In the world of trade and commerce, the Basques are an outward-looking lot, but when it comes to food they refuse to believe that any other people could possibly match their culinary skills (and they may well have a point). This means that eating out in Bilbao, Basque is generally the star of the show. Recent arrivals however are expanding the dining scene, with restaurants serving up Italian, Asian-fusion and even vegan fare.
Traditional Basque Cuisine
You don’t have to dine in a superstar restaurant or pick at dainty pintxos to have a superb meal here. Many people like nothing better than a cheap and simple meal at the local eatery. For just a few euros, you can get a lunch that in many other parts of Europe would be classed as a gourmet dining experience.
Pintxo Bars in Bilbao
Although Bilbao lacks San Sebastián’s stellar reputation for pintxos (Basque tapas), prices are generally slightly lower here (all charge from around €2.50 per pintxo) and the quality is about the same. There are literally hundreds of pintxo bars throughout Bilbao, but the Plaza Nueva on the edge of the Casco Viejo offers especially rich pickings, as do Calle de Perro and Calle Jardines. Some of the city’s standouts, in no particular order:
Gure Toki With a subtle but simple line in creative pintxos including some made with ostrich.
Café-Bar Bilbao Cool blue southern tile work and warm northern atmosphere.
Casa Victor Montes As well known for its pintxos as for its full meals.
Sorginzulo A matchbox-sized bar with an exemplary spread of pintxos. The house special is calamari but it’s only served on weekends.
Berton Here you can watch informative films on the crafting of the same superb pintxos that you’re munching on.
Claudio: La Feria del Jamón A creaky old place full of ancient furnishings. As you’ll guess from the name and the dozens of legs of ham hanging from the ceiling, it’s all about those tasty ungulates.
La Viña del Ensanche Hundreds of bottles of wine line the walls of this outstanding pintxos bar. And when we say outstanding, we mean that it could well be the best place to eat pintxos in the city.
El Globo This is an unassuming but popular bar with favourites such as txangurro gratinado (spider crab).
Mugi Widely regarded pintxo bar. It can get so busy that you might have to stand outside.
Ledesma No 5 An unmissable spot among the outdoor eateries on pedestrianised Ledesma.