A few weeks ago when visiting Bilbao we headed down to the Plaza Nueva, an enclosed plaza with terraces, and lots of tapas bars. Here they are called pinchos, or the preferred basque-ish spelling, pintxos. What a difference from the straightforward tapas found in Madrid’s traditional bars. Pintxos are a work of art. They are not free and you must ask for the one(s) you would like.
Our stop in the Plaza Nueva included Cafe Bar Bilbao, a historic pintxo bar and cafe almost 100 years old, we were a group of about eight people all standing around the bar with our drinks and sometimes ordering a few pintxos. A couple Americans came in (since I am one, for me they are easy to pick out) and somehow were able to get one of the 6 or so tables. It was about 8pm, still two hours short of dinner time but the bar was full of Bilbainos having an aperitif. The two women proceeded to order, first they were served a bottle of wine and I thought to myself, they are obviously tourists, they are not going about this pintxo thing the right way. They should stand at the bar like us, have some pintxos and move on to discover other places. Then their order came, a plate full of the colors of delicious looking pintxos, too much for just a bite, and seemingly too much for two people! It looked like the typical situation when you are in a foreign country and you order something and it ends up to be enough food for double the amount of people you are. But the women seemed happy with their dinner and my Basque friends had by now taken notice of these two and their huge plate and were enviously remarking at how those ladies really had a great idea! Now why didn’t we think of that!?
This was my plate of pintxos. I loved the one at the bottom of the photo. Its mixed fresh cheeses rolled into a ball covered with walnuts and balsamic reduction. The salmon and the fried squid were also wonderful.
Café Bar Bilbao is located at Plaza Nueva 6. (Metro Casco Viejo) in Bilbao
An interesting website dedicated to pintxos, the tapas of the Basque Country, is Todopintxos.com. They even have recipies and list some great tapas/pintxo bars in San Sebastian.