It is safe to say that going for pintxos is one of the most popular past-times in the Basque Country. Because of the tapas, of course, but also because of what is associated with these: spontaneous encounters and pleasant conversations with friends in traditional bars. In Bilbao the art of tapas transcends the mere gastronomical experience and is becoming a leisure activity.
Below are the names of the bars we should start in.
Although the Old Quarter is undoubtedly the hub of pintxos, we begin the route in the Indautxu area because it is close to the Hotel Silken Indautxu. Just five minutes from the hotel —or two streets away— we find calle Licenciado Poza, a street that boasts the title of housing one of the largest concentrations of bars on the peninsula.
From the City Council building to the San Mamés stadium, this zone combines daytime restaurants and pintxo bars with several nighttime bars ideal for having a drink. As it is a pedestrian area with wide paths that are almost like extensions of the bars, it is especially popular for Bilbao residents and supporters of the Athletic de Bilbao football team on match days.
With its large terrace, this bar combines traditional pintxos such as the potato omelette, croquettes and stuffed mussels with a much more modern and elaborate menu including dishes such as the seafood brik, the oxtail stew with fried apple and the cod served with chillis and garlic. Among its range of omelettes, Ziripot offers its own recipe with spinach and spicy txistorra sausage.
With three restaurants in Bilbao, the Poza has a bar measuring 12 metres in length, which has become one of the most renowned bars in the city.
With its own shellfish bed and continuous kitchen service, Serantes combines ingredients from very different origins: Cantabrian seafood with the most succulent acorn-fed Iberian ham. A bar that is always filled with the best quality pintxos.
It is the undisputed king of the potato omelette, not only in Bilbao, but throughout Vizcaya. It won the national competition for the best omelette in 2009 and the best omelette in Vizcaya for three years running.
Although the premises are small, the bar is not very long, and there are few tables, you can’t miss this place if you like mouthwatering potato omelettes. What’s more, Izaro also has other traditional pintxos such as diced cod cooked with onions, gildas (with anchovies, chillis and olives) and a range of canapés.
Although it is located in Abando, very close to the Silken Indautxu, this is one of Bilbao’s most traditional bars. Known for its grilled lamb kebabs with spices, always served with a slice of bread, the chef prepares them in a corner of the bar, in full view of the guests.
At the other side of the bar there is a cosy space with Mozarabic decoration where you can enjoy a coffee and a sweet treat.
Eme and Alameda, sandwich temples
Both bars boast a history of more than fifty years making sandwiches, and have consistently fought for the crown of the best sandwiches in the city made with sliced bread. Although at a first glance they may appear to be very simple and not particularly appetising, they have become an institution for locals and visitors alike.
While Eme is known for its Triangles of fresh bread, garden lettuce, cooked ham, secret sauce and home-made mayonnaise, Alameda is renowned for what are known as Felipadas. Spontaneously thought up by a customer who decided to stand on the other side of the bar and prepare snacks for friends, the recipe perfected by the family consists of sliced bread, mayonnaise, anchovies, lettuce and a few drops of spicy oil.
“We know that the day gets better after a good ham pintxo, a generous portion of Iberian cold cuts or a delicious coffee with creamy milk”. With this premise, Marakay claims to have provided the best Bilbao pintxos of Iberian ham with recently-baked bread —at times also with green pepper— since 1972. Apart from their complementary portions of chorizo and pork, the tuna and red pepper or anchovy pintxos are another speciality of the house.
With a name reminiscent of London and the typical decoration of an Irish pub, don’t let the appearance of this bar confuse you. Covent Garden prepares a delicious potato omelette with local ingredients —the speciality is served with cooked ham and cheese sauce— which has won the prize for the best omelette in Bilbao several times. In addition, it has a far from insignificant beer menu and entertaining background music.
Whether you are staying in the Silken Indautxu Hotel or need to go to this area, make sure not to miss out on any of our gastronomical proposals!