The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Tasty

I, like most people, love food. I am also willing to leave my comfort zone and try almost anything at least once. Even before arriving in San Sebastian, I knew that I wanted to try the food and experience the unique cuisine carried on by generations of Basque. The only thing that I knew would haunt me was the fact that taste would fade and eventually, even the memories of the taste and the way I felt when eating would fade. That is why I decided to take a picture, rate, and review each and every item of Spanish cuisine that I consumed, and why I was very excited for the opportunity to try many flavors at once on a pintxo-tasting tour in La Parte Vieja de San Sebastián.

The tour began in a bar made famous by Bourdain: Bar Haizea. In this bar we were served one of the first pintxos in history, so it was only fitting that we should start our tour with it. From this bar, we had two pintxos, each of which represented a vital part of the Basque culture and identity.

The gilda consisted of pickled peppers, an olive, and an anchovy. Being one of my lowest rated the pintxos at a 4 out of ten, I found the true value of this pintxo to come not from its taste, but from the unique blend of flavors brought about by the salty combinations of pickle and anchovy. Being one of the first pintxos, gilda was named after a movie starring Rita Hayworth. Along with the historical value of the gilda speaks, it is still one of the most popular pintxos that can be found at many bars throughout San Sebastián.


The brick de bacalao has been one of my top three favorite dishes that I have eaten in the city to date and earned an outstanding 9.25 out of ten. The salted cod is made into a creamy, fluffy texture. Additionally, as opposed to the saltiness of the gilda, which may be suggested by the salted cod, the cod filling in this pintxo was somewhat sweet and the crunch of the exterior made each bite more satisfying than the last.

Brick de Bocaloo

The next bar that we visited on the tour had a line going out the door, a theme that would come up multiple times during the day. Thanks to the professor’s connections at the bar, we were able to avoid the line by ordering our pintxos to go. While this is not the customary way to eat pintxos because the Basque do not like to give you the bill until you have finished your meal, there are bars that have items “para llevar” or “to go.”

The pintxo from this bar was a beautiful, buttered croissant with the famous Spanish jamón. Once again, the idea of high-quality ingredients shining through was highlighted as the croissant melting in my mouth led to a score of 8.5 out of ten. While anyone may be able to pick up a croissant and some ham slices, the intense flavor accomplished by such a simple item truly epitome of Basque cooking ideals.

Croissants with jamón

Luckily, even after the brief wait at the previous bar, the next bar was close by. This is almost always the case in San Sebastián’s parte vieja, where bars are more plentiful than stores and there is the greatest number of bars per square meter in the world. It is custom to grab a pintxo and a drink at one bar then move on to the next place which may be only feet away.


The next pintxo is probably the one that I will get the most during my time in San Sebastián. Landing in my top three with a 9.25 out of 10 was the gamba, or fried prawn. The prawn itself was of the highest quality. I am a big fan of shrimp and prawn, but this was by far the best I have ever had. The beer-batter used to fry the prawn adds to the already rich natural flavor of the fresh prawn and creates an incredible combination of texture and taste.


All this is not to say that every food is for everyone. People still have their preferences and things that they do not like. For me, this came in the vine with eggs which is my lowest rated item at the time of this post with a score of 3.5 out of ten. While I did not enjoy the taste of the dish, others found it quite good, and it is something definitely different than anything I had tried before. However, the lackluster taste of the vines meant that the flavor only came from the egg, which left the dish bland in my opinion.

Vines with Egg

It is not surprising that the dessert was the last topic of discussion. The world-famous cheesecake was beyond my wildest expectations. When I heard that people called it the best cheesecake in the world, I was definitely skeptical, but once I took my first spoonful, I knew that this was the best cheesecake I had every had. It was different than cheesecake in America. It was super fluffy and airy for a cheesecake, and it was the perfect balance of sweetness.


While much of the food in San Sebastián is top notch, the seafood is definitely my favorite, filling all the spots in my top three. I believe this to be due to the local fisherman bringing in quality products that the bars use to make their incredible delicious. This has been going on for centuries if not millennium now, where fisherman go to sea and provide fish and various seafood to the restaurants and bars to serve, speaking for the strength of Basque culture and its traditions.