Top 10 Pintxo Bars in San Sebastian + How to Eat Like a Local

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"If you love it so much, why don't you just MARRY IT?" Well, since we can't realistically marry pintxos; we did the next best thing: We got married in the land of pintxos! ❤

Photo Cred: by the amazing Augie Chang
If that's not an expression of love, I don't know what is.

In the last 5 years, we've been to San Sebastian 3 times and with each visit, we've been slowly perfecting the art of the pintxos crawl and really learning how the locals do it. So before I get into my list of Top 10 Pintxo Bars, there are some baseline Pintxos Pro Tips I have to share with you. There's no wrong way to pintxo, but there's definitely a recommended way.

How to Pintxos Crawl like a Local

  1. Pintxos, Pintxos, Pass: The Basque tradition of a 'Poteo' (Pintxos Pub Crawl) is to visit various bars in the span of a few hours, enjoy a glass of wine, zurito (small beer) or txakoli (regional sparkling dry white wine) and order a few pintxos, relax and enjoy, then move onto the next bar. Don't fill yourself up at one bar, save room so you can eat at multiple bars!
  2. Cold Pintxos vs Hot Pintxos: You’ll see tons of pintxos on display on the counter of every bar. You will be tempted to grab one of each on your plate. RESIST! We’ve found that our favorite pintxos are always the ones we order off the menu. When you order a pintxo from the menu, it is made to order in their kitchen vs a pintxo that’s been sitting out prepared hours before. The cost is usually the same between the two!
  3. Specialty Pintxos: In the list below, I'm going to be naming some Pintxos Bars and what to order there. Sure, you can order other things on the menu, but just know that locals usually only order the 1-2 things that a particular bar is known for, and then move on to the next bar to eat the best thing there. 
  4. Opening hours: this one might seem obvious, but not all Pintxo Bars are open all the time, pay attention to which days they're closed, and their operating hours. Many pintxos bars will usually take Monday or Tuesday off.
Alright, now that you know how to eat pintxos like a local, here's my list of Top 10 Pintxos Bars, and what you should eat there:


1. BAR TXEPETXA

Speciality: Anchovies; May/June is anchovy season, it is SO fresh and unlike what you get in the states
Fave topping: "Foie Y Compota Manzana"; foie gras on to bottom topped with an apple compote, we ate this at least 5x.
Hours: Wed-Sun 12–3pm, 7–11pm (Closed Monday, Tuesday only 7–11pm)
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2. GOIZ ARGI

Speciality: “Brocheta de Gambas” (Mediterranean prawns); grilled fresh to order with an awesome tangy sauce on top - you can try to order this at other pintxos bars, but trust me when I say this is the bar that locals go to for this particular pintxo
Other Faves: Pulpo a la plancha (grilled octopus), bacon wrapped chorizo, crab txangurro
Hours: 9:30am-3:30pm, 6:30pm-11:30pm (Closed Tuesday)
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3. LA VIÑA

Speciality: Their cheesecake is life! The creamiest you'll ever taste. So amazing, we had this as our wedding cake!!
Other Faves: Tortilla de Patatas (an potato + egg quiche) I believe they only make 1 a day, so get here right at 10:30am when they open to get the freshest slice!
Hours: 10:30am-5pm, 6:30pm-12am (Closed Monday)
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4. GANDARIAS JATETXEA

This is another favorite of locals and tourists alike. The food here is much more traditional (versus A Fuego Negro and Bar Zeruko listed below for example).

We love this spot for all their food ordered off the menu (Remember, resist from eating the off the counter pintxos!).

Favorite Pintxos:
- Seared foie gras, the best in San Sebastian for a few euros!
- Solomillo (seared sirlion)
- Spider Crab, the roe of the crab mixed with crab and breadcrumbs, baked fresh to order. It has to be ordered from their larger regular menu (should cost a little more than 10€).
- T-Bone Steak, this is a sit down meal. Best steak everrrrr - We got a half kg steak for 20€! Book the restaurant in advance.
Hours: 11am-midnight (Open Daily)
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5. ATARI GASTROTEKA


This is the one bar that you can keep coming back to over and over again. I'd save this for a bigger meal or a place for a night cap. I love Atari for their amazing Gin & Tonics (they have a huge gin collection that they pair with different aromatics like dried strawberries & juniper berries), Black Vermouth (ended up falling in love with this - must try!) and of course, their food!


By far, my favorite pintxos spot, we even took a break during our portrait session to eat here!! lol. If the weather is good, try to book a table outside and enjoy the people watching.

Favorite Pintxos:
- Foie gras with white chocolate **yaaasss**
- Any Pintxos of the Day (ordered from the menu!)
Bonito, peppers, anchovies & olives plate

Favorite Portions (larger dishes):
- Pulpo with a red mayo* (everyone who tries this becomes obsessed with it, the most perfectly cooked octopus you'll ever have)
- Squid cooked in black squid ink

Hours: 11am-past midnight (Open Daily)
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6. GANBARA

Speciality: Known for their mushrooms w/ foie gras & egg yolk dish (pricey but worth it!). Find 'percebes' (barnacles) here too!. Anthony Bourdain eats here in his most recent episode of Parts Unknown and says it's the first place he hits up.

Hours: Tues-Sat 12:30pm-3:30pm, 8pm-11:30pm (Closed Monday, Sunday only 12:30pm-3:30pm)
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7. BAR NESTOR


Speciality: Bar Nestor is well known for serving only 4 things on their menu: steak, the best tomato salad ever, grilled peppers, a tortilla de patatas (potato omelet) that they make only 2 times a day at 12pm and 8pm. Each omelet only serves 12 servings, so you have to try to get there at least 15 minutes in advance to put your name down on the list to get a slice.

Bar Nestor is a prime example of simple basque cooking - the ingredients are simple, but the technique is perfected over the years. Simply delicious.

Hours: 12:30pm-3:30pm, 7:30pm-11pm (Closed Monday, Tuesday only 7:30pm-11pm)
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8. A FUEGO NEGRO

This was one of our favorite restaurants the first time we went to San Sebastian, most recently we loved their razor clam dish and their variety of Basque beers on tap. This joint is owned by a trio of young restaurateurs who have worked in some of the best kitchens in town. Check out their take on modern pintxos!
Hours: Tues-Fri 6:00pm–12:00am, Sat&Sun 11:30am-1:00am (Closed Monday)
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9. BAR ZERUKO

Specializes on modern pintxos. Their smokey cod really good, must order! It comes with the cod smoking on top of a grill, very memorable presentation.

Personally, I thought the pintxos on their counter looked cool, but the taste was "meh". Realized I really do enjoy the classic stuff more! Go right when it opens since it gets packed.
Hours: 12:30-4pm, 7:30pm - 12:00am (Closed Monday)
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10. CUCHARA DE SAN TELMO

Cuchara de San Telmo can get quite packed, but it's a pintxos bar where everything is made to order! That's definitely something I can get behind. I recommend coming for lunch rather than dinner if you're not down for the crowds.

Try: razor clams with burrata (what?!!?) scallops, beef cheek, duck ravoli, pork feet
Hours: 12:30pm-3:30pm, 7:30pm-11pm (Closed Monday, Tuesday only 7:30pm-11pm)
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Have you been to San Sebastian and have other favorites you think I should check out? Let me know in the comments below!

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