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Dear Culinary Backstreets,
I hear that Spaniards take their dinner very late. Are there any good restaurants in Barcelona that start serving dinner before 9 p.m.?

Indeed, Spaniards are notorious for eating late. Even when dining at home, the typical Spanish family doesn’t eat their dinner until around 9 or 10 p.m. – or sometimes even later! The main reason for this is that for most people in Spain, lunch – which usually consists of at least two courses and is eaten at some point between 1:30 and 4 p.m. – is the most substantial meal of the day. It makes sense, then, that nobody has much of an appetite again until late in the evening. Accordingly, most restaurants don’t start serving dinner until around 9 p.m., which can be a challenge for visitors to Barcelona who are used to earlier evening meals (especially families with small children) or who might still be mentally in different time zones altogether.

In several years of living in Barcelona, I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve found myself standing forlornly in front of a restaurant, nose metaphorically pressed to the glass as I waited for the doors to open for the evening. Although there are some restaurants (many of them situated near Las Ramblas) that cater mainly to tourists and serve food throughout the day, the quality of the food is usually not very good, and they are best avoided.

Luckily, Barcelona is home to a few excellent restaurants that start serving dinner on the early side. Here are two of my favorites:

Dostrece
Located right in the heart of El Raval, Dostrece is whatever you want it to be, whenever you need it. You can snack on tapas, order a menú del día (lunchtime set menu) or enjoy a full-fledged dinner. Go there at night and it’s a hipster cocktail bar. Head there on a weekend morning for a yummy brunch with everything from blueberry pancakes to omelets. The tasty food is fusion-style, with elements of Spanish, Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisines. Best of all, they serve meals continuously from noon to midnight (brunch is served Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The owners are from Los Angeles, so perhaps they understand that not everyone always wants to wait until after dark to have a good meal.

Cata 1.81
[Editor’s note: We regret to report that Cata 1.81 has closed.] Catering mainly to a local clientele, Cata 1.81 in the Eixample neighborhood is a great place to try creative tapas of the kind Spain has become known for in recent years, at an affordable price. While the offerings might not quite be “molecular gastronomy,” they are certainly innovative and delectable. Signature dishes include macaroni with sobrassada (paprika-flavored Mallorcan sausage) and white chocolate, a weird but shockingly tasty combo; a “bikini” (toasted ham and cheese sandwich) with slices of truffle; and oxtail cannelloni with cardamom ice cream. Even better, because Cata 1.81 started out as a wine bar, they have an amazing wine list, with nearly 300 different wines (most of them Spanish) to choose from. Despite having since evolved into a sit-down tapas place offering both à la carte and tasting menus, the venue has kept its early opening time from its wine bar days, making it my go-to place when I want good food without having to hungrily circle the block as I wait for Spanish dinnertime.

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Johanna BaileyJohanna Bailey

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