Eating is one part of the tourism/travel experience where I badly fall down and can't get up.
Why? Cuz I have 19 food allergies, or rather sensitivities. What does this mean? In many cases, nothing at all. I eat something bad for me, like skim milk in my coffee, and it makes me a teensy bit queasy, so little that I don't even notice anymore. In other cases, like a double scoop of ice cream, I'd be violently ill for a few days.
I know my limits. So do you, if you've been reading this blog for a while.
To me, the two supervillains of eating are tofu and seafood. The former gives me huge red itchy welts on the back of my legs. Nice! The latter makes me vomit. Mmmm.
Other products that cause smaller reactions include olives and MSG. And the aforementioned dairy. Sandwiches usually leave me quite exhausted but only for a few hours. This could be wheat or it could be sauce.
The math goes something like this: olives + dairy + bread + seafood = green sickly Marie.
Mediterranean diet = NO.
This is one reason I originally opted for renting apartments rather than hotels in Barcelona. With a kitchen, I can control what I eat. But over time, I've come across several great restaurants that are not dependent on fish or dairy or olive oil.
Like Milk. It's just a little bistro-type place on Gignas in the old part of town, between Born and Ramblas. And it has a great weekend brunch.
Another is Habana Vieja. I am a sucker for ropa vieja, though I think it's better in both LA and New York. And er, JC. Still, this little restaurant on the tiny restaurant row of Banys Vells (near the Picasso Museum) is delish.
The maze-like warren of alleys between Argenteria and Banys Vells have dozens of small bistros. As does the Gracia neighborhood uptown. Two other great options are Arabic food (open on Sundays!) in Raval and cheap chicken and chips down on the beach. Yummy.
And in a hurry, stop into one of the Spain fast food chains: Bocetta or Pans. Both serve sandwiches. On weekdays, haul yourself up to Eixample and stop in virtually any restaurant at lunchtime for the cheap menu del dia. They have these downtown too, but you'll do better outside of the tourist area. Lunchtime is also a good time to try the more expensive restaurants, like 4 Gats.
The Boqueria market off Ramblas appears touristy at first glance. And yes it is. Very touristy. But keep walking to the back and you'll find incredible fruits and veggies, meats, grains, and finally, snack bars. Vegetarians should head straight to the back wall, where a vegetarian mini-restaurant thrives at lunchtime. Everyone else? Don't miss the delicious fresh juice stalls at the front of the market.
For a snack, stop in the alley of Petrixol for churros and xocolata, near Plaza de Pi. You'll be eating fried sugary dough and thick hot chocolate so show up hungry and without regrets.
Eating is good and all, but there is still one drawback to eating out in Barcelona.
Smoking is still allowed in some places.
And one other thing on that list of 19 allergies? Tobacco.