Pallea, hot steaming mussels, creative tapas, and spicy sausage sandwiches are just a few of the delectable dishes in Valencia. Zach Frolich, our guest writer and expert in Valencia, has his in-laws to take him to the lesser known restaurants most of us don’t know about. I can’t wait to go back to Valencia and stuff my face.
By Zach Frolich
Valencia offers foodies great restaurants. Here are five of my favorites, a tasty sampling of diverse foods.
Gourmands, when they think of Valencia, think of paella on the beach. And there’s no point in fighting it. This is a way hang on the beach and try paella, and certainly some of the best arrocerías (rice restaurants)in Valencia are located on the southern part of La Malvarrosa city beach. While many people try La Pepica (because of Hemingway’s famous joint) or La Marcelina next door, walk up the block to L’Estimat. This is where my Valencian family takes me when we eat in this area. It is a notch above in preparing succulent paella valenciana or paella de marisco. It also makes a rich fideuà, another classic regional dish which is made with pasta instead of rice.
If you tire of paella, try fideuà, a pasta dish from Gandia which you can find at most Valencian arrocerías.
2. Restaurante Navarro
Not mentioned in many of the travel guides, this family restaurant is known by the locals. Their pitch is simple: “Mediterranean cuisine in the center of Valencia.” Located two blocks west of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, it’s a popular spot in which to try all the classic Valencian dishes, including paella. Take a break here when you’re wandering through the city center’s tourist sights. The rice dishes meet my in-laws’ very high standards, and their other dishes, from salads to meats, are also superb. Their secret: fine quality ingredients and more than 50 years of experience.
3. La Pilareta
This boisterous, classic dining spot is in the heart of El Carmen, just off the vibrant square Plaça del Tossal. Succulent mussels are their specialty. Bar Pilar has been clattering mussels on platters to loyal customers since the early 20th century. Try the spicy “habas” beans, very Valencian and very tasty. The waiters will sing out your order to the kitchen, in keeping with the tradition of old tapas bars. Lined up along the bar you’ll see a row of boxes. Back in the day, people would simply chuck their mussel shells onto the floor. It all adds to the rowdy, fun atmosphere of La Pilareta.
4. Baldo - Located on a shopping pedestrian area just south of the Plaza de Ayuntamiento, this cervecería is a perfect stop during Fallas, and a choice place for sitting outside and people-watching in the evenings at any time of the year. Everything on their menu is excellent. Their tasty signature sandwich (bocadillo) is, you guessed it, “El Baldo,” which is spicey “blanc i negre,” white and black sausage combo with haba beans. Trust me, it’s delicious!
5. El Peix Daurat
Valencia isn’t famous for its tapas, but like any Spanish city you can discover top of the line tapas. Many of the best are in or near the El Carmen neighborhood in the “casco antiguo”. I recently discovered El Peix Daurat, which serves creative twists on traditional tapas recipes from all over Spain, all with moderate prices. Located around the corner from Las Torres de Quart, it is a supberb place to stop after a visit to Valencia’s Modern Art Museum, el IVAM, or the Jardín Botánico.
So as you can see, Valencia offers many wonderful options for dining out. Bon profit.
Extra Scoop on the area: Explore more of the eastern side of Mediterranean Spain. Of course Zach’s Valencia is on the Med, and getting there is an easy AVE ride from Madrid or Barcelona. Getting to Alicante, another popular destination south of Valencia can be reached by plane, train, or bus.
Related Spain Scoop: More on Valencia including beaches and Las Fallas, one of the wildest festivals in Spain.
Zach Frohlich, originally from Austin, Texas, has been traveling between Spain and the U.S. for over a decade, and settled and is living in Valencia for the last couple of years. He is a historian by training and married to a Spaniard. He shares cultural insights and background on Spain at: http://www.thespainscoop.com/category/barcelona-spain/