How to order pintxos

If you suddenly find yourself in the north of Spain and enter Basque territory unprepared, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find the process of ordering pintxos intimidating. To ease your stress, the Notes on a Meal crew has sacrificed it’s pride and consumed many tasty morsels  in order to compile this list of tips and tricks for pintxo success:

  • Walk around the block a little before settling down on your first place. As a general rule of thumb, the place that is overfilled with locals (ie. they’re standing in the street with their glasses) is usually that way for a reason. Head in and check the food out, see if it’s to your liking. Remember that most people prefer to stand and the interior gets fairly crowded.
  • Once inside, head straight to the bar as it is the only place you’ll get service. If it’s crowded, find an empty spot or one that allows you to be as close to the counter as possible.
  • Order your beverage of choice first in order to buy yourself more counter time to check out both the menus or the counter offerings. The most common drinks are:
    -”cana” (cahn-yah): a pint of beer while a “zurito” (shoo-ree-toe) is a quarter of a pint
    -”txakoli” (cha-ko-lee): a very young white wine
    -”sidra” (see-dra): a Basque cider that is heavily aerated when poured and has a very pungent aroma
    -”beltz” (belch): the Basque word for red wine but the Spanish “tinto” will also get the point across
  • After receiving your beverages, point to the pintxo of your liking and the bartender will pass it/them to you on a plate. Order all you want from that location at once. If the bar is very busy,  make room for others to order. Grab your plate and drinks, pay and relocate either outside or anywhere away from the counter.
  • If you’re lucky enough to score a space at the bar, don’t pick up the plate with your pintxo and eat with it suspended in the air. It is customary to pick up the piece of bread with a napkin (found in dispensers around the bar) and eat it away from the bar top. Once you finish eating, crumple the napkin and drop it to the floor. The only time you’re allowed to eat with a knife and fork is when the food item cannot be picked up with your fingers (generally the hot items)
  • After you’ve eaten and finished your drink, pay if you haven’t and move on.
  • If you’re not adventurous or confident in your own culinary instinct, do some research as to the best pintxo of each bar you plan on visiting. Each restaurant has a specialty and it isn’t always displayed on the counter.
  • Expect each cold pintxo to cost between 1 and 3 euros while the hot side can go up to 5 euros for a slightly large portion

Hot pintxos

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