Spain's Best Undiscovered Restaurants

© Marco Pastori

An insider’s guide to some of Spain’s best undiscovered restaurants, from traditional market bars to temples of modern cuisine.

Most dining-in-Spain lists begin with the much-decorated
Ferran Adrià’s legendary restaurant El Bulli (which is closing for good in
July) and continue with an all-star lineup: In the Basque Country, for example,
around the seaside city of San Sebastián alone, there are more than a dozen
Michelin-starred restaurants, including Arzak, Akelarre, Restaurante Martín
and Mugaritz. In
addition to El Bulli, the region of Catalonia has three three-star restaurants:
El Celler de Can
in Girona, Sant Pau in Sant
Pol de Mar and Sant Celoni’s Racó de Can

These restaurants and their chefs are on the cutting edge
of cocina de vanguardia, or avant-garde cuisine, an ingenious, Dalí-esque genre popularized by Adrià in
the mid-1990s (it’s sometimes called “molecular gastronomy,” a term that chefs
like Adrià reject). It’s since been perfected by a band of like-minded Spanish
disciples, many of whom have morphed into global superstars. But scattered
around Spain are many more excellent restaurants, helmed by highly talented
chefs, that don’t get the attention of the international press. Most, like
Quique Dacosta’s eponymous restaurant in the small Mediterranean city of Dénia,
are little-known outside of Spain, insider spots in far-flung places, but well
worth the detour for their remarkable food. Or if they’re in the big city, they’re run by up-and-comers like the brilliant young chef Jordi Cruz, whose cooking at Barcelona’s ABaC is not only inventive but also, perhaps more importantly, exceptionally delicious. A tour of Spain’s hidden gems shows that
the country’s best undiscovered restaurants offer some of the most unique and
rewarding gastronomic experiences out there, ranging from astonishingly
original and creative meals to impeccably crafted traditional dishes that are
no less memorable for their flawless simplicity.