Txikiteo! How utterly agreeable it is to go bar hopping in the Basque town of Bilbao: going from restaurant to restaurant, tasting local wine or cider with some pintxos – mini gourmet snacks on a stick, called tapas in other parts of Spain.
So come along on a txikiteo tour to some of the best pintxo bars in Bilbao.
1. La Vina del Ensanche
Founded in 1927, still run by the same family and constantly packed with jamón lovers, wine drinking artists, philosophers, local bankers and pintxos connoisseurs in general. Try pintxos and mini dishes such as Iberian cured ham with tomato, virgin olive oil and oven baked ciabatta. Or how about marinated bluefin tuna? Or try Iberian loin, melted cheese and foie on crystal bread. Still hungry? Go for pork cheeks with mashed potato and apple sorbet with yoghurt foam. http://www.lavinadelensanche.com
Another family run pintxos bar, where the three siblings Begona, Yolanda and Ivan Siles are constantly recognised for their innovative pintxos, with a heavy emphasis on the Basque heritage. If you feel like matured, grilled and sliced T-bone steak, this is the place. The bar is tiny but there is plenty of room outside in the sun, on Placa Nueva. Highly recommended. http://www.gureroki.com
A very warm and genuine local bar filled with people from the neighbourhood as well as tourists. The chorizo pintxos are scrumptious as are the red pepper and mushroom variations with seafood.
El Perro 2, in the Old Town.
4. Restaurante Rotterdam
This tiny bar in the old part of Bilbao serves basic, but good, pintxos and small dishes where squid in ink is a favourite. Some locals claim that the croquetas of Rotterdam are the best in town. Eat them by the bar, with a glass of wine, as you do with all pintxos.
C/Perro 6, Old Town
Some claim Berton has become somewhat touristic, including creating a small chain with three bars in Bilbao. There were no visitors during my visit to Berton in the Old Town though (no tourists, apart from me, that is). The atmosphere is still authentic and robust with cured ham and garlic drying from the ceiling, red bricks and visible beams. http://www.berton.eus
6. Restaurante Markina
In splendid surroundings with old oak walls and no-fuss locals, we had the best grilled and sliced T-bone steak ever here at the Markina. Reserve a table in advance. Staff don’t speak a word of English and may act a bit odd, or should I say they haven’t been to the “customer is always right” school; refused to give us some salt for the meat even when we insisted, which is a bit extreme in my eyes. (We finally got it, five minutes later but he didn’t approve at all to this “overdosing on salt”.) But there is an English menu and the pintxos are fine and possible to choose by pointing at them in the bar. http://www.restaurantemarkina.com
The three last photos are from Gure-Toki.