Let’s talk eating out! I’ve been thinking about writing a post about my favorite vegan-friendly omni places in Barcelona for a long time, and an unpleasant experience pushed over to finally do it… The first disclaimer here has to be about my preferences when it comes to eating and eating out in particular:
(1) Food matters to me. I like it, I enjoy, I cook (one of my very few useful skills once the digital apocalypse comes), and my food should taste good. So my interest in food – as for most people – go beyond fueling life in my cells. Fuck Soylent, I’m looking for pleasure.
(2) I eat mostly vegan (with aspirations towards a whole food plant based diet) and will do vegetarian when eating out, but eggs and dairy is as far I’ll go. I’ve been ovo-lacto vegetarian since 2006 (and toying with it since I was 14, so 2002), and seduced by veganism as the only reasonably ethical option since 2010/2011.
(3) C is an omni and, while he is very flexible and down for a good tofu (the V-only places he would approve of include El Vergel in Tarragona, The Spread Eagle in London, V Spot and Beyond Sushi in New York among others), prefers to have his options open when eating out.
(4) And I have to admit that there are veg*an places that take their Ⓥ clientele for granted instead of really taking care of the umami in their food. Also, I think it is more reasonable and engaging to include vegan food in your omni menus instead of making me feel like an outcast who is so weird she needs her own special restaurants or at least ask for special treatment in normal people places. And I want people to accidentally order vegan food because it’s so good. Or maybe I’m just too picky and know nothing of vegan advocacy…
The quick suggestions if you came here for v-only recommendations in Barcelona are the following, all these are vegetarian with ample vegan options:
Maoz: €, great but always crowded which is a problem as the appeal of the place is in the unlimited salad toppings while you are working at your falafel;
Quinoa: €, good but very little seating + some former employees have filled Gràcia with ‘Quinoa exploits its workers’ graffitti;
Teresa Carles: €€, especially reasonable if you go for the working-day lunch menu but nothing otherworldly;
The Green Spot: €€, an attempt at veg*an fine dining, very nice but a long way to Vedge, my best (and only) experience at vegan fine dining so far.
So, my current favorite vegan-friendly omnivore places in Barcelona… I’ve been there with v-friends and with omni friends and the satisfaction level has been very high. As for me and C, we have left a small fortune in every one of these:
These people have achieved a miracle: a craft beer place that doesn’t feel snobbish and has maintained the feel of a normal Spanish bar where people pop in for a coffee, to read the newspaper, to watch a Barça game (check before going, you will have less seating but so much more ambience if you go on a game day), to see friends, eat, drink, and be merry…
The menu consists of typical snacks and starters (olives, potatoes, fish conserves, etc.) and sandwiches. And among those sandwiches is my favorite vegan sandwich of all times (and three other vegetarian ones, all good). No, you don’t have to arrange anything or ask them to hold an ingredient. Legalitat is your perfect (big!) beer sandwich with seitan, grilled onions, white bean paste, dried tomatoes, and raw zuccini… if you do slightly spicy, ask staff for Salsa Valentina hot sauce. Delicious! There are also usually some vegan options in the seasonal offer, like vegan ‘meatballs’ or a saucy seitan bánh mì experiment. As for starters, guacamole, potato chips and banderillas (an olive, a pickle, a pickled oinion, and a spicy pepper on a little stick) are yours. The sauces for the patatas bravas are vegetarian but not vegan. Home olives contain anchovies, beware.
As for vegan dessert, go for a sorbetto in one of Gràcia’s plazas. The craft beer selection is excellent, and this is one of the rare places where they won’t treat you with contempt if you ask for a wine or water.
Most Asian flavors are my cup of tea, so I’m always looking for the best new place that will make me happy without all the shit about traditional pork broths, fish flakes and mysterious sauces. And the Mosquito chain (several slightly different restaurants, same owner, same mochis) will do exactly that with your options clearly marked and staff knowing their menu while also keeping your omni friends happily slupring. Your options include Mosquito for dumplings (vegan: chard/collard filled dumplings, smoked tofu + rice, edamames, kimchi), Red Ant for ramen and bibimbap (just ask them to hold that egg), and noodles, kimchi, seaweed salad, Cal Cuc for hot or cold ramen (again, ask for no egg; the cold shoyu ramen is really nice). These places get crowded and Mosquite is infamous for its live queue, go to Cal Cuc in Poble Nou to avoid that but I’d say that the dumplings are worth it. Unfortunately, their incredible mochis are not vegan… Servers are knowledgeable, busy, and often very rude, focus on your noodles instead.
I’m under a taco spell, what can I do? While there are many things here for the cheese people, the vegan option is one: guacamole for a starter and then vegetarian alambres (make-your-own tacos) containing bell pepper, onion and white mushrooms + I always ask for extra nopales (you can also get extra pineapple if you are so inclined) served with the four home sauces ranging from non-spicy to OMG. Use the sauces, they make all the difference – take that little non-spicy green pepper magic and spread it evenly on your 4 tacos, don’t share it with anybody else! Sorbettos (drunk ones, if you like mezcal on your postre) for dessert. I stick to my micheladas in this apparent tourist trap just by Sagrada Familia and try to forget that tables are covered with tarpaulin. And learning that sucking on ice cubes at least gives an illusion of calming the fire in my mouth:
Oh, brothers Roca, they have changed my life, OK, Jordi Roca has… because once I’ve tasted their sorbets, I can never go back to the usual icy sugary stuff that ice cream joints offer to vegans. The creaminess and the flavors are pure magic! I tried it for the first time in Girona last summer – blueberry and watermelon sorbets, pictured above – and I was blown away. After having found out that they also have a shop in Barcelona, on the f*ing Ramblas, no less, I kept re-asking if the sorbets were really vegan… they are! That creaminess, though.
The shop can feel a little overwhelming because there is a lot going on. Jordi expects you to choose an ice cream, then a mountain of toppings, then maybe put it into a bread packet and heat it… Bah! No! Go in, look above your head for the flavors available – typically 5, with 2 sorbets among them – pick yours and say no to toppings, the ice cream is good enough on its own. They also have pints to take with you. Bring one when you are visiting a Barcelona vegan, and they will love you forever!
For vegans with pizza cravings, I recommend Messie where you can opt for vegan cheese on your pizza and Sortidor where their vegetarian pizza is so lush (spinach! artichokes! the whole garden!) that ordering it without the cheese does not destroy the experience. Madre Lievito was my first experience of the simplest pizza Marinara being truly enough and incredibly tasty.
If you have food restrictions, do you prefer to be integrated (separating what has to be separated in the case of allergies) or have restaurants catering to you specifically? If you inhabit the veg*an world, what are your Barcelona – or worldwide – favorites? I am ready to travel for food…