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Editor’s note: Our penultimate installment for Breakfast Week here at CB comes from Barcelona, where the traditional Catalan breakfast is not for the faint of heart – or appetite.

Fried pig’s ears fortified with garlic and parsley, veal cheek and tongue laced with vinaigrette, hefty veal and pork meatballs, creamy artichoke or eggplant omelets or a hearty bocadillo of marinated tuna, red pepper, anchovies and olives: these esmorzars de forquilla, or “fork breakfasts,” are how a Catalonian might start his day – especially at Can Ros, a tapas-and-bocadillos joint that’s open every day from 7 a.m. until midnight. Office workers might drop by for a coffee at mid-morning, followed by the lunch crowd, which takes over from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner, of course, lasts well into the night. It’s breakfast, however, that has made Can Ros most popular among locals.

Esteban Ros and his brothers opened the restaurant in 1971 with a selection of just five or six tapas. He has since retired, and five of his six children now run the place. They offer around 50 hot and cold varieties of tapas. One of the oldest of the small plates, the buñuelos de bacalao, a savory cod-stuffed doughnut, actually precedes Can Ros; it was inherited from Termes, the bar that previously inhabited the same space.

In Spain, the lucky few who have generally been able to while away their mornings eating at charming places like Can Ros are retired people. But lately, as is true in many cities all over the world, they have also been joined by a burgeoning number of freelancers and other workers with flexible schedules. Most Barcelonans still pull the usual grab-a-coffee-and-croissant-and-run routine every morning at their preferred bar, but every once in a while, we get to sit down to a breakfast worthy of a forquilla. (We have written previously of other Barcelona eateries that serve such breakfasts, including La Pubilla and Taverna Can Roca.)

Weekend brunch in Barcelona comes two ways. There’s the simpler European-style version with fruit, coffee or tea and bread with an assortment of cheeses and marmalades. The more substantial traditional-style brunch, such as Can Ros offers, might involve a ham bocadillo, a tapa of callos (pig tripe and feet in a spicy sauce and chickpeas) or some butifarra, a Catalan sausage, with beans. Serious dishes like these deserve serious libations, which means wine, cava or beer — and coffee to chase it all at the end. On Sundays and holidays, Can Ros even offers special tapas, such as the octopus a la gallega (boiled, sliced and dressed with garlic, salt and paprika) and the much-beloved calamares a la romana (squid rings coated with a light batter of egg, flour and soda water and fried to a crisp).

During the week, for offices that keep longer hours – starting at 9 a.m. and stopping for lunch at 2 p.m. – employees need coffee and a small bite to tide them over until the big midday meal. In Eixample-Gràcia, Can Ros is among a few venues filled between 10 and 11:30 a.m. with customers, most of them with bocadillos in hand. One of our favorites is the tortilla – the Spanish omelet with potatoes – and jamón ibérico bocadillo, which packs a lot of flavor between the slices of baguette and keeps us fortified through our next meeting. On weekday mornings, you might also find a work meeting in progress, with two fellows (or ladies, of course) and some papers or a tablet and a dish of baby squid in wine sauce between them on the table.

Whatever brings you to Can Ros, there are dozens of reasons to stay a while.

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Published on January 16, 2014

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