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Can Paixano, the kind of timeless dive that could soon be extinct due to the rise of Western chains, is an obligatory stop for anyone wanting to taste a slice of the real Barcelona. And the bar’s location in Barceloneta, the traditional fishermen’s quarter where the old port meets the beach, provides the perfect setting.

Squeeze into this rowdy, standing-room-only cava bar and Can Paixano immediately starts working its old-school charm. Placing your order can be a titanic struggle, but it’s also part of the fun. Inch your way to the bar, shout your order to the bartender and hold onto your glass for dear life, as your elbow makes out with the crowd.

Can Paixano’s dirt-cheap cava and bocadillos (sandwiches) sit well with the throngs of locals, students and tourists who pack this place to the rafters at all times. Don’t let the over-capacity atmosphere ruffle your feathers – being squashed and squeezed is part of the experience, and afterwards you’ll realize how much fun it was.

The house cava is a drinkable pinkish rosé served in antiquated champagne saucers with squat, shallow bowls that are predestined to spill in this setting. It’s served by the glass all day, but if it’s before 5 p.m., we recommend ordering a bottle so you don’t lose half of the contents of your glass while navigating to and from the bar. Food options include entrepans (the Catalan name for bocadillos), which are rolls stuffed with mouthwatering grilled sausages. Xistorra, a sausage flavored with garlic, salt and paprika, is a favorite. If size matters, go for the botifarra, a type of local sausage.

One quibble we have with Can Paixano is their sandwich bread, which has a lifespan of 60 seconds after it’s steamed before turning firm and unappetizing. This only becomes a problem when you order two bocadillos (recommended for a meal), for by the time you finish your first roll the second one has hardened like a rock. To counter that problem, we suggest the liberal use of either house salsa, mustard or hot sauce, which you’ll find in the yellow and red squeeze bottles. The salsas elevate the otherwise dry sandwiches, adding some much-needed juice.

You’ll find folks from all walks of life at Can Paixano, from a guy from Manchester engaged in a shouting contest with Americans, to Catalans who rolled up on their mountain bikes to fuel up before climbing Tibidabo, to a pear-shaped woman with her beachball-shaped, cava-loving better half. Be careful not to step on anyone’s toes, as flip-flops are the footwear of choice nine months out of the year. It’s that kind of place.

Hollis DuncanHollis Duncan

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