We dare to pick the 20 best places in Barcelona to get this popular tapa of thickly cut and fried-to-perfection potatoes piled high and served with a spicy (by Spanish standards) sauce. Purists will opt for recipes passed down from generation to generation, while many will discover new and innovative formulas that are just as delicious in their own right.
RECOMMENDED: Best tapas in Barcelona
The best ideas sometimes spring from need. Carlos Ortiz, chef of this little bar/restaurant with very serious intentions, had to prepare a meal for 400 people one day. Salvation came with this idea: patatas bravas whipped up and served in a glass, a tasty potato confit slow-cooked for five hours at 60° C, and then topped with a sauce made of garlic, chilli and paprika. A small yet great variation.
This tapas spot – with a 'do it yourself' charm that's hard to explain in words – is a step in the right direction of solving the modern-tapas crisis in Poblenou. Amos Martínez mentions that 'Bohemian bravas', a tribute to his friend and former classmate Mandu Gimeno of Bohèmic. The bravas at El 58 are similar, but different. Try one of the generous portions, covered with two sauces: mayonnaise made from garlic confit, shallots, chives and black pepper, and the other from dried tomatoes, black pepper and cloves. A baroque and tasty rainbow, where, in addition to the spicy punch, you can also enjoy the subtle flavours.
Paradox: this example of creativity applied to patatas bravas is already a classic, a paradigm of modern bravas – cylinders of golden brown spuds, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, served with a tasty red sauce, and topped with black sesame seeds, chives and Maldon salt. A flavour explosion that, according to chef Toni Simoes, they haven't changed since they opened. Every week they serve about 250 portions, and even more delicious, in all those years, the price has gone up by only one euro.
In the old part Sarrià with a terrace full of trees sits Vivanda, where chef Jordi Vilà has cooked up a recipe for patatas bravas that are quite different from those he came up with for the Fàbrica Moritz – and carry on his tradition of innovation. This is a potato that is more roasted than fried, with a creamy texture, where the 'alioli' (garlic mayonnaise) meets with the oil from a cooked spicy 'sobrasada' sausage. On the side you get a bottle of spicy oil, so that hardened bravas junkies can really feel the burn. You'll get a good, generous portion of bravas that once again proves the strength of a Vilà kitchen.
Senyor Vermut is a neighbourhood place, in the Eixample Esquerre to be precise, a fact that’s far from irrelevant. As Raimon, the great Valencian protest singer of the ’60s, said, ‘lose your origins and you lose your identity’. And now that Bohèmic has closed, this is the place where you can get patatas bravas that are heirs to that legendary 'bohemian' variety, with a touch of sweetness that's got to be thanks to the 'ñora' peppers in the sauce.
There are plenty of reasons this brewery is a haven for beer lovers: 30 taps pouring craft beers, unusual brews such as the 60-proof beer, a tapas menu, sandwiches, burgers and Peruvian specialtiies, and a waiter (and partner) called Manolo who makes you want to shout out when you walk in, 'Manolo, an order of bravas!' Square-cut, symmetrical, well presented and served with a mild sauce, the bravas go great with, for example, a couple of ZZ Naparbier beers.
Jordi Cruz isn't just another pretty face on the telly. His career in prestigious kitchens and his collection of Michelin stars make him one of the most renowned chefs in the country. The bravas at Ten's (Cruz's low-cost option in the Born with prices much more suitable to us average joes than his other baby, the more upscale Àbac) are served with a foam alioli and a bravas sauce created from high-quality tomatoes. The rest of the menu, from the squid to the barbecues, is also wonderful.
Somorrostro doesn't follow rules that oblige so many restaurants to mix ingredients without rhyme or reason or to get in line with global trends that kill any diversity of tastes and likes; instead, with all their cards on the table in the heart of Barceloneta, they want to make clear their philosophy of working with local products and the natural rhythm of the seasons. That goes for their Tuber Bravas as well, where turnips and parsnips take the place of the potato. If you fancy that combination, the creative update makes for a delicious and satisfying autumn treat.
Bar Andorra is one of these places with faux leather easy chairs and friendly wait staff, with the bonus that they cook up outstanding patatas bravas with rosemary and a perfect pinch of spiciness.
The story of these bravas dates back to the summer of 2010, when co-owner Juan Carlos Iglesias took home some baked potatos left over in the kitchen. He liked them so much he decided to put them on the menu accompanied by 'alioli' and none other than the bravas sauce made by his partner Albert Adrià. Now these are the star tapa of the place, ranked number 1 by the customers themselves. Mild, lovely, nothing excessive, these are undoubtedly the most different type of bravas on this list. When you go, make sure to try the beef oxtail burger and the croquettes. You'll be back.
Their bravas are deservedly among the best if not the best, in the city. They're served with a smooth and creamy 'alioli' that grabs you by the taste buds and has you wondering why they're so phenomenally different until Ramón, owner and chef, tells you it's that the garlic is roasted. They also come with just the right amount of bravas sauce and a touch of black pepper. The ambience is sophisticated and trendy, in a place where its classic tapas (don't pass over the mushroom croquettes) live happily alongside sandwiches and more creative tapas.
A word of advice from chef Jordi Vilà: when it comes to patatas bravas, half the texture battle is won when potato and fridge are never introduced, otherwise the starch will change the texture. In the Fàbrica Moritz they've developed two kinds of bravas: 'ours' and 'theirs'. Ours, Catalan-style, are topped with alioli and spicy oil; theirs, Madrid-style, come with the classic combo of mayonnaise and spicy tomato sauce. Not to play favourites, but going by taste alone, we have to say we prefer the texture and the smooth contrast of ours.
The Pujado Massana family opened this bar in 1966, with credentials that still attract their loyal customers, such as old-school bravas that plenty of gourmets will defend to the end as being better than those at Bar Tomás (above), and a singular recipe for fried chicken. The battered and fried artichokes are also a star dish on the menu, but the bravas get the standing ovation. Oily, chunky, well-cooked and topped with a majestic alioli, these bravas are made exclusively in the Mandri, and once you try them, you'll know why so many punters make the pilgrimage just to gobble them up.
Paradise is in Horta and it's called Guns N' Roses (a sandwich with onion and cheese), patatas bravas and a beer. Always busy, Louise Se Va has a menu of items named after rock bands, a nice neighbourhood feel, sandwiches, salads, good vibes, and bravas that, like all good things in life, are adorably imperfect.
This burger joint, big sister to the popular El Filete Ruso, opened with the aim of offering quality 100% beef burgers in New York–style environs and out-of-this-world sides. Enter the punch-packing bravas, which are subjected to three different cooking stages (sear-boil-sear) and are accompanied by a spicy tomato sauce with a thousand nuances, from Tabasco to cayenne, and a very reliable alioli. For those who aren't afraid to show their feelings in public.
This Sant Andreu classic has been in business for more than 70 years, and has been owned and operated by the same family for over three decades. Since their patatas bravas are so popular in the neighbourhood, we head in hoping (in vain, it turns out) to leave with the recipe in our pocket. The potato is sweet, not oily at all, and it's fried and served with a secret bravas sauce that's quite mild, and a lovely creamy alioli. They also have an endless menu of meat, fish, 'tostadas' (open-faced toasted sandwiches), and salads.
Diced potatoes that are a bit smaller and more roasted than the norm – they use Monalisa potatoes, which result in a sweeter flavour – fill your plate with a very generous serving. On the side are two bowls with different sauces in each one – a mild alioli and a spicy tomato sauce, with a hint of green pepper – that invite you to dip your potatoes at will. Owner Albert Santos is so generous that he has no problem revealing the secrets of his home-made salsa, which also includes perfect amounts of almond and chilli.
Together with sister bar Obon, La Gamba is the paradigm of a tapas bar anchored in time, and all the good and the bad that goes along with that: a long bar-fridge shows off their arsenal of tempting tapas, and a general grunginess and dilapidated air hangs about the place. The bravas are very good: tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, the mixture of mayonnaise and spicy tomato sauce very well balanced. Your best bet is dining on the terrace: in the heart of the Congrés neighbourhood, far from the city centre, you're guaranteed an entertaining show of the local customs.
Think of it not as a trek to the less-than-central neighbourhood of Nou Barris, but as a quest; queues outside are testament to the great value of the tapas. On especially busy nights you'll be asked to take a number, supermarket-style. If you're confused, the pleasant wait staff will advise first-timers to start with 'chocos' (tender battered squid rings), 'llonganissa' sausage, 'tigres' (stuffed mussels), and their patatas bravas with alioli – which are some of the best in town.
Other tapas made with potatoes
The best thing that can happen to a potato is that it gets turned into an Olot potato: cut fine and covered with minced beef, this is an over-the-top and gorgeous tapa that you can easily become addicted to. The Olot potatoes kitchen wizard Juanjo Martínez makes are sublime, served with a metal mesh that he says evokes the mountains of the Garrotxa, and with a tomato confit made with oil over charcoal to evoke the volcanic region of Olot.
A direct relative of the patata brava is this Canarian speciality: boiled potatoes cooked and served with the skin on, and smothered in 'mojo' sauce, a reduction of green or red pepper, cilantro and parsley that also has a red version made with paprika. In Bar Ramon, a popular gastrobar in Poble-sec (owned by Canarians), you can try them with both sauces.
La Cova Fumada is said to be the birthplace of the spicy potato and mince meat 'bomba', and as Josep Maria tells us, it was here where, over 60 years ago, his grandmother Maria Pla invented this local delight. It was later popularized by Magí, Josep Maria's father, who added a touch of charisma, a dash of fun, and a powerful spicy sauce to the secret recipe to create a legend.
Forget that boring summer salad with tomato and cold potatoes: a real potato salad is what they make at Alt Heidelberg: prepared with a whole boiled and chopped potato, and mixed with mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, onion and spices. And if possible, the dish should be served lukewarm or at room temperature. It seems easy enough, but it can be tricky to get it right.
In its most basic form, we're talking about a potato casserole made with onions, sauteed in plenty of oil, and sprinkled with parsley. Other versions are bulked up with a fried egg and bacon. That's just how Restaurant-Bar Transatlàntic does these 'poor-man's potatoes'. They often show up on the set lunch menu at Transatlàntic, which is a great spot for local workers and retirees to get an affordable meal in their neighbourhood that can otherwise fill up with tourists in high season.