On my first trip to Rioja, I was given some great advice: ‘There are plenty of good places to eat in La Rioja, but there is only one place that you musteat during a trip here and that is the tapas street of Calle Laurel in the old town of Logroño.’ There are tapas streets in other towns: Haro has it’s ‘Horseshoe’ area and there are good little bars in most towns and villages, but they don’t come close to Calle Laurel.
Actually, it’s too big for just one street, it’s more of an area of the old part of town. The streets are lined with small bars, each place specialising in one thing. Most places will serve a range of food and drinks, while some just serve the one tapa with some beer and wine. You can come for lunch or dinner, but the important thing to remember is to stop in, have a drink and a snack, chat with the locals (even if you don’t know any Spanish!) and move on to the next place. For the full experience, turn up on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night at around 9:30pm and bring your sense of fun. The streets will be full (and I mean full) of all kinds of people: whole families, young punks, famous winemakers and gitanos (gypsies).
The tourist office in Logroño (in the big square at the top of the old town) puts out an excellent little book of who does what, and everything is on offer: pigs ears, mushrooms, top level jamon, pork, artichokes, seafood and tripe. The same goes for drinks, anything goes: from very top end red wines from Rioja to a glass of water. if you want the small beers that the locals are drinking, ask for a corto. A larger beer is a caña (pronounced ‘can ya’). The thing that makes the food here special is the produce, it’s fresh and full of flavour. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Bar El Sabas: Famous for the Tortilla de patata, and it is very good. Choose from a couple of different versions, salt cod is my pick. They also have a good list of wines, one of the better ones on the strip. Calle Albornoz, 7.
Taberna de Correos: This little joint at Calle San Augustin, 8, specialises in skewers of Iberian pork cooked over wood and drizzled with a honey reduction. Ask for La Pluma to order these.
Bar Plan B: Another on Calle San Agustin (No. 41), this one specialises in Foie, the best one is Foie al Pedro Ximenez washed down with a glass of young red wine. Amazing stuffNot everyone gets this one. I go here for the Esparrago frito, white asparagus wrapped in ham and cheese, then battered and deep fried.On Calle Laurel
La Universidad:These guys are the pulpo (octopus) kings on the street. Go in for Pulpo a la Gallega and a beer. Travesia del Laurel.
Bar El Soriano: This is the best of the best. It must be one of the most popular and smallest bars on the strip. So simple but oh so good. It’s a couple of mushrooms drowned in garlic oil, with a tiny prawn on top and a bit of bread on the bottom. To look like a real local, don’t eat the bread. All of this with a corto will cost you 1 euro. There is a guy here who always tells me it’s the best tapas bar in the world…he may just be right. Oposite La Universidad.