If you only eat one thing while here in Spain, be sure to make it a thick, gooey slice of tortilla de patatas.
With an ingredient list you can count on one hand that consists of mere pantry staples, the humble tortilla is quite simple in comparison to some of the other fancy bites you’ll find here in San Sebastian. You might even wonder why, in a city full of experimental pintxos and avant-garde Michelin-starred cuisine, such a straightforward dish would be so noteworthy.
But the tortilla‘s simplicity is exactly what makes it so delicious. If there were one dish that so perfectly exemplified what we love about Spanish cuisine—fresh ingredients, uncomplicated cooking techniques, tastes like something your grandma would have made—this is it. While we’ll never say no to a night out pintxos-bar hopping or a reservation at one of the city’s best restaurants, sometimes all we need is a nice, hearty helping of the best tortilla in San Sebastian. Here’s where we get our fix—and we think you’ll love these spots, too.
Many visitors to Ciaboga make their way there in order to try their famous platillo: a dish of potatoes sprinkled with garlic, parsley, and a dash of paprika. But while we’re on the topic of potato-based goodness at this timeless spot in the city center, their tortilla de patatas is also worth mentioning. In fact, in our book, it’s one of the best tortillas in San Sebastian.
We can’t quite put our finger on what, exactly, makes Ciaboga’s tortilla so delicious. Maybe it’s the local potatoes. Maybe it’s the mouthwatering caramelized onion. Or maybe it’s the touch of green pepper that gives it the slightest kick. Whatever it is, we’re happy to devour it by the slice. And if you can’t stick around to enjoy it at the bar itself, good news—you can even order one to go.
While the tortilla de patatas is one of the most iconic dishes throughout Spain, here in the Basque Country, it’s at its best. Local cooks tend to give it a perfectly gooey, creamy texture that’s just hard to come by elsewhere. Bar Zabaleta is an ideal testament to that—sink your fork into a slice of their famous tortilla, and it’ll be love at first bite.
Located just across the Kursaal Bridge from the Old Town in the laid-back Gros neighborhood, this casual spot will make you feel at home from the moment you walk through the door. While just about all of their pintxos are worth trying, the tortilla is the true star of the show—in addition to its marvelously gooey texture, it also features just the slightest hint of sweetness thanks to the meticulously minced onion. Just like at Ciaboga, you can get one to go if you think you’ll be craving more later on.
Ask any local where to find the best tortilla in San Sebastian, and chances are they’ll point you towards Bar Nestor. An unassuming locale hidden down one of the side streets in the Old Town, it may not look like much from the outside, but trust us when we say that this spot is a verifiable foodie paradise—and not just for their famous tortilla.
Let’s start with that, though. First of all, they only make tortillas twice a day—at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m., just in time for the lunch and dinner rush—and you’ll have to reserve your slice ahead of time by stopping by earlier in the day to put your name on the list. Then, when mealtime rolls around, come back and order a glass of txakoli to sip on while you wait for your name to be called. From there, there’s nothing left to do but sink your teeth into one of the most iconic tortillas in the city.
That’s not all, though. Bar Nestor only serves three dishes—the tortilla being one of them—and you won’t want to leave until you’ve tried them all. The other two are a refreshing tomato salad and txuleta, a slow-grilled hunk of Basque steak sprinkled with sea salt and served unpretentiously with no other garnishes. Try them all and you’ll see why this place is considered by locals to house the “holy trinity” of Basque cuisine.
You won’t just find one of the best tortillas in San Sebastian at Bar Bergara—you’ll find three of them. Another local classic in the Gros neighborhood, this beloved spot perfectly bridges past and present with their selection of traditional and modern bites. That means that not only do they serve up a fabulous tortilla de patatas, but an equally delicious tortilla de setas (mushroom omelet) and tortilla de anchoas (anchovy omelet) as well. The latter is one of their signature dishes—be sure to get ready to elbow your way up to the bar through a crowd of hungry locals whenever they put a fresh one out.
There’s practically no foodie experience we love more than visiting a busy market to shop amongst the locals, then stop for a drink and a bite to eat at the market bar. Whenever we find ourselves at Mercado La Bretxa, one of our favorite spots for the latter is Bar Azkena. What really makes this place stand out is their variety—not only do they have traditional tortillas, but their omelets also come made with other unique ingredients such as txipiron (baby squid), txistorra (Basque sausage), bacalao (salt cod), and so much more. Try them all and discover your new favorite.
Want to learn even more secrets of Spanish and Basque cuisine? Check out our lineup of online food and wine experiences and bring Spain into your kitchen!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.