After Paris, my Just a Pack travel companion and I jumped on a plane and headed to Barcelona, Spain. The city far exceeded my expectations for vegan dining options. In the past, and before I was vegetarian, I traveled all over Spain and what I remember is jamón, jamón, jamón. It seemed like most dishes included it or some other type of meat, seafood, or cheese. So I didn’t really know what to expect as far vegan options went in Barcelona this time around and was fully prepared to cook for myself often. However, what I discovered was that underneath the surface of this meat and seafood centric city, Barcelona is filled with health food stores, farmers markets, and loads of vegetarian, vegan, and macrobiotic restaurants.
Despite this, my first day in Barcelona was a bit of a challenge. It seemed like I was going to have a very difficult time finding places to eat. Every menu I looked at included almost no vegetarian, let alone, vegan options. I felt like my worst expectations of this city were coming true. However, as I started to explore side streets and neighborhoods outside the most touristy areas I discovered a plethora of vegan options, more than I could try in the two weeks I was visiting the Barcelona. I was also lucky enough to be staying with a friend who is a vegan health coach (http://nuriaroura.com/), and had the inside track on all things vegan and healthy in Barcelona. She was a goldmine of information and recommended several spots for me to head to. With her recommendations and those I found on HappyCow, I overcame the hurdle of Spain’s jamón heavy diet.
My first vegan friendly restaurant experience was Teresa Carles. This lovely little restaurant is conveniently located near La Rambla in central Barcelona. It has an open kitchen in the front, friendly staff, an all vegetarian menu with loads of vegan options, and charming atmosphere. I was lucky enough to go with three other people all willing to share their selections with me so I had a chance to taste a number of different delicious dishes that night.
One of the things I used to love the most about Spain, prevegetarian, were croquettas. They are a fried fritter filled with creamy bechamel and any number of ingredients. Unfortunately they almost always include ham, fish, or some other type of animal flesh. I was over the moon to discover that Teresa Carles had a vegan spinach croquetta on the menu. Without hesitation I ordered them as an appetizer. Once they arrived I had to restrain myself from eating every singe bite, as I was sharing them with Michael, my Just a Pack (www.justapack.com) partner, and didn’t want to be a pig. I have no idea what they were made from but they had the same delicious creamy texture as the original dish and were filled with spinach and fried to crunchy golden perfection. A true delight.
One of my friends ordered a flavorful tartar with an avocado base topped with a bright pink beetroot sauce and served with toasted baguette. A refreshing, flavorful, and colorful starter. I once again had to restrain myself.
Michael ordered the Setain burger as his main dish. It was hearty, diversely flavored and came with golden crisp fries, sure to please any meat eater. Of course I sampled it and approved mightily.
I, along with my other two friends, ordered the “Salmon” Tofu as our main course. It was a slice of grilled tofu that had been marinaded in beetroot juice. The texture and flavor of the tofu was incredibly similar to salmon and was accompanied by sauteed spinach, asparagus, “scallop” mushrooms and a mushroom thyme sauce. This dish was probably one of the best “mock meat” dishes I have ever had. I will dream about for months to come.
Another treat in Vegan dining in Barcelona is Macrobiotic Zen Restaurant which offers a daily lunch menu. Diners have the option of ordering either the main course, main and dessert or a three course meal. As tempting as the three course meal was I was warned in advance by my friend that the amount of food included in the main course alone would be more than enough. It came with a base grain or pasta and four sides. I ordered coconut curry bulgur as my base and the sides of the day were red beans, tofu and vegetables, flat green beans, and salad topped with sauerkraut. Though I was ravenous that day I was barely able to finish this deliciously prepared meal. A bit of a disappointment as beautiful desserts and fresh juices the restaurant had were calling out to me.
Walking around Barcelona, I discovered a number of health food stores, organic stores, and vegetarian restaurants. One health food store in particular that stood out and is worth a visit is El Pages d’Or near the Saint Antonio metro stop. It is a beautifully decorated shop with a myriad of options including nuts, grains, teas, organic products, and fresh produce. Well worth a visit if you have a kitchen during your stay in Barcelona.
By far one of the best options for vegan grocer shopping is Boqueria Market, located just off of the raucous touristy strip of Las Ramblas. This market has been around since 1217…yes, you read that right, 1217! It has certainly evolved from its early days where it was just a few tables and a meat stall to what is now a market with probably the best produce on offer in Barcelona. There are a number of stalls selling fruits and veggies so be sure to walk around and discover what each of them has to before committing to a purchase. The day I went I saw a bounty of fragrantly ripe strawberries, raspberries, and cherries nearly the size of golf balls. In addition to fresh produce you can purchase ready made vegan meals like freshly prepared quinoa, couscous, and leaf salads. There were also stalls with an unimaginable variety of olives, nuts, candies, freshly baked breads, fresh pressed juices, and even delicious frozen fruit pops. The market was lively, colorful, and flavorful. A vegan paradise…provided you avoided the meat and seafood stalls. It was an excellent place to get lost in for a few hours, have lunch at, and take home plenty of things to enjoy.
As my two weeks in Barcelona came to an end, I found myself wishing I had more time. My stomach was always full and I would have been more than happy to stay longer and indulge in more incredible vegan food. I guess I’ll have to plan another trip to this wonderful city very soon. Thank you Barcelona for the numerous of vegan and vegetarian options. I <3 YOU!