How not to go hungry if you have diet restrictions while traveling? Julie Sheridan, our guest writer from Barcelona, has The Scoop on where you can have a veggie meal and tequila at the same time. Or just a tequila drink. Her picks are not only for the fine food, but also for ambiance, and oh, did I mention tequila?
By Julie Sheridan
If for whatever reason you have to follow a ‘special’ diet, exploring another country brings a unique set of challenges. Food is after all one of the main draws of foreign travel – all those hours spent salivating over the prospect of crumble-soft croissants, tasty tagliatelle or beet-red borscht. Only to find you can’t eat any of it.
After 20 years as a vegetarian, followed by a diagnosis of Coeliac Disease (forcing me onto a gluten-free diet for life), I know first-hand just how hard it can be to find anything to eat abroad, never mind indulge in local gastronomic specialties. The good news is that if you do a bit of research beforehand, you don’t have to starve. Here are 3 restaurants I head to in Barcelona when I feel the need for some decent yet diet-restricted grub.
1. Heart Burger
Located just along from the central Plaça Universitat, Heart Burger is a bright, clean and cheery restaurant whose focus is on healthy organic options. Ask for the gluten-free menu as soon as you walk in and they’ll hand you a bespoke menu listing all the dishes you can safely eat. The fact that they’ve bothered to prepare a separate menu is a massive thumbs up from me – there’s nothing worse than being handed the normal menu with 99% of dishes scored off.
I opt for the gluten-free veggie burger, while my friends tell me the New York burger (veal topped with emmental cheese, a fried egg, crispy bacon and tomato) is a particularly good choice. All the burgers come with French fries, but you can go extra healthy and opt for salad instead. Each time I’ve eaten there I’ve been so stuffed I couldn’t face dessert, but that’s on offer too – think cheesecake, mousse and strawberry tart.
And best of all? Every burger and bun come in the shape of a heart. Kitsch but cool.
Address: Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes, 602, Barcelona, 08007. Good for: vegetarians and Coeliacs
2. Teresa Carles
A stalwart on the Barcelona veggie scene since the 70s, this family-run restaurant is a gem of a place. It always surprises me how little attention it seems to receive in guide books. Speak to any veggie-oriented local and it’s where they’ll recommend. When my vegetarian sister was in town recently it was the first place I took her for dinner. It’s not particularly cheap, but then again, you get what you pay for.
What I like about it, alongside the fresh ingredients and rustic, laid-back atmosphere, is the fact it’s not your typical down-at-heel type of vegetarian restaurant. You know the ones – where they presume you must be some type of tree-hugger who can’t wait to slum it in a shabby dive. Teresa Carles is in a different league. The décor is stylish, with exposed brick walls and arched spaces that lend the place a warm and inviting atmosphere. Don’t be surprised to hear Catalan locals chatting away to either side of your table.
From the menu, I especially like the fresh fruit juices, with names like ‘the detox’ and ‘the anti-ox’, which manage to make me feel good about myself for half an hour. The homemade soup is always satisfying. As a main course I plump for the ‘paella’, made with lentils and vegetables instead of rice and seafood. It’s hearty and tasty. If you’re on the move, bear in mind that the restaurant does a takeaway menu too – create your own salad from a choice of fresh ingredients and enjoy a picnic in the city.
Address: Carrer Jovellanos 2, Barcelona 08001. Good for: vegetarians and anyone who’s health-conscious
3. La Hacienda
We’re going cheap, cheerful and Mexican for this last one. A Mexican cantina, you say? True, the country’s cuisine isn’t exactly known for its veggie or gluten-free credentials, but this colourful restaurant in the heart of the trendy Born district manages to pull off both.
On scouring the menu you’ll notice that most of the dishes – fajitas, quesadillas, burritos – come with flour tortillas (made with ‘harina’). In fact, only the enchiladas come with cornflour ones. But just mention to the staff that you’re gluten-free and they will happily substitute wheat tortillas for corn ones. Sizzling fajitas – sorted.
The photo is from Heart Burger.If you’re veggie, you’re also in luck. Whether you fancy tacos, nachos, quesadillas or burritos, point out to the staff that you want them ‘sin carne’ and they will quickly oblige. Bringing us onto the real highlight of the menu – the tequila. The classic margarita never disappoints, while the frozen coconut-flavoured margarita is worth the visit alone. ¡Qué aproveche!
Address: Carrer del Rec 69, Barcelona 08003. ,, Good for: Coeliacs and vegetarians, as well as lovers of tequila
Let The Spain Scoop know of any other veggie restaurants in Spain.
Related Spain Scoop: There is more food news for Barcelona.
Julie Sheridan made the move to Barcelona from her native Scotland in Spring 2011, after 10 years living under Scotch mist in Edinburgh. Out of an innate love of making things difficult for herself she deliberately chose a part of Spain where she knew no-one and couldn’t speak the local language. Her blog focuses on the social and cultural differences between Scotland and Spain, Caledonia and Catalonia. http://www.guirigirlinbarca.com . is Julie’s site.