Dear Culinary Backstreets,
We will be visiting Barcelona with our children. Do you have any good recommendations of places in the city to eat with kids?
First of all, you should know that in Spain, you are welcome with children in just about any dining establishment. Because Spaniards don’t tend to entertain much in their own homes, a great deal of time is spent socializing in cafés and restaurants, and most people don’t think twice about hauling their children along for the fun. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to know of a few places to go that, beyond being child-friendly, are places where your kids might actually enjoy themselves enough that they won’t spend the whole time rhythmically clanking their silverware, whining about being bored or complaining about “those weird green things” on their plates. Here are a few of my favorite spots where you can be sure that not only will the food be good, but the kids will be happy, too.
This outdoor tapas bar just off Las Ramblas in El Raval is a great option for when you’re wandering around with kids and feeling peckish. Tucked into the Gothic-style interior courtyard of the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya, its lovely patio overlooks tree-filled gardens surrounded by ancient stone walls. The menu features seasonal offerings of tapas and small plates made from ingredients obtained daily from nearby La Boquería market, and the kitchen is open all day. Most of the dishes are typical Spanish fare, such as tortilla de patatas (thick potato omelet), morcilla de cebolla (Catalan blood sausage made with onion), boquerones en vinagre (anchovies marinated in vinegar) and Andalusian gazpacho. There is also a selection of bocadillos (sandwiches), as well as a few international tapas options such as nachos with guacamole and hummus with pita bread. Parents can hang out and munch (or just enjoy a glass of wine) while the kids run around chasing pigeons and making as much noise as they like; there are also oversized games of chess and checkers available in the garden. The venue is open year-round, with heaters and blankets provided during the chillier months.
La Nena is one of the best places I know to go with kids, especially during colder weather, when Barcelona’s outdoor terraces are less inviting. This Gràcia chocolatería is perfect for a snack or light lunch, and you also can’t beat their delicious hot chocolate and homemade baked goods. My kids love the croissants covered in warm chocolate sauce, and the fact that they usually end up with chocolate smeared across their faces makes them look like they belong at La Nena all the more. Aside from the yummy food, kids also enjoy playing with the secondhand books, toys and board games that fill the cozy space. I usually end up giving in and ordering a sweet treat when we go here, but if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, the menu also has some delicious savory (and more “adult”) options, including sandwiches and quiche.
Located in a former publishing house in the Eixample Izquierda, Semproniana is one of my favorite restaurants for an excellent sit-down meal. The venue serves classic Catalan food with creative twists, such as Chinese black rice with sobrassada (Mallorcan paprika sausage) and Mahón cheese. But what’s really unique about Semproniana is that every Saturday from 1:30-3:30 p.m. during the school year (September to June), they offer a cooking workshop called “Patacutxi” for children ages four to 10. This means that parents can simply send their kids back to the kitchen while they enjoy a good meal without distractions. The price for the workshop (which includes lunch for your child) is €20 – a small price to pay for two hours of peace and a good meal during which the only food you’ll have to cut is your own. – Johanna Bailey
Read our related advice columns on eating with kids in Istanbul and Athens.