at night because I feel that in these 2 cities one can find places to eat earlier than the norm.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 09:49 AM
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I've only been to Barcelona (in Spain) and found hundreds of small restaurants serving tapas. You enter, choose what you want to eat, pay, and find a table. These are light meals as the portions are small and selection varied so you can eat as much or as little as you want. You know what you're getting as the dishes are on display.

The best places were away from major sights. Walk a few blocks away for tastier, less expensive food. BTW - there's a MacDonalds on a corner of the Ramblas! But across the street is a great gelateria.

This is not your first European trip so why are you assuming that the only lunches are heavy meals and there's a dress code? This is not true in Paris, as you've experienced.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 10:06 AM
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I don't really understand how spending an hour at dinner is considered excessive. Also, what you are going to do for the rest of the evening?

The stereotype that you have to "dress up" to eat dinner isnn't true anywhere any more. People dress very casually in all kinds of restaurant nowadays in any city I've been in, including Barcelona and MAdrid. That might be true in some top 3-4* expensive restaurant, of course. Not to mention ones that are casual cafes or open-air cafes, which are plentiful in Barcelona, especially, no one dresses up.

Also the idea that if you spend an hour at dinner, the meal must be "heavy" and you need to take a nap isn't true. I never eat between meals, most people who do are overeating and eat too much IMO. You don't need to be eating so much all day. But I usually spend and hour or two at dinner, at a minimum. But I don't eat heavy meals, these don't go together. YOu can eat whatever you want, you are doing the ordering, it doesn't have to be heavy.

But if you must eat and run (which is not that great for digestion), there are plenty of casual outdoor cafes in Barcelona, you trip over them. There are tons all along rambla de Catalunya, for example, where I often go (this is north of plaza Catalunya). The ones on "the Ramblas" are too expensive and it's too noisy down there for me.
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Mar 28th, 2014, 11:28 AM
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I'd also vote for tapas. You can have just the amount you want, and if your first order turns out not to be enough, you can order something else, and have a nice glass of wine (if you want) with it.
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