Finding it difficult to be vegetarian in Barcelona? I know I know. When you think of dining in a vegetarian restaurant, visions of ‘zenned out,’ patchouli-smelling hippies with dreadlocks, eating self-serve food on a tray, spring to mind. Why does veggie food have to be mono colored and look like slop? And why is vegetarian food synonymous with tofu?
Spain, in general, is not a vegetarian friendly country with Jamón Iberico being the number one staple, which you’ll often find in a bocadillo vegetal (vegetable sandwich) – because…well it’s ‘not meat.’ I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been told I should just try “un poco de jamón” (a bit of ham), even by friends, as if they think a vegetarian of more than 20 years can be converted by foul smelling ham hocks that sway from shop and restaurant ceilings. While there are many little nooks in this city to find some veggie grub, there aren’t many restaurants where one can enjoy the same dining experience as a carnivore; eye and palette pleasing dishes served on porcelain with a selection of wines to pair with your meal. However, if you know where to go, there are a few exceptions to be found.
Here are three of my favorite places to eat vegetarian in Barcelona….
Teresa Carles: Despite the date on the sign, “desde 1979,” this little gem located in the upper Raval neighborhood, has only been around since early 2011. It actually looks more like something you’d find in San Francisco than Spain, as the restaurant appears to be slightly upscale, yet maintains a warm and inviting atmosphere, with baskets of fruits and vegetables on display when you walk in the door. The name, Teresa Carles, is after the Catalán chef who published her first cookbook in 1979, with 115 vegetarian recipes. Not only are the salads here delicious and memorable, but they also serve a variety of tasty main dishes and starters. Pastas, seitan burgers, soups, croquets, cheese plates and fresh made artisan breads, all artfully displayed and brought to your table. They’re also one of few Barcelona restaurants that do brunch right. The omelets are superb, and the poached eggs served on a bed of spinach with sauteed mushrooms are mouth-watering. Prices are reasonable and portions are generous.
Sésamo Comida Sin Bestias: This is a cozy, almost tavern-like restaurant, with an innovative and diverse menu, serving such dishes as beet and hazelnut gnocchi, phad thai, coconut curry, lentil and peach salad, baked figs with brie cheese, and wild mushroom croquets– a medley of flavors sure to spark a party in your mouth. Though it may not look like much from the outside, and its location in the Raval, right next to the Mercado Sant Antoni, is not appealing to everyone, if you give it a chance, I think the service and unique dishes will impress you. Also to note is the use of local and seasonal ingredients, which keeps the menu new and interesting. You can order a la carte, or try their seven course-tasting menu for 25 Euros (recommended).
Carmesí: While the motif and staff might be more reminiscent of your typical tree hugging, incense loving, I-believe-in-world-peace-man, hippie hangout, this place on Calle Blai, Poble Sec’s (one of Barcelona’s up and coming neighborhoods) well-known pedestrian street, serves up some rockin’ food for those from all walks of life. Its popularity makes it sometimes difficult to find a seat, but it’s always worth the wait. I highly recommend their spinach feta, and gorgonzola walnut croquets. It’s hard to find a vegetarian version of these particular tapas in this city, but Carmesí has nailed it! While not strictly vegetarian, they have plenty of delicious options such as stuffed zucchini served with basmati rice, buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil stuffed puffed pastry, a Mediterranean platter, and mango and avocado, just to name a few .
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