Barcelona Restaurant Tips: How to keep your eats cheap


Read the "Menu del Dia" carefully! Photo by Papalars.
Read the "Menu del Dia" carefully! Photo by Papalars.

Barcelona can be an à la carte aficionado’s dream. All those lovely bites stacked up on the bar… Hams, cheeses, mushrooms, omelets, seafood, salads, sausages. Sure, they’re all very tempting, and seemingly cheap, but for the price of two tapas and one beer (about €6), you could enjoy a three-course lunch with bread and wine!

Here’s a quick overview of tricks and tips to help you dine a la Cheapo in Barcelona. (Also read our recommended outdoor eateries and our cheap restaurant picks for Barcelona.)

1. Look for “Menú del Dia”

Often chalked up on a board on the sidewalk, the “menú del dia” is a national institution. For a fixed price you’ll be offered a choice of, say, six starters and six main courses.

Although some restaurants offer more adventuresome menus, the first course choices will typically feature a paella or pasta dish, or a salad or a soup. The second course will often feature chicken or a small steak, or fish, served with fries or potatoes and vegetables of the day. And for dessert you’ll likely be offered yogurt or flan (creme caramel), pudding (sponge cream cake), ice-cream, or a piece of fruit. Expect to pay a little more at weekends and on public holidays.

You’ll even find some restaurants offering a “menú del noche” (evening menu) – again, with three or four courses (although often not including wine) for about €13.50 – €17.50.

2. Check before you get the check.

There are often lots of hidden costs that arrive with the bill in Barcelona.  Here’s a checklist for avoiding them:

* Tax: Check whether the price includes tax (“IVA”) or not. This will add 7% to the check. (Note, in the photo above, that the tax–“+ 7% IVA”– is not included in the price.)

* Terrace: Check how much the “suplemento for eating on the terrace is. (This is sometimes a fixed charge, between €1 and €3 per person, and can add as much as 20% to the check).

* Bread: Check whether the price includes “pan” (bread). (For example, a well-known restaurant on the Passeig de Gràcia once tried to charge me €12.40 for two small baskets of bread!)

* Wine and water: Check whether the price includes “vino” (wine) or “agua” (water) or a beer or “refresco” (soft drink ). Many places will serve you both wine and water (or gaseosa-fizzy flavoured water) at no extra cost.

* Coffee: Check whether coffee is included. Some restaurants allow you to exchange a choice of dessert for a coffee.

3. Pick your smoking preference.

Remember to ask for the “no smoking” section, if this is your preference. Otherwise, you run the risk of being seated next to a diner who might light up a post-prandial cigar just as you’re savoring your starter.

4. Know your hours.

In Barcelona, we eat lunch a bit later than everyone else in Europe–most restaurants do not start serving until 1 PM or 1:30 PM, and finish serving lunch at around 3:45 PM.

5. A few more words to dine by.

* Safety: Do not hang your handbag (or jacket with wallet) on your chair, if eating on a terrace.

* Tip: Don’t worry about the “propino” (tip). Leave what small change you have, or nothing at all. This could be somewhere between 5-10%, but shouldn’t be more than €1 per person.

* Complaints: All establishments are required by law to have a complaints book. If you’re not happy with any aspect of the food or service, ask for the “Libro de Reclamaciones.” If they say they don’t have one, you can legally leave without paying anything!

And, as we say here: “Buen provecho” and “Bon profit”!

About the author

About the author: Born next door to an infamous London prison, Bill Sinclair has been on the run ever since. He now resides in Barcelona where he works as a writer, translator and independent visitor guide.

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8 thoughts on “Barcelona Restaurant Tips: How to keep your eats cheap”

  1. Hello,

    I wandered around your website and we did go to the woki restaurant you recommended. unfortunately, truth be told, the price was not cheap. if you want a good food, with some ingredients, you’ll end up paying more than 10 euros. Plus, eating at pans and company is ok, as long as you don’t eat them everyday!

    so here are my recommendations, what we found after our visit to barcelona this summer:
    – be careful with the paella they offer you, there is a type of paella that is frozen and many restaurants have them advertised, you can easily spot on the sign and remember that even though the prices vary from place to place, the crappy paella is the same frozen food (it can go from 8 euros to 12 near the beach). This goes for spagetti carbonara and bolognese.

    – we found this amazing restaurant (sadly only on the last day of our trip) and it was the best food we ate while we were there: it is called TRA.BAL and it is located in Balmes 203, 08006 Barcelona. The menu for lunch was 8,99 and the food was exquisite! we ate a small piece of paella that was worth the whole paella we ate earlier that week on a crappy frozen place somewhere. The street is near the MACBA museum and very close by the ramblas and plaza catalunya. PLEASE look for this restaurant, i can’t say enough good things about it!

    – near the restaurant, a little bit up the street to plaza catalunya there is an amazing sandwich shop, with baguettes that are good for 2. they are big and they offer you a drink for.. 3.50.. and the quality is amazing, i am still dreaming of that small shop. sadly i don’t know the name, the girl at the front of the shop was very very rude, but the food was so good we kept going there for the whole week and just ignored her!

    hope your visit is good, we didn’t find those many great restaurants, we ate at some traditional ones, but they were either too greasy, too expensive, or just plain frozen.


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  6. Great blog entry. I’ve been to Barcelona, but would have loved to talk to Bill first! I’m sure this will help a lot of travelers.


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