After our road trip through St Emilion & Biarritz, France we dropped our rental car off in Biarritz. (it is WAY more expensive to rent a car if you drop it off in another country) And hopped on a bus to San Sebastian. The bus was extremely easy, and had a gorgeous view as you'd drive along the coastline of Basque country.
While we were in Biarritz, someone mentioned to us that we would be getting to San Sebastian on Thursday night, aka - Pintxos Pote! Naturally I was excited... but also confused.
What is Pintxo Pote??
First, lets start with a Pintxo. While most people think of Tapas for Spanish traditional cuisine, in the Basque region of Northern Spain, Pintxos (pronounced peen-chos) are their claim to fame.
Pintxos were traditionally a slice of baguette bread stacked with any type of food. To hold it in place, a cocktail stick or 'pintxo' was used. And Pote refers to a drink.
So Pintxos Pote = A bit of food & drink
On certain nights in San Sebastian some restaurants will partake in this Pintxo Pote which means you can get a Pintxo & a drink for a certain (very cheap) price. (As cheap as 1 euro, or as expensive as 5 euros).
On these nights, the streets will be filled with hungry & happy San Sebastians (and tourists) enjoying the beautiful weather and delicious food.
On a non-pintxo pote night (every other night of the week) there will still be plenty of pintxos out at the bars. But there may not be this 2-for-1 deal.
The pintxos will usually be lined up all along the bar. Sometimes you'll see on a menu written above the bar for hot pintxos, and those you must order.
Some pintxos may cost more than others (2euros vs 4 euros), and sometimes there is no way of knowing which is which!
Typically you take a small plate, place whichever pintxos looks interesting on your plate, order a drink and pay. (some bars have you pay at the end).
- Then either find a standing table in the bar or hang out outside, its all quite relaxed!
WHAT TO ORDER:
- Try to order something you wouldn't typically try- you'd be surprised! San Sebastian does meat really well, so be sure to try: Carrillera (beef cheek), pulpo (octopus), solomillo (steak), bacalao (cod)
- Order some of the dishes that need to be cooked to order (written on the blackboard). They are usually some of the best! (more expensive but worth it)
- If the bar isn't too hectic, ask the bartender what he recommends.
- Keep an open mind! This is the time to try something new because its only a bite size. When in doubt if you don't like it, you didn't waste an entire meal.
- You must try their hard cider or txakoli wine. One, they're delicious, and two is they have a unique way of being poured. The higher the pour, the better! (see the picture to the right)
WHEN TO GO:
In Spain, people eat dinner quite late (starting at around 8:30-9pm). But on big pintxos nights (like a pintxo-pote night) it can get VERY crowded, so don't wait until 10:30 otherwise it may get too crowded to enjoy.
WHERE TO GO:
First, what I recommend (if you're visiting San Sebastian for only a few nights) is doing a Pintxo Bar crawl! Stay at each Pintxos bar for only 1 or 2 drinks/pintxos, that way you can taste a little bit of each restaurant. When in doubt, the next night you can come back to your favorite place.
For the less expensive:
You have PLENTY of options, and I honestly don't remember the names of the places we went to.
For the more expensive:
- La Cuchara de San Telmo (website) (separate blog post coming soon, its that good) One of our absolute favorite meals while in San Sebastian.
- Zeruko: (website) Pintxos' are about 4-6 euros, but worth it. It gets quite crowded so be sure to make this your first or second stop of the night.
- Borda Berri: (website) recommend getting the pulpo (octopus) or the carrillera (beef cheek)
Mastering Pintxos like a pro? That I can do. Learning how to skateboard in San Sebastian? Now that takes some work. (blog post here)