“What would be your last meal?” is a question that chefs like to ask each other. Most of the time, they ask it because the chef who asks wants to show off and tell his colleague what his own last and awesome death row menu would be. “Just let me eat a bunch of pintxos in San Sebastian’s Old Town” has been my answer for the last twenty years, ever since my very first visit to San Sebastián. That's all I would need.
Those streets full of pintxos bars (“pintxos” is the Basque way to say tapas) are my favorite place to eat on Earth. The concentration of good food in such a small area is something that you won’t find anywhere else. I remember my first time there. I walked with my Basque friend Lander along La Concha -one of the most elegant European beaches - before arriving at the Old Town. I saw those narrow streets full of pintxos bars, and suddenly everything changed for me: I wanted to be Basque and live in San Sebastián.
One of the streets full of pintxos bars in San Sebastián, including my favorite bar Borda Berri
Me at La Concha, the most famous beach in San Sebastián
Lander was my guide in that crazy maze full of locals and tourists, eating amazing food and drinking txakoli like the Apocalypse was coming. “In that bar they have the best mushrooms in the city… See that one? The duck magret is insane there… We should also go to that one, the shrimp are sooo good!”. That’s what you do there. You go from bar to bar, have one or two pintxos, and walk to the next one to repeat the ritual. And in every street of the Old Town, you would find at least three or four bars that cook outstanding tapas with the best ingredients of the region. “Even the bad restaurants are good” said Anthony Bourdain of San Sebastián. And he was so right.
Me waiting to order in a pintxos bar
Let me share three of my favorites pintxos bars in San Sebastián Old Town:
Bar Txepetxa: When I arrive in San Sebastián and start my personal pintxos tour, Txepetxa is always the first place I go. It was the first twenty years ago, so I like to keep the tradition. What to eat?: Anchovies pintxos. That’s what they perfected at Txepetxa. My favorite? Antxoas con centollo (white anchovy topped with a delicate spider crab sauce, on toasted bread). Out of this world.
La cuchara de San Telmo: busy pintxos bar that delivers some of the best bites of San Sebastian. Amazing foie gras, octopus, suckling pig… really, the whole menu! Piece of advice: arrive early and be ready to use your elbows to fight for your place. It 's worth it.
Borda Berri: my absolute favorite. What not to eat? I would start with callos de bacalao al pil pil (cod tripe with a velvety sauce), then would continue with oreja de cerdo con salsa romesco (crispy pig ear with romesco sauce), and finish with carrillera de ternera al vino tinto (beef cheeks in a red wine sauce).
Gilda: Anchovies, olives and pickled peppers - historically, it's the first Basque pintxo
You can visit all of these pintxos bars with me this September as I guide you on a culinary tour of Basque Country in Spain and France. We'll eat plenty of pintxos as well as dine at Michelin-starred restaurants, plus shop local markets bursting with seasonal produce.
You'll also enjoy a hands-on cooking class with myself and Chef Lander Ganzo. We promise to deliver Basque cooking techniques, fun, delicious food and a lot of laughs!
Me cooking with Lander in a Gastronomic Society
San Sebastián is a small city formed around a horseshoe-shaped beach where life revolves around food and dining. It’s an invigorating locale with gorgeous outdoors, world-class urban beaches, art, music and restaurants galore, plus nearby wine, cider, and artisan food producers.
The Basque Country is a feast for the senses, and I invite you to indulge with me. Please note the tour will be limited to just 14 travelers and full vaccination is required. Join me on the culinary adventure of your lifetime!