Review of Restaurant 7 Portes

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When my parents came to visit me in Barcelona I wanted to take them to a really nice restaurant. My Spanish professor at the time was a local and I had asked him where I could get his favorite paella in the city.

7 Portes,” he told me.

I made a reservation online and it was an easy process. I got an email verifying my time, and even when I had to change the time, it was easy to do and they were flexible. It was easy to find down by the port, just a short walk away from Barceloneta off the yellow line (Passeig Isabel II). Knowing the sea was just behind the restaurant gave the impression the fish was going to be fresh.

The service was outstanding. It was almost too much, having the waiter always by your side and having them serve the food to you. We ordered the “Rich Man’s” paella, claiming to be “invented especially for the wealthy but lazy gourmet.” The paella dish came out and was placed on what looked similar to a pizza tray.

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Instead of grabbing a spoon and scooping a pile on your plate, the waiter asks for your plate and serves you over the paella. Then, you wait until everyone has been served. Although it was fancier than I’m used to, with the waiters and hostesses wearing white coats and ties, referring to everyone as sir or ma’am, the atmosphere was still friendly and approachable. Etiquette did not have to be completely proper, though it would be nice to have some knowledge.

We almost devoured the entire thing!

We almost devoured the entire thing!

The paella we ordered was also outstanding. The rice was hearty and filled with a wide assortment of meats and shellfish. But what made the “Rich Man’s” version so glamorous was that the shellfish were already de-shelled.

You could just dig right in.

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A really neat touch was seeing how history was a part of the restaurant. It’s been around since 1853, and with your receipt, they add a note about what famous person was known to have dined at your table. My parents and I were sitting at the table of surrealist artist Joan Miró.

7 Portes Interior

7 Portes Interior

Dining at 7 Portes shouldn’t be something done every night of the week, being expensive, but it makes a great place for special occasions and good memories.

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My Search for Bagels in BCN

Each morning, by 7, there would be a line out the door of the bakery across the street. Forn de Pan. People would be rubbing their eyes and skimming La Vanguardia for whatever scandal the king was getting into. The customers would walk out with bags of baguettes or pastries for breakfast. Bars would turn their lights back on around the same time. The usuals would pop on in and order an espresso and talk about how they slept, over a plate of eggs and red sausage and baked beans.

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That seemed to be the only option for breakfast throughout Barcelona. Really sweet. Like a dessert. Or really salty. Like a dinner. There didn’t seem to be an inbetween.

My morning routine palate started to miss the treat of those bagels my mom would drive an hour away to buy. Where they had lines as long as those for the croissants across the street. Where were the bagels in Barcelona? Any small bakery I came across, I stopped in and browsed. I’d take my time and hold up whatever line there was. I’d walk out with a chocolate croissant.

Even my boyfriend who was abroad with me was searching around. He lived on the other side of the city. His own grocery store. His own local bakery with a line out the door. Even the bars that opened for breakfast didn’t have anything on the menu.

Our search couldn’t stop. Each and every day we continued the search, leaving early for class and wandering around finding new shops to explore.

UAB Sant Pau Campus Interior at Guinardó metro stop

UAB Sant Pau Campus Interior at Guinardó metro stop

Our satellite campuses were on the yellow line. One was at Guinardó. There was a mini mart with avocados and other fresh vegetables and fruits in plastic crates. The back had a wall of prepackaged bread like Pepperidge Farm, Sara Lee or Wonder Bread. But no bagels in a plastic sleeve.

Further down the yellow line, off of Girona, there was a café next door to our other campus. All the other students went there for coffee and crowded the shop because of its convenience. There was a large island in the middle of the café with baskets spread around filled with assorted baked goods. But only pastries and loafs of hard crusted breads that could beat like a weapon. We left with a coffee and walked back to the metro stop, heading home in defeat.

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We soon found advertisements of Dunkin Donuts. Or Dunkin Coffee as it’s known there. The ad had a large cup of coffee with the logo and a bagel, stuffed tight with cream cheese, right on a poster down in the subway. Conveniently placed, there was a Dunkin Coffee at the Universitat cross over from the red to purple line underground. We eyed up the stand. The shelves were covered in donuts. We asked for bagels. We explained we saw an advertisement. Dunkin Donuts was a staple of my bagel diet back home in the United States. But I should remember, this was Dunkin Coffee. And Dunkin Coffee does not carry bagels. Great advertising. We got on the yellow line and made our way to the Girona campus.

Every day the teenage students that went to school nearby would stand outside in a large pack and skateboard around and share their lunches of chorizo baguette sandwiches wrapped in tin foil. One particular group was crowding just at the foot of the metro entrance in the way of the escalator.

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I could see a girl head inside the store that they were also crowding around on their lunch break. She came back out with a coffee and a baguette. We never noticed the bakery, every day on our way to class. The sign up top in yellow capital letters read FORN DE PA PASTISSERIA. We put out hands up to the glass to cover the glare and looked in like children at Christmas eyeing toys.

Baskets were filled with assorted breads, just like the café down the street by class. But there, in a basket filled to the top, were the holey rolls that we craved to put in a toaster and brown to the point of being a crouton. We opened the door fast almost hitting one of the teenagers crowded around. A little woman behind the counter poked her head out and asked what we wanted. We pointed to the basket of bagels. We said we wanted them all. She went over to basket and again asked how many. We looked her straight in the eyes. All of them. Every one.

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            We ignored the fact we had class, already late, and prepared to eat bagels. We took the metro back to my apartment. Went upstairs and cut the first one in half and placed it in the oven to toast. It came out brown and sounded crusty, ready to break. I got out a butter knife. And realized we had no cream cheese.

Souvenirs to Bring Back Home from Barcelona

Catalan Cava

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Similar to French Champagne, but generally cheaper, the most well known brands of Cava are Freixenet and Codorniu. From Barcelona, there are a variety of wine and cava day tours you can choose from online if that is that type of thing that interests you.

Barça Gear

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Jerseys, socks, shorts, hats, bags. You name it, you can buy it with the FC Barcelona logo on it. Barça gear makes the perfect gift for the soccer fan, or just general sports fan in your life. If you’re not really into wearing sports paraphernalia, like me, you can always try to score tickets to the big game and keep your tickets as a memento. If that’s not enough, check out the FC Barcelona Museum located next to Camp Nou.

Unique Holiday Paraphernalia

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The elfish looking thing pictured above is the Caga Tío (Cacka-tee-oh), translates to “poo log” and I guess can be considered the Catalan equivalent to Santa Claus. The idea behind the Caga Tío is kind of long and complicated, so to make it short the log is kept by the children of the household throughout December. They hit it with a stick and sing to it so that it will defecate Christmas presents. Sounds fun, right?

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The Queen on her throne, if you will, is another holiday tradition referred to as caganer (as if one poop reference wasn’t enough for one holiday). These porcelain poopers come in many forms, from the more traditional peasant to the Queen of England or Obama. They place these somewhere in the nativity scene for the children to find (maybe pooping in the manger?). It’s seen, though, as a sign of good luck rather than of disrespect to any certain religion.

Camper Brand Shoes

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Camper shoes are pretty cool. I had never heard of them or seen them until visiting Barcelona and, in fact, I’m not really sure if they’re considered cool in Barcelona. What I do know is that, whether they’re considered cool or not, they must be pretty comfortable or something because they are literally everywhere in the city. And even though I only have women’s shoes pictured they make shoes for men too!

Porró

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Porrons are glass wine pitchers that, to me at least, kind of look like a mix between an Erlenmeyer flask and a watering can. I don’t know too much about their anatomy except that the top can be sealed with some type of cork and the spout is tapered so that the wine will have minimal contact with the outside air. The goal is to get the wine in your mouth and not all over your face like the guy pictured, but whatever works.

Books and Roses

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If you happen to be in Barcelona on April 23rd, you’ll be lucky enough to experience La Diada de Sant Jordi (St George’s Day). It’s celebrated similarly to how we might celebrate Valentine’s Day in the U.S. Thousands of stands line Las Ramblas as well as other streets selling books and roses. Historically men gave women roses and women gave men books, but a mutual exchange of books or roses is also common.

WARNING: Don’t Buy The Sombreros!

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If you visit Barcelona, the chances are that you will walk down the famous Ramblas as least once. Not only is this crowded webbing of streets creeping with pickpockets, but it’s also lined with vendors that sell some really weird or just generally crappy stuff. Most of them sell things like Gaudí magnets, which is fine if you’re, say, a magnet collector, but the most annoying thing that they sell on Las Ramblas are the SOMBREROS. Like think about it. Not only are sombreros not Catalan, they’re not Spanish either. They’re a Mexican hat and Barcelona isn’t anywhere near Mexico. So, don’t be the fool walking down Las Ramblas in a sombrero.

So let me know…What do you think are the best souvenirs/gifts from Barcelona?

Review/Comparison of 100 Montaditos: Arlington, VA

Cerveceria 100 Montaditos: Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona

Cerveceria 100 Montaditos: Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona


One of my favorite places to grab a quick bite, during my time in Barcelona, was Cerveceria 100 Montaditos: a chain of small taverns specializing in miniature baguette sandwiches and cheap drinks.  I just recently moved to the DC area and when I discovered that one of these restaurants existed a mere metro ride away, in Arlington, VA, I had to check it out.


100 Montaditos, Arlington, Virginia

100 Montaditos, Arlington, Virginia

There it was in all its glory. I’ll admit that I felt pretty nostalgic when I finally found 100 Montaditos in Arlington. Memories of watching the Barça games while ordering strange sandwiches and 2 Euro drinks with new friends all came back to me. The Arlington location looked a bit more modern from the outside than what I was used to in Barcelona and even the location I had visited in Madrid, but a sign advertised a 4:00 happy hour. I was right on time!


100 Montaditos, Arlington

100 Montaditos, Arlington

100 Montaditos, Arlington. Service Counter

100 Montaditos, Arlington. Service Counter

Wow. It was empty. In BCN, I’d usually end up standing against a bar counter or somewhere in the corner, especially during happy hour or during a Barça game. Either way, I chose my seat and looked around. The interior was almost identical to its European locations. Though, the Arlington location seemed to advertise itself as more of a sports bar, the interior aesthetic still didn’t disappoint!


Arlington Menu

Arlington Menu

Barcelona Order Sheet

Barcelona Order Sheet

I was a little bit relieved to see a menu entirely in English. (See the full American menu HERE) In Barcelona, the menus at 100 Montaditos are entirely in Catalan, which is to be expected. (See the Spanish menu HERE) In fact, that was half the fun of going to 100 Montaditos abroad. Most of the time, from my Spanish language background, I would understand that a sandwich would come with brie, arugula, and tomatoes, but I wouldn’t know the last ingredient. I would order it anyway. SURPRISE — anchovies! Another interesting thing about the Arlington menu is that it was a bit more Americanized. For example, there was a Philly cheesesteak section as well as a BBQ section, both things you wouldn’t find on the BCN menu.


100 Montaditos, Barcelona. Beer & Vino Tinto

100 Montaditos, Barcelona. Beer & Vino Tinto

100 Montaditos, Arlington. Estrella Damm Beer

100 Montaditos, Arlington. Estrella Damm Beer

Finally, it was time to order. We filled out our order sheets and got 2 beers, patatas bravas, and four sandwiches. I decided to get one more “Spanish” sandwich and then one more “American” sandwich to compare. I was really surprised and happy to discover that they actually served beer from Barcelona at the bar! One of my favorites: Estrella Damm… I even wanted to keep the mug, but I resisted. It wasn’t the same cheap beer typically served at 100 Montaditos in Europe, but I wasn’t disappointed.


100 Montaditos, Arlington. "Patatas Bravas"

100 Montaditos, Arlington. “Patatas Bravas”

The patatas bravas that we ordered were more like heavily fried potato wedges with a spicy ketchup sauce. That’s not to say that they weren’t absolutely delicious, but they weren’t what I was imagining when the menu said “patatas bravas.” I guess I’m used to the type with aioli, but I suppose they can be served with just a tomato sauce too (at least according to wikipedia). Either way, we finished them all, so I guess that’s saying something.

100 Montaditos, Arlington.

100 Montaditos, Arlington.

From top left to right we ordered the following montaditos: tortilla española with aioli, philly steak with brie and arugula, hot dog with ketchup and mustard, and tortilla española with chorizo. The first two were mine and they were both delicious. When they brought the plate to our table, I was happy to see that they gave us chips because that was something that I liked in Barcelona, the chips. One thing, though, that I noticed was different was that they did bring the plates to us. In BCN, I was used to anxiously awaiting my name being called from the service counter. It was one of those annoying things that also made the experience kind of fun.

All in all, I will definitely be returning to 100 Montaditos in Arlington, Virginia. It amazed me how similar to the Barcelona 100 Montaditos it really was and I can consider it a small piece of Barcelona that I can have with me here in the US.


The Definitive Ranking of Barcelona’s Grocery Stores

7. Dia

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Dia kind of reminds me of a gas station convenience store in that it’s fine to grab a candy bar and a beer there, but you probably want to head to a bigger market for your eggs, milk, cheese, etc. Undoubtedly the cheapest on the list, you get what you pay for with Dia.

6. Carrefour

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I don’t know what I have against Carrefour. Coming from the US, you’d think I’d love it since it’s practically a Super Walmart, but I don’t know it just doesn’t seem to fit.

5. Suma 

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Some might argue that Suma and Carrefour should be switched on this list, but I have  developed a soft spot for Suma given that I lived above one for 6 months. Similar to 7/11 in the US, I spent many nights grabbing a bag of these bad boys on my way back from night class from my friendly Suma cashier:

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4. Mercadona

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I went to school near a Mercadona and as obnoxious as it was to lug my groceries on the metro, I loved this place because it had like a giant conveyor belt that transported you between floors and it played this crazy jingle on repeat:

3. Bonpreu

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Something always seemed so fancy about Bonpreu… like even the name. It was just like a really bougie Mercadona. Each Bonpreu has two separate entrances: one for regular shopping and one for their fancy bakery. They even have a gluten free section, so I guess this place is comparable to a Wegmans and I like Wegmans.

2. El Corte Inglés

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So what you’re looking at is a department store with I think 7 stories. Pretty much every floor sells something different and in the basement is an amazing grocery store. It’s pretty pricey, but it also has an international foods section, pretty upscale meats and cheeses, and other impressive options.

1. Mercat de La Boqueria

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It would probably be a crime not to put this at #1. Although it’s closed on sundays, this huge public market off of Las Ramblas has an extremely diverse selection of fresh foods that you will have trouble finding elsewhere. I had my first experience with dragon fruit here!

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Montaditos

I happened to live close to the center of the city. Right outside Plaça Catalunya. There were all kinds of shopping options at that main hub. They were all really fancy and expensive and I rarely bought anything. There were also plenty of places to eat. Candy stores and themed restaurants and bars dedicated to ham or tapas. My favorite were the patatas bravas. A heaping pile of potato squares or wedges covered in a spicy mayo sauce. They always came out with tiny plastic forks, about the size of sample spoons at ice cream shops. You could always take your food and eat out in the streets. There would be tents, covered if it rained, and large heaters stood like guards set up in the corners of the tent. 

                  I would always stop at this one little shop on Rambla de Catalunya. It was a franchise that sold a variety of little sandwiches. Actually, they sold 100 different variations of these little sandwiches. There’s apparently one of these 100 Montaditos in the DC area.

                  While in Barcelona, and you would eat outside on the street, gypsies and beggars would often pass you by. There’s a high unemployment rate in Spain. There would be a homeless person on about every block when you walked on the street. They held out a can and shook it but usually sat in silence. They might have a sign that explained their situation. But they were more in your face on the metro, or when you were eating.

                  They were all so tan sitting in the sun all day. They looked blistered and sick, and it felt like I was recognized each day on my way to class. It felt like I was the only one they looked at.

                  “Why aren’t you helping me?” I felt bad.

                  One girl in particular I still always think about. She was young. She didn’t even look 18. She was small and close to the ground. She had an old wireless piano that had a faded sound and she crouched on the ground, hunched over to press the buttons and sing along. Her voice was out of key and she yelled rather than searching for a tune. You’d walk by and she would sing to you. Angry and scared.

                  Alongside her every day was her dog. He was skinny like the girl and slept next to her. He never barked. He was only ever cuddled up against the sidewalk, trying to find some shade. They were always outside 100 Montaditos. She must still be there today.

                  She had a fanny pack and would walk her dog up and down Rambla de Catalunya. She looked so alone. She was too young.

                  Everyone that passed would try and avoid her, walking around her piano. Before I left for the US, I stopped to give her my change after getting lunch. She stopped playing her piano for a moment. The dog looked up from his sleep. She didn’t look at me. Only counted the money and ran inside the sandwich shop to see what she could buy:


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On the concrete, the gypsy girl’s dog panted, cooking in the Barça street heat, asleep beside an empty bowl. Her feet calloused when she danced in the eating tents. She sang in tongues and I checked for my wallet. They muffled my order over the speakers. After checking my ticket I was handed my sandwiches inside at the counter and settled back in my seat with a beer to cool off. The gypsy now blanketed her dog. He panted dryer. Her skin glazed sweat, the sun kiln-hot. She sat up. The dog crawled toward her lap. She smoothed its hair in the wrong direction. My beer foamed out its head when she stood again for another bout of dancing and singing. She took a chair from my table and slapped its wired back to drum. Others around were talking about her. I looked at her white eyes looking back. She was as small as my children with those hands. She kept clashing the chair back and chanting until I stood up with my tray. I finished my beer. Her mouth opened as if to bite but instead her dog barked at the passing man brave enough to leave her a bag of sandwiches. She tore past tin foil. She backed against the sidewalk wall and threw her dog a slice of meat. He ate it raw and licked the ground where it had laid.