If you're heading to the Costa Brava and your budget for eating out is pretty low, don't worry – you won't have to resign yourself to eating terrible fast food. Here's a selection of restaurants in the area where you'll eat well and get change out of a €20 note. You won't be able to go to excess, and you'll need to keep an eye on those extras, but with these 'low-cost' restaurants, that won't be hard.
It can sometimes seem like an impossible task to find a good-value, good-quality set menu at the weekend. At La Taverna in Sant Pere Pescador, however, you don't need to worry about your wallet if you feel like eating out on Saturday night, for example. And don't think that you won't get to eat much. With fresh ingredients and lots of imagination, they create dishes with a touch of sophistication. For instance, mushrooms with prawns and cheese sauce, or crunchy pork fillet with fig sauce. If you prefer to eat out with family or friends, they also have all kinds of tapas as well as à la carte dishes. La Taverna is one of those places where you can eat for €6 or for €40. So it's just right for everybody.
This classic Figueres eatery focuses on fast food. A few years ago, it was typical to eat a frankfurter either just before or after seeing a film at one of the cinemas in the centre of town. Nowadays, none of the latter remain open, but it must be a good sign that Frankfurt's continues to thrive. They've been serving good German sausages for ages, from the typical frankfurters to bratwursts and hamburgers made with different toppings, toasted bread with pork or bacon, and other in-house sandwiches. The ingredients are always first-class, a fact that has made it stand out from the crowd all this time. They also make fries, 'patates braves' (fried potatoes with a spicy sauce), and croquettes, which will all help fill you up if the main dishes aren't quite enough. And to add to the experience, why not try one of the beers that they have on offer.
As the Alt Empordà has mountains as well as sea, and warm restaurants with checked tablecloths, wooden beams and pans hanging on the walls, it's well worth leaving the coast behind and heading inland for a different gourmet experience. Stop off at Maçanet de Cabrenys and try the most authentic Empordà cod you've ever had: the one served at Can Tenli. It's the house speciality and made according to the recipe of grandmother Maria, with slices of potato and tomato and all baked in the oven. With jugged wild boar, magret of duck and steaks with various trimmings also on the menu, you'll certainly think it worth the trip to get there. The restaurant is also renowned for its snails, bean salad and home-made cannelloni ('canelons'). Do you need any more incentive to discover the Alt Empordà mountains?
In a coastal town such as Palamós, which is full of sailing-boats, yachts, 'menorquines' (traditional wooden boats) and cruise ships, it's surely essential that there be a galleon as well. And you'll find one in the heart of the old town, captained by the Coll family since 2010. On the counters of El Galeó you'll find long lines of 'pinxos' (tapas on small slices of bread), and tapas and small dishes with seasonal treats (it'll be a serious omission if they don't have a fish of the day or Palamós prawns). To accompany the food, enjoy small beers ('canyes') for €1.50, wines, cavas and mixer drinks for all tastes. Whether you sit inside (with sea-themed decor included) or out on the terrace, you'll enjoy a local ambience as well as a touristy one in the summer. Hoist the sail and head for El Galeó!
La Cava is the best place in Sant Feliu de Guíxols to enjoy pinxos and other Basque Country classics. Natàlia, head of the dining-room, and Jordi, chef and son of the owner of El Cau del Pescador (a classic seafood restaurant in Sant Feliu), met while working in Basque Country taverns. In 2013, back in the Costa Brava, they wanted to create their own interpretation of everything they'd learned, combining it with traditional Catalan cuisine. And they were lucky enough to find the ideal venue, a place in the centre that had previously been a restaurant-tavern and still had a long oak bar. You can enjoy numerous cold and hot pinxos: 'botifarra' sausage with piperade (scrambled eggs with tomatoes and sweet peppers) and grilled courgette; spinach and anchovies marinated with marmalade and grated lime; Idiazábal cheese ball with foie and grape sauce – the list of recommendations is endless.
You're not going to find innovative creative cuisine at Mextossa; rather it's home-made Mexican cooking featuring traditional flavours that's on offer. We also really like the cocktails (made with classic Mexican spirits like tequila, mezcal, sotol, bacanora and raicilla), as well as the Mexican craft beers. The owners are a couple of Mexican siblings who will certainly make you feel at home. It's difficult to select just a couple of must-try dishes, but if you go, make sure you order the tacos of 'cochinita pibil' and the enchiladas.
It's a sheer impossibility that at this place you won't find a vermouth to your liking. The list of Catalan varieties, both white and red, is long, which means there really is no excuse! The extensive experience of owner Guille in other gastronomic establishments inspired him to open this bar in Roses that specialises in the drink known locally as 'vermut'. To accompany the drink and avoid too much alcohol on an empty stomach, he also serves a range of quality sandwiches and tapas. The 'special' sandwich, with pork, Brie and caramelised onion, will let you cope with two or three glasses of vermouth at least. You should definitely try the 'seitons', anchovy fillets in vinegar, which are served with crisps and garlic-and-parsley oil. Don't miss the black cod fritters either ('bunyols de bacallà negres'), with squid ink and garlic mayo ('allioli'). The 'esqueixada' (cod squid salad) is a dish to fall in love with: it has appetising pieces of cod, diced onion and tomato, and a good slug of oil.
Ever since tapas were promoted to gastronomic delicacies, it can be hard to find bars where they make them in the classic way, using quality ingredients and techniques, without unnecessary ornamentations and at a price that's within the reach of everybody's budgets. Bar Oslo, found close to the bars in Plaça del Sol in Figueres, is one of those few places. It's somewhere that only gourmands who are really in the know are aware of, whereas most passers-by think it's just another café. However, the home-made tapas are amazing. For a very reasonable price you can try excellent snails with 'botifarra' (Catalan sausage), all kinds of omelettes, croquettes and much more. At lunchtime, they have a set menu at a very modest cost, and if it's breakfast you're after, they have a good variety of sandwiches.
El Petit Bar in Palamós is a classic place. With a design based on a fisherman's shack, a relatively small size and a location partly hidden by a pine tree, it's easy to miss it. But if you make it inside, you'll realise that the bar overlooks the sea and actually has one of the best-located terraces in Palamós, from where you can see the whole beach, the marina, the fishermen weaving their nets, the Fishing Museum and the fish market. It's a modest venue, ideal for a beer, a few pre-prandial fish tapas or even a more substantial dish for lunch. Everything is fresh and the prices are reasonable. Want our recommendation? Sit out on the terrace in the afternoon or evening (depending on the time of year) and enjoy the spectacular sunset.
For some years now, this has been a great option for fast food around the Girona and Costa Brava region at any time of the day. König has become a local institution for anyone looking to fill their tummies quickly with good, well-priced food. In its early days, it had clear German leanings ('könig' means king in German), with sausages and hambugers their main dishes, but as time's passed, they've incorporated more local dishes. Tapas (their patates braves are renowned in Girona), salads, more Catalan-style sandwiches, foccacias and bagels complete an extensive, varied menu. They have eight restaurants including two in the centre of Girona, Figueres and Vilablareix, and the kitchen is open non-stop. There's always time to 'have a König'!
The history of La Cresta is an easy one to remember. In a small establishment in Bescanó, built in 1991 and situated close to the road that crosses the village between Anglès and Girona, Narcís (a butcher by trade) decided to open a take-away rotisserie selling meat cooked over a wood fire, with chicken as the star product. Now it's become so well-known it pulls clients from across the south of Girona and other nearby towns, such as Banyoles, Olot and Figueres. You can find all kinds of grilled meat, including chicken, rabbit, lamb shoulder and pork ribs, as well as typical home-made dishes like Catalan cannelloni ('canelons') and macaroni ('macarrons'), different kinds of salads and a variety of side dishes such as potatoes, aubergine, courgette, croquettes and squid rings. Just take a look at the long glass counter showing off all the wares; you won't know where to start!
Like many other Empordà villages that are located to the north of Figueres, Garriguella has an age-old connection to wine. However, it was the establishment of the Cooperativa in 1963 and later the designation of Empordà's protected origin status (DO) that were key for gradually improving the quality of its output, and helped it gain a foothold in the wine market. Currently, the vineyard combines selling in bulk with bottled wines, the latter of which are increasingly refined thanks to the progressive incorporation of new technologies and a focus on quality rather than quantity. In the same building that houses the cooperative, there's also a bar-restaurant, which is great for a bite to eat and a tasting of the wines on offer.
Since the mid-1990s, if you ask anyone from Lloret de Mar where to go for quality Mexican, they're almost bound to answer, 'Panxos'. The restaurant was created by two lovers of the country, but rather than simply imitating traditional Mexican cuisine, they decided to adapt and fuse it. Panxos mixes classic recipes with their own concoctions and local products. Two recommendations: any of the six varieties of nachos on offer and the assorted 'txalupas', which includes ceviche, burrito, chile con carne and 'ropa vieja' (Cuban dish featuring stewed beef and vegetables), all on crispy corn tortillas. Totally delicious.
After slow life and slow food, comes a new concept: the slow restaurant. A place where checking your watch is forbidden and everything, absolutely everything, is about the food. A total experience that in the Costa Brava has one name: Grop. This L'Escala restaurant features Med cooking and local products (the fish is from Roses and L'Escala, the meat from farms across the Empordà), and dishes that range from patates braves to tuna tataki. Our favourites include the cod with apple and caramelised onion, the 'salmorejo' (a chilled tomato soup that's similar to gazpacho but of a thicker consistency) with pieces of cured ham and boiled egg, and, in particular, the home-made desserts created by chef Stephane Vidal and which change each season. They also have menus for coeliacs and vegans. So forget about time, head to Grop and enjoy the food, the landscape and the small terrace.
Despite the shelves full of 'National Geographic' magazines, at Ca La Pilar Dumingu they can't hide their true nature – the soda siphons of Casa Negra and the ceramic basins in the bathrooms clearly reveal them. The authenticity of this bar-café in Plaça Major in La Bisbal is undeniable. It's located in a historical grocery shop with mosaic floors and high ceilings, and has the charm of a place that acknowledges the past as a way of living contentedly in the present and future. The long tables create a family atmosphere for everyone who heads there for a vermouth, a beer (they have a selection of craft beers) or one of the herbal infusions that are stored in apothecary pots (it's worth trying the 'ratafia' one, based on a local herbal liquor, or the red tea with orange flower variety). If hunger bites, try a gourmet botifarra sandwich with caramelised onion, or the one of aubergine with blue cheese and almonds.