As a city that relies heavily on tourism, San Sebastian has had a less-than-ideal year in 2020.
Due to the pandemic, the city has seen just a fraction of the tourists that it usually gets in the summer high season. And while many eateries elsewhere in Spain have been able to reopen or expand their outdoor terraces in order to increase clientele, space limitations in the Old Town prevent many businesses in San Sebastian from doing the same.
These San Sebastian small businesses could all use your support however you’re able to give it. Whether you live in the city and are able to stop by for a drink and something to eat, or you’re across the world and want to order some local Basque products online, there’s a locally owned business here that would greatly appreciate it.
1 & 2. Zapore Jai & Kukaña
Sylvain and his wife Aurkene are from the French Basque Country and the Spanish Basque Country respectively. They’ve worked in the gourmet food industry for decades and love sharing these fascinating products with the world.
After working for several years in Paris, Sylvain and Aurkene moved to San Sebastian to be closer to home and opened Zapore Jai. In 2020, they also opened a second outpost, Kukaña, in the Centro area.
For anyone who’s missing Spain right now, Zapore Jai is a great choice. They offer shipping of their incredible products throughout Europe: Iberian ham, gourmet canned goods, and so much more. Treat yourself to a taste of Spain and support one of our favorite San Sebastian small businesses while you’re at it!
We visit Zapore Jai on our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour.
3. La Viña
Santiago Rivera took over his family’s bar, La Viña, decades ago. We have him to thank for the famous San Sebastian cheesecake, which was born somewhat accidentally when he was experimenting with new recipes for the dessert menu.
In pre-pandemic days, the now legendary dessert used to draw massive lines of locals and visitors alike, all eager to take a bite of what many consider to be Spain’s best cheesecake. But now, you can place an order for your very own La Viña cheesecake to enjoy at home or at your hotel. Call +34 943 427 495 to order yours, and pick it up at the bar.
We visit La Viña on our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour.
4. Bar Txepetxa
Lots of visitors come to San Sebastian thinking they hate anchovies. Then they eat them at Bar Txepeta and realize just how wrong they were.
The family that runs this local favorite has been serving the best anchovies in San Sebastian for more than 120 years, so it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing. Txepetxa’s founder (the grandfather of the current owner, Manu) opened the bar as a spot to feed hungry fishermen and eventually developed his own secret method for salt-curing the tiny fish.
If you live in the San Sebastian area or will be there soon, Txepetxa is now selling takeout kits so you can enjoy their famous anchovies at home. You can even mix and match your favorite flavor combinations!
We visit Txepetxa on our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour.
5. La Mejillonera
If you know Spanish, you’ve probably already guessed that mussels are the specialty of the house at La Mejillonera (Calle del Puerto, 15). But these aren’t just ordinary mussels.
The mussels at La Mejillonera are fished just off the coast a few blocks away, and the freshness is clear in the quality. They serve several different varieties, but the mejillones tigres—”tiger” mussels in a spicy tomato sauce—are a particular favorite.
The next time you’re wandering through the Old Town, swing by this local favorite for a plate of mussels, their equally excellent patatas bravas, and some refreshing Basque cider. It’s practically a rite of passage for all donostiarras!
We visit Txepetxa on our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour.
6. La Oveja Latxa
A relatively new addition to San Sebastian’s gourmet scene, La Oveja Latxa opened its doors in 2019. It has quickly become a reference for high quality Basque cheeses and other artisanal food products.
Owner Maider has a very close relationship with all her cheese suppliers, going out of her way to find the best local products. She also sells beautiful aprons, cutting boards and gourmet delicacies including jams, liquors, foie gras and olive oils.
If you’re not in San Sebastian at the moment, La Oveja Latxa’s online shop ships throughout Spain.
7. Bar Sport
As you may have guessed from the name, Bar Sport is sort of the Basque equivalent of a sports bar. On days when there’s an important regatta or soccer game going on, it’s packed to the rafters with eager locals watching the game and placing bets.
But even if watching sports isn’t really your thing, this local gem is still worth a visit. They serve some of the best-quality pintxos in the Old Town, and the rustic atmosphere and friendly service are representative of some of the best traditional eateries in the Basque Country.
8. Paco Bueno
The Paco who gave Bar Paco Bueno its name was a locally famous boxer, and boxing memorabilia still lines the walls of the bar. Today, his son (also called Paco) runs the show, still serving the best shrimp in the city.
In response to the pandemic, Paco Bueno launched their “Pac & Go” takeout boxes. You can personalize yours with any combination of shrimp, calamari, croquettes, or mini empanadas.
9. La Cepa
If you never thought you would wait in a line stretching down the block for a sandwich, you haven’t tried the famous bocatas at La Cepa. This family-run spot prides itself on using top-quality, market-fresh ingredients in everything they make, from the famous ham sandwiches to the creamy pantxineta desserts.
Swing by La Cepa and grab a sandwich to go, or grab a seat in the restaurant area for a relaxing meal in one of the city’s most beloved eateries.
10. Ibéricos Deluxe
Opened in 2011 by two local friends who shared a passion for Spanish gourmet goods, Ibéricos Deluxe is a fantastic place to stock up on artisanal deli products. They specialize in Iberian ham, but don’t miss their fantastic selection of Basque Idiazabal cheeses, either—they stock many of the best brands in the country.
Still hungry? Find more food-focused small businesses in our San Sebastian eating guide.
The Basque Country is legendary for its local steaks, or txuletas. And no place does them better than the aptly named Txuleta itself.
Owned and operated by award-winning Basque grill master Ander Esarte, Txuleta is now offering a wide selection of their menu for delivery. Treat yourself to a nice evening in with one of their incredible steaks, and wash it down with a glass of red Navarra wine or Rioja Alavesa from the Basque Country.
Gandarias is a reference in San Sebastian for good, honest home cooking. Whether you choose to grab some pintxos at a bar or enjoy a sit-down meal in the restaurant area, you can rest assured that you’ll be digging into some of the best-quality food in town, with a fantastic wine selection to boot.
Recently, Gandarias opened an online gourmet shop with their own brands of products, from sweet, nougaty turrón to briny conservas and so much more. They ship throughout peninsular Spain, so no matter where you are in the country, you can bring a taste of this Basque favorite home.
We visit Gandarias on our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour.
13. Goiz Argi
Goiz Argi (Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 4)’s original owner, Mari Juli, put this spot on the map with her incredible brochetas de gambas, or grilled shrimp skewers. Though you’ll find variations of this popular pintxo all around town, here they have an extra-special touch in the form of Mari Juli’s famous secret vinegar-pepper sauce.
Though Mari Juli herself has since retired and no longer runs the bar, her legacy lives on in a pintxo that the new owners named after her. The Mari Juli consists of smoked salmon and anchovy with fried green pepper on a slice of crusty bread.
No matter which option you choose (or just try both!), you can’t miss a trip to Goiz Argi to enjoy these incredible pintxos in a spot that has earned its title as a local icon.
14. Aste 148
While traditional pintxos bars will always have a special place in our hearts, the Basque Country is also famous for its modern cuisine. Using the same typical ingredients that have made the region’s food so famous, innovative recipes and cooking methods have put the Basque Country at the forefront of avant-garde gastronomy.
Opened in 2017, Aste 148 is one of the most perfect examples of this modern Basque cuisine. The restaurant itself is a living tribute to traditional Basque food and culture, but the dishes here are unlike anything else you’ll try in the city.
Due to their prime location right in Plaza de la Constitución, Aste 148 is one of the few restaurants in the city with enough outdoor space to open a terrace. Come enjoy a meal in the fresh air in one of San Sebastian’s most iconic locations!
We visit Aste 148 on our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour.
15. Borda Berri
Another excellent option for new, modern Basque fare in the Old Town, Borda Berri serves a delicious variety of dishes inspired by the local region and beyond.
Now renowned throughout the world for their contemporary recipes, they’ve made it easier than ever for locals to enjoy their famous food while social distancing. Check their Facebook page linked above for regular updates to the takeout menu.
16. Atari Gastroleku
Opened in 2010, Atari works with small local producers and their carefully cultivated raw materials. They believe that “the existence of modernity depends on good tradition,” and the two go hand in hand at this emblematic spot in front of the Santa María Church.
Atari is another one of the few spots in the Old Town with a terrace, so come enjoy their internationally inspired dishes in an unbeatable location!
17. Casa Vallés
Just about everyone who’s gone out for pintxos in San Sebastian has tried the gilda: a simple trifecta of a pickled guindilla pepper, an anchovy, and an olive. But not many people know that this now-iconic bite was born at Casa Vallés, an unassuming bar in the Centro neighborhood.
Legend says that decades ago, a regular at Casa Vallés ordered his customary glass of wine with some olives and anchovies on the side. A small guindilla pepper ended up on his plate by accident, and in a moment of creativity, he decided to eat the three garnishes together—and discovered an unbeatable combination in the process.
To make the most of the less-than-ideal pandemic situation, Casa Vallés has created some new takeout options. One easy, inexpensive and delicious way to enjoy their food without crowding into the bar is their €6 takeout deal for a bocadillo sandwich and a drink. Take it to the beach a few blocks away and enjoy a makeshift picnic!
We visit Casa Vallés on our Pintxos Like a Local: Centro Neighborhood Pintxos Tour.
18. Bar Juan Sebastian
Opened by two local friends with years of experience in hospitality, Bar Juan Sebastian (Calle Easo, 7) is the kind of place where everyone can feel welcome. They specialize in smoked fish, such as anchovies, prepared to order in a fun and lively setting.
We visit Bar Juan Sebastian on our Pintxos Like a Local: Centro Neighborhood Pintxos Tour.
19. La Espiga
One of the most typically donostiarra bars in Donostia, La Espiga is an extension of the city itself in so many ways. The floor is made from San Sebastian’s typical sidewalk tiles, the tables imitate the mathematical model of architect Antonio Cortázar’s design of the Centro neighborhood, and there are plenty of other little tributes to the city itself everywhere you look.
La Espiga offers home delivery every day except Monday. Still serving dishes made from the recipes of the bar’s original owner (the current owners’ grandmother), it allows you to enjoy a delicious home-cooked meal even if you don’t feel like cooking yourself.
We visit La Espiga on our Pintxos Like a Local: Centro Neighborhood Pintxos Tour.
Opened in 2014 by local couple Maite and Paul, Zazpi is the place to enjoy modern, miniature cuisine in the city center. Paul is an award-winning chef, with accolades including the title of Gipuzkoa Pintxos Champion two years straight.
Come enjoy a meal out on Zazpi’s gorgeous outdoor terrace. Their tasting menu, with nine courses at €40, is one of the best-value options in the city.
We visit Zazpi on our Pintxos Like a Local: Centro Neighborhood Pintxos Tour.
22 & 23. Bar Antonio & S.M. Cafe Bar
When Juan Mari Arzak himself recommends a place, you know it’s going to be good. And that’s the case with Bar Antonio.
Serving traditional Basque dishes with a creative touch, the team at Antonio prides itself on warm, friendly service that makes each guest feel at home. A favorite in the Centro neighborhood for decades, they serve seasonal dishes made with classic products and modern techniques.
Bar Antonio owners Humberto and Ramón also have a second outpost at the San Martín Market, the S.M. Cafe Bar. From abuelas stopping for a piping-hot cup of coffee after doing their shopping to local office workers swinging by for a quick lunch, the local vibe at this market bar makes it a must.
We visit Bar Antonio on our Pintxos Like a Local: Centro Neighborhood Pintxos Tour.
Other Great Local Businesses in San Sebastian
24. Eat One Feed One
Eat One Feed One runs food experiences in San Sebastian and aims to create a positive social impact through food. For every person that joins the experience a meal is donated to a person in need through a local Basque association.
During the pandemic, Eat One Feed One is offering online wine and chocolate tastings. Owner Cristina is a certified chocolate taster, so if you ever wanted to take your sweet tooth to the next level and support a good cause while you’re at it, this is your chance!
25. Sakona Coffee
Sadly, Sakona’s physical cafe in San Sebastian closed earlier in 2020 due to the pandemic. But all hope is not lost—they’re still roasting and shipping their fantastic coffee throughout Spain!
Owner Javi is an award-winning barista whose love for coffee is palpable. He is a passionate coffee-preneur, and though locals miss his incredible coffee shop and hope to see him in town again soon, for now Sakona lives on at home through its delivery service. Everything is produced and shipped from their roastery in Irun, just outside San Sebastian.