My Vegan Experience in Barcelona
“Good luck eating vegan in Barcelona”, I was told. “They don’t really have any vegetables!”
What? I was puzzled being that Barcelona is such a major tourist city. I imagined it would be somewhat culturally diverse in its cuisine. Barcelona is world renown for it’s beautiful architecture especially the stunning work of Antoni Gaudí.
Barcelona is also a popular destination for its gorgeous beaches. Of course, when in Spain.. one must indulge a bit in the tapas and wines. Sangria anyone?
Perhaps though, my friends were having slight “tapas tunnel vision”. If this is your focus, then yes; there is some truth to the lack of vegan options due to the majority of tapas being derived around fish and meat. The tapas that weren’t – would likely be vegetarian but most likely not vegan. The one or ones that are left to be vegan – would most likely not be healthy.. aka fried papas. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to screw up a good ol’ dish of olives. Well, unless they stuff them with animal products, which they do as well in many places.
So if you plan on dining in tourist places specializing in tapas and wine – and you are vegan; well then, drink up because that may be all you can do! I’m sure this is enough for many a vegan! Why isn’t alcohol in the five food groups? Or is it four? Or has that all changed since the food pyramids of the 1970’s. Does anyone even know anymore? It changes all the time. Just kidding (btw) but the point is.. the sangria is probably vegan; and if it’s not, you will never really know. Eat all the fried papas you want if you don’t mind clogging your arteries with deep fried oils and the fact that they are using a shared fryer – eww contamination.
All that being said; I only had that experience once with a not so great tourist tapas place. The rest of my meals were good to excellent!
Being the vegan nut that I am – I seek out the restaurants in advance and add them to my itinerary! It’s not that easy though because I already knew I would be in love with Gaudí and Barcelona for its architecture so I can’t really do everything – right? My girlfriend was great about us eating in vegetarian restaurants and not asking if she could have the famous jamón ibérico from there. All the souvenir shops had big “ham” shaped pillows and small “bull” ceramic figurines. This was a disturbing and constant reminder of the pain and suffering that goes on in Spain and of course all over the world. I was therefore quite happy when I ran into an animal rights activist on our way to the Picasso Museum. All in all though, the trip was amazing – a beautiful city with my beautiful partner!
It’s always fun and exciting to un-expectantly stumble onto a vegan spot and that’s just what happened within the first ten minutes out of our stunning hotel. Juicy Jones we found accidentally. I was jumping for joy. It was on the way from our hotel to Las Ramblas. It looks like a colorful juice and smoothie bar but they had food too. The Indian option with various legumes was pretty good. I tried the Seitan La Plancha. I like to order Seitan when dining out since it’s not something I make everyday.. or even at all. It was just ok- nothing to brag about. I really liked their menu and options; figured I would be eating here every day since there were “no vegetables in Barcelona”. As luck would have it, that was far from the case. Later in the week I ran over for a vegan chocolate banana smoothie though, which was both healthy and delicious. A word to the wise – if health is your goal, then be careful with all the juice, smoothies, shakes and drinks; it seems the Barcelonians like sugar as much as their ham. Ask for them “sin azucar.”
Gopal was another cute vegan place we visited; this one was in the Gothic quarter. People said to have the burger and donuts. The burger was just ok. I’m a New Yorker though so I’m a vegan burger brat. Even non-vegan places in New York have good vegan options; Bare Burger would be a good example. Of course, my preference is to be in a vegan atmosphere and support the vegan lifestyle while eating my vegan burger. It was a cute little take-away place so you know what to expect. I don’t do donuts being the healthatarian that I am but my girlfriend tried it for me – again, just ok. I want these little vegan places to succeed and be insanely delicious.
I did spend much of my googling time looking for vegan things. Ecstatic, I found a bunch of places! Unfortunately we didn’t have time to hit them all. Briefly my experience with Juicy Jones and Gopal were really just the total excitement when you find yourself in a vegan place. It’s an overwhelming joy that often gets shut down because of the size and quality of the place or the less than average service. None-the-less I am still grateful and a supporter. It reminds me of how I used to settle for a not great gay bar while traveling just because it was gay. I don’t care anymore and I’ll go to venues that I want and hopefully they are gay friendly. Maybe one day vegan will be like that too: vegan options everywhere! Vegan friendly on the window. We need a vegan flag! lol
So I googled and read reviews. The restaurant that to come up the most was Teresa Carles so off we went.. twice!
We must have gotten there too early the first time because it was cold apps only not the warm entrees. We said ok and ordered. First I had to try the Tofu & Avocado Tartar: Avocado tartar with tofu, capers, cucumber, mustard and beetroot juice. It was incredible.
Then I felt like I had an array of Mediterranean vegan tapas although it wasn’t called that. I had ordered Teresa’s Mezze Platter: truffled Russian salad, crunchy artichokes, mini veggies crudités, sweet potato chips, toasted artisanal brown bread, whole grain wheat and sesame sticks, homemade vegan foie (tofu, beets, red onion) and caesar kalamata sauce. I super indulged and of course still wanted to come back to try the warm main entrees.
When we returned, I wanted the sliders – probably because I didn’t nail it at Gopal. Oddly enough this was a vegetarian entree and not vegan. I believe it was due to the bread they were using. Sad me didn’t stay disappointed for more than a split second due to the numerous other options that were vegan.
I ordered ceviche – young coconut, mushroom, hiziki seaweed, avocado, red pepper, red onion all over a base of coconut water and spirulina. That was just my appetizer! I ordered “Seitan Vegan Stroganov”. I have never had that before; seitan fillets, onion, mushrooms, gherkins, paprika, mustard, coconut cream and basmati rice – it certainly was amazing! This restaurant was my favorite by far! I highly recommend it!
Now for my “good tapas experience” in a non vegan venue– the one with the spectacular view: La Pedrera!
After leaving our breathtaking tour of the Segrada Familia and having descended down 400 stairs of a slightly non vertigo friendly spiral staircase, we decided to find a nice restaurant with sidewalk tables and vegan options. This is not even easy in New York City let alone in another country. We walked and walked – at least headed in the direction of the next tour (Gaudí’s Casa Batló). Have you ever walked with someone in search of the “right” restaurant, both hungry and trying not to get in an argument about finding the perfect place? Haha
I knew Casa Milá (La Pedrera) was in the vicinity. Even though we were hungry little tourists, I pushed on because I figured we could at least get a sneak view of yet another Gaudí architectural masterpiece that wasn’t really on the itinerary that day. We could have gotten on line to see the magnificent roof of Casa Milá but hey.. sometimes, food and wine wins the day! We built up a traveler’s appetite and needed to relax a bit. Luckily this tapas meal was delicious! We were right outside La Pedrera – a gorgeous view that I at least got to photograph from the exterior.
Our waiter was really on point. This is refreshing when dining in another country. I promise to be extra nice to tourists! I say that every time I travel up until the time I’m back working in the service industry and the tenth visitor doesn’t tip me. I think tourists play us. They know we tip in America. American tourists travel just about everywhere and even if only half are like me, we tip in other countries even though it’s not customary. When they come here, it’s a crap shoot. Advice to those abroad- just tip; anything is appreciated. Oh.. except change. True, our dollar is not as strong as your Euros and Pounds but tipping in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies is an insult. Hey.. that advice is for you cheap Americans too! Lol
I chose a few vegetarian options that looked vegan safe. I asked if they had any butter.. or milk.. or eggs. Oh my! I sound like I have a lot of allergies and really feel for people who actually do. I later said I’m not allergic but vegan not really expecting him to understand. The mushroom flatbread was outstanding. The papas were small but tasty. He proudly filled us in on how they were not fried.
I asked what the side of white sauce was even though I had already devoured the cute lil’ papas. He told me that I could eat it. It is not mayonnaise, nor does it contain eggs. What? He explained more about this “olive oil and foam thing”.
They served my friends dish too with foam. What is this foam machine thing? I still want to know but when I research it, I come up with really cool foam dance parties lol or a complete scientific breakdown on oil and water. No simple answers! Was he playing me too? Is there a whole foam cuisine thing going on that I don’t know about? If anyone knows.. please do tell! I have room for yet another veganized gadget in my kitchen and I want one. Of course! This recipe here will have to hold me over in the meantime:
Anyway, I had to order another papas and play away with my hot sauce fake mayo foam dip. I also got a pickle dish. They like to make mini pickle sandwiches and stuff things like olives and dates. I have put pecans in dates before (delicious) but at the market the next day I saw chocolate in dates. Hello.. why haven’t I thought of that? That’s my kinda date! The waiter made this experience really nice – he wrote things down for us as well. So I had four cute tapas. My friend had one. Veggies win over king crab. Do I miss seafood? Not really when I think that they have feelings too.
As far as the other tapas place, it’s not worth mentioning as I’d rather spend my time highlighting the better experiences. I will say this though- it’s probably best to avoid the super touristy ones who lure you in with their specials; or pay close attention and ask questions. They speak English to get you in and then only Spanish to get you out. Also for vegans, most tapas are not ok. The papas are vegan I guess but not healthy because super fried in who knows what. Olives and pickles seem to be ok. You have to ask for dressings on the side or they will slop on the non-vegan dairy mess.
I’m pretty sure next time I will research some really good tapas places. I’m sure there are many!
Are you vegan? If so I wonder.. how long would you last in the Mercado de La Boqueria. Most certainly, I am pulled in by all the fruit cups and smoothies; all for 1 or 1.5 euros! I have honestly never seen so many in my life. I almost had a smoothie but really it’s all sugar – azúcar! Still, it’s pretty cute and vegan. I stopped at the dragon fruit spot. I ate every color I could find. That alone was worth the visit.
That’s the extent of it. Then you see the meat. The birds. The ham. What is the deal with this Iberian ham? Ugh.. don’t answer that. El Jamón – poor black pigs. The tourists rip through it. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, people get used to seeing it. They don’t see a sensitive, intelligent pig exploited for a taste bud. They see a commodity that in the end tastes good to them after it’s dried and salted. But it was the fishes eyes looking at me and the ducks or rabbits’ full bodies laying in the window case that clocked me out at about 120 seconds after leaving the fruit section. I only stopped to buy olive oil and saffron. After that I had to wait outside.
*I’d like to shout out the young lady who made my mojito. This was the best, frozen, melon mojito to-go that I have ever had! Thank you! This was on the way to the gorgeous beach at Fruit Express BCN.
*Fresh pizza is generally a good bet. This one was amazing because it was made with love. Really nice guy right by our hotel. It’s not healthatarian aka white flour but it is vegan! La Pizzarra on Rambla del Ravala!
*Falafel is just ok unless u go to Maoz http://www.maozusa.com
then it’s great and vegetarian/ vegan!
*McDonald’s surprised me in the airport with their classy oil and vinegar double packs. Do we have that in the United States? I wouldn’t know because I never eat there – ever! This was my girlfriend grabbing me a salad.
I’d like to go back to check out Cat Bar, Sesamo, Vegetalia and a few other restaurants. I received a whole pamphlet from an activist in the street, which I will use on my next visit.
Barcelona also has a couple vegan supermarkets that I wanted to try. I couldn’t design the entire trip around vegan. Or could I? Is there such a thing as vegan travel and if so yes I would like that!