For years, people have talked to us about going to San Sebastián Spain to eat. That is because there are more Michelin stars per capita in San Sebastián, a town of 200,000 people, than any other place on earth. We decided to visit San Sebastián, the foodie mecca, even though it was a 7-hour drive from Santiago de Compostela.
We really had no idea what to expect but we figured we needed to make restaurant reservations in advance. So Mike hit the Michelin Guide to research restaurants while I found a place to stay. We also needed a few days off to work so we weren’t too focused on sightseeing.
About San Sebastián
We thought San Sebastián would be small, but it is actually two pretty large cities: Donostia and San Sebastián. Before the food became king, San Sebastián was and still is a summer beach resort. The area is quite hilly and there are two large beautiful beaches nestled between the hills.
While driving around, the town seemed to be more prosperous and rich than most of the other towns in Spain. It turns out that San Sebastián has the highest real estate values of anywhere in Spain. Mostly due to a migration of ex-pats.
We were also surprised to see all of the signs in only Basque. In the other areas of Spain, the signs are in the local language, like Catalan and Spanish, but not here. Also, Basque has a lot of z’s and x’s making it particularly difficult to pronounce. We didn’t actually stay long enough to figure it out.
On our way to dinner our first night, we saw the cathedral, which was really impressive. Another day, we went to explore the old town. We were told that the best place for pintxos was nearby in the old town. So going there was a twofer.
About the Food
Honestly, we can only eat so much, so for our three-night stay we made a reservation at a Michelin recognized restaurant (a step below a star), then at a Michelin one-star restaurant. We reserved the last night for pintxos.
Pintxos can be found in both Spain and Portugal. They are diagonally sliced bread with various things on top. For example, one might have a tapenade, a slice of cheese, and an anchovy. Another might have Russian salad or smoked salmon. Others have sobrassada, which is pork ground up with tomato to make a thick paste. You get the idea.
A given pintxo bar serves beer, wine, and cocktails and usually has at least 10 different types of pintxos along with hot and cold tapas. Here is a list of the top pintxo bars in San Sebastián. Just note that is one person’s opinion.
The first night in San Sebastián we decided to eat in the fine restaurant in our hotel downtown. Narru was well rated on Google and it is a Michelin Plate restaurant. The menu was pretty straight forward and we had two appetizers, two mains, and one dessert.
Nothing about this Michelin one-star restaurant was straightforward. We got lost finding the place because it is way up on the side of one of those hills I mentioned earlier. Then as you can see from the menu, everything either had a name that didn’t describe the dish or it was in Basque. But the young man that served us was quite good at explaining what everything was and the service was great. We picked this restaurant because we didn’t have to have the eight to 10-course prix fixe. So we ordered a la carte. As with most fine restaurants, there were lots of extras included, like a welcome cocktail, an amuse-bouche, a palate cleanser in the middle of the meal, and some extra treats at the end of the meal. I would definitely recommend this restaurant and it wasn’t outrageously expensive.
We know that we only scratched the surface on the food delights in San Sebastián so we look forward to visiting again sometime in the future.
Thinking of visiting San Sebastián, where do you want to eat?