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Editor’s note: In the latest installment of our recurring First Stop feature, we asked writer Marti Buckley about some of her favorite spots in San Sebastian.

Marti is the award-winning author of Basque Country (Artisan, 2018) and The Book of Pintxos (Artisan 2024). She is an experienced speaker, chef and journalist with an expertise in Spanish and Basque cuisine, vermouth, wine and European travel. She has lived in San Sebastián, Spain since 2010 and has been writing for nearly two decades. You can follow Marti on her blog and Instagram.

For a food with just three ingredients, the Spanish omelet – tortilla española – is pretty near perfection when done right. My favorite is in San Sebastián is Bar Antonio. Seen from the street, Antonio Bar doesn’t exactly draw you in. It’s got nondescript modern signage, and the bar itself is so small, you could easily miss it. Owners Ramón Elizalde and Humberto Segura are two friends that met while working at the nearby Hotel Europa, drawn together by a similar work ethic and belief in the value of good customer service. Antonio, the bar’s namesake, and then owners Ramón and Humberto have spent year after year since 1969 making many tiny improvements, resulting in one of San Sebastián’s best pintxo bars. I love it because it has a little bit of everything a pintxo bar should – tortilla, cold pintxos, inventive new pintxos, seasonal produce, and even a good vermouth. Antonio Bar is boisterous. It is most definitely a neighborhood bar, as evinced by its schedule, with opening hours from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Locals pop in for their morning coffee, or for hamaiketako, which is what we call the mid-morning snack here in Basque Country.

The tortilla at Bar Antonio is traditional, per se…nothing but potatoes, onions, and eggs, seasoned with salt and cooked in olive oil. But this version is somewhat maximalist. They allow the potatoes and onions to sit, bubbling, in the olive oil, until they are a uniform golden brown, something that not every bar does, as it takes a bit more time and care. But the flavor is heavenly. Then, they use about twice the amount of eggs a normal tortilla contains – 28, in total. The result is a tantalizingly thick tortilla, with a uniformly soft, nearly-runny-but-not-quite texture. It is true tortilla perfection.

Some of the traditional pintxos remain on the menu, such as the cured anchovy toast, which, despite its simplicity, is a real show. The toasts, prepared a la minute from various items set out in casserole dishes on the counter, are also a popular highlight. They have salmon, cecina (cured beef), and boquerones, but my favorite is the salt-cured anchovy. In it, a tiny piece of bread is toasted to order, then wrap the anchovy with a roasted sweet green pepper and a tiny piece of spicy green guindilla from the Rioja. The salt-cured anchovies have been made by the same fisherman since the bar opened, and even though he is retired he still provides the bar with their anchovies.

New classics have been born too, such as langoustine ravioli and a fried brick pasta stuffed with oxtail, the bar’s most popular hot pintxos. Bar Antonio also serves great carpaccios and in-season seared mushrooms with sunny egg yolk and sea salt.

The service at Bar Antonio is so great…almost Cheers-like.  And it won’t take many visits for the staff to remember not just your name but also how many spicy peppers you like on your anchovy toast.

Editor’s Note: Bar Antonio is just one of the fantastic stops on our new walk, The Real Basque Way: San Sebastian, Beyond the Stars.

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