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The linguistic variations in Spain’s 17 autonomous communities are as diverse as the local culinary specialties. In Barcelona, we can find examples of both. Take La Esquinica (“The Little Corner”), an iconic tapas bar with a fantastic terrace in Nou Barris, a neighborhood with a large immigrant population. Here, many of the tapas’ names (as well as the name of the bar itself) end in -ica or -ico, a traditional suffix used in the Teruel province of the Aragon region that functions as a diminutive and has become emblematic of the area.

Jose María Utrillas, who hails from Aragon, established the bar in 1972, on the corner of Montsant and Cadí, although his brother-in-law Paco managed the placed. But in 1997, after their building was plagued with structural issues, they moved the bar to its current location. The house was different, but the spirit remained the same: great tapas, good prices, personable waiters and a familiar neighborhood feeling.

La Esquinica is no longer on a corner, nor is it “little” by any measure. The spacious interior is decorated with traditional objects from Aragon and features an open kitchen; the large street terrace is dotted with umbrellas. The menu is long, with more than 30 tapas plus some seasonal or daily specials ranging from oysters to green asparagus. And even with all that indoor and outdoor space, it was still possible for lines to form on the weekends, at least in pre-pandemic times. Now, with the Covid-19 safety protocols, their terrace is especially popular and there are fewer tables inside, so we recommend a reservation.

Their specialties cover the spectrum of Spanish classics, from Galician-style octopus to Andalucian chipirones (fried baby squid) and Cantabrian anchovies. Of course, there are several Aragones specialties like the celebrated Teruel cured ham, longaniza (chorizo) and morcilla (blood sausage). Some of our favorites are the more Mediterranean tapas, like chirlas or rosillonas (small saltwater clams) and tallarinas (also known as coquinas clams).

The tapas are cured, fried – like the boquerones (fresh anchovies) or the Padrón peppers – or, more commonly, grilled with a classic touch of parsley and garlic, like the mushrooms, the cuttlefish, the razor clams and the morcilla. Only a few require more elaborate preparations, like the callos (tripe stew), the potato omelet, the bombas and croquettes.

But they are famous in all of Barcelona for their patatas bravas. Before the pandemic, they were preparing around 1,000 kg of potatoes per week, cut in squares, fried and served with an allioli (aioli) and a combination of sweet and spicy paprika. No secrets, just quality.

La Esquinica is the perfect place to celebrate la vidica (life) with a big cervecica (beer) and many tapicas on the table to share with your amiguicos (friends) – it’s the dining experience we’re most looking forward to, once we can crowd around tables again.

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