Mini Meals: 5 Pinxto Bars in Bilbao

I might have mentioned that on our recent trip to northern Spain we ate all the pinxtos.

You might have thought that was an exaggeration. I assure you. It was not.

Bilbao - pinxtos
Let the carnage commence.

We really did eat pinxtos from morning till night. There’s just something about those little appetizer-sized wonders that I just adore. Maybe it’s all the bar snacks I grew up eating as a kid waiting for my mom to either finish her waitressing shift, or run through her tips while hanging out at said bar, a place of both employment and entertainment. Although, to be fair, those bar snacks were mostly bowels of stale Corn-Nuts or some chicharones.

Whatever it is, I’m like Cher’s Rachel Flax in “Mermaids:” I could exist on a diet of just hors d’oeuvres.

Plus there’s the fact that, in Spain at least, it’s all but mandatory that you accompany your plate of pinxtos with a 2-3 euro glass of better-than-average vino tinto or vino blanco.

And, I love the history of them: They came about as a way to save your place at the bar while you went to the bathroom, or stepped aside to call your homies on your phone, or, more likely since we are in Spain, dashed outside to have a cigarette. The bartenders would give guests little pieces of bread to put over their wine glass to show they were coming right back.

There is a protocol to ordering and eating pinxtos. You slide up to a spot at the bar, point at a couple of delicious looking ones, or order some heated ones off the board. In many places, you can just help yourself to the cold ones that are literally out in the open. Or, you can point and grunt and have them served on a plate. The bartender will keep your tab open till you’re done. Most folks just get a couple and then move on. We sometimes broke this rule, eating many, many options from the same place just, you know, for quality control.

Oh, also, a lot of the old Spanish men throw their paper napkins on the ground when they are finished. No idea what that’s about but thought it worth mentioning. I totally wanted to do this, but didn’t dare.

On that note, here’s some of our favorite pinxto places in Bilbao. There will also be separate posts on pinxtos in San Sebastian and Pamplona, where we conducting our own “Running of the Bars.” That would be a pinxto crawl of all the bars along the route of the Running of the Bulls. I have photos from around 12 or so locations before everything turned heartburn-y and blurry and I completely lost track/the will to eat/photograph anything else.

Do not let it be said that our research was not comprehensive or exhaustive, dear reader.

Alternatif
Calle Licenciado Poza 50

A wonderful, if extremely narrow, bar near the soccer stadium, San Mames. We came by here more than once before and after Athletic Bilbao games. The crowds were festive, the bartender was friendly, and he made a great gin and tonic. This one is a bit of a cheat because while they did have pinxtos, we actually just had a bowl of peanuts encrusted in salt. You would pop one in your mouth, swirl it around to get some salt off and then crack it open and eat the peanut inside. I cannot find them on the Internet anywhere, so I’m not sure what their proper name is, but they were perfect.

Gozatu
Maestro García Rivero, 6

This is actually a bar that we went to the last time we were in Bilbao. We had gone before a weekend soccer match, and it was full of families and fans and had a great atmosphere. Naturally, we headed right there when we got to Bilbao this time. We found the street it was on fairly easily (there are a bunch of pinxto bars on this particular street), but we couldn’t remember the name or exact location. So we stood on the sidewalk and looked it up on the blog (there was a photo with the bar’s name on a napkin) and realized we were standing right in front of it.

I must say, it was a lot less lively and inviting than last time, so we kept our visit pretty short. And, we stuck with a classic, pan con tomate y jamon – nice crusty bread smeared with tomato guts and topped with some nice salty Iberico.

La Fugitiva
Maestro Garcia Rivero 5

Just across the street from Gozatu was the new and very sleek La Fugitiva. I’ll admit, I was drawn in by their excellent awning and cool type font. Since it was new, so was our bartendress, who was friendly but a bit clueless about the pinxtos on offer. We settled on a special, which included six pinxtos. They were all pretty meh, including the potato and cheese coquetas pictured here. We ended up wishing we’d skipped the hard-sale special and just had one or two pinxtos. Cool atmosphere though.

Zintzoa
Gregorio de la Revilla 13

This became our new favorite pinxtos bar in Bilbao after the disappointment at Gozatu. Wonderful food and drinks, great atmosphere. It’s on a busy street corner and had outdoor seating so the people watching was fantastic.

We definitely had a few of what on the receipt appear as “muselina de bonito con piparra,” but which I believe were the tuna sandwiches/rolls with green peppers. Or maybe those were the “bonito del cantabrico con alegri,” which the INCREDIBLY unhelpful Google Translate said is “bonito del cantabrico with joy.”

Whatever they’re called, they were awesome. Tuna in Spain is dense, and briny, and doesn’t even need any garnishment, although the peppers are so, so good with it. It is completely different. It’s like comparing “Real Housewives of Potomac” to “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” They may sound similar and they may swim in the same Bravo waters, but one is very much of lesser quality.

Speaking of, I really want to watch “Mermaids” right now. (ALL FISH-HORS D’OEUVRE-RELATED PUNS INTENDED.)

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I Can’t Make It Rain, But I Can Make Money Disappear

My personal interior-decorator-for-life XFE and I spent the weekend doing lots of really glamorous stuff, including shopping for new toilet seat lids and a trash can for the new house.

What we didn’t realize is that we would need to get a bank loan before making these types of everyday home purchases.

First off, toilet seats. Yes, the house did come with them. But they were the cheap plastic version. My delicate buttocks demand something a bit more substantial. Something sturdier.

Weird fact: the toilet seats we saw at our local Lowe’s only came in cheap plastic or wood. I was quite surprised by two things: that they don’t come in porcelain (since that’s what the rest of the toilet is made of) and that they do come in wood. Seems like an odd choice of material. Now I’ll be worrying about splinters, no doubt.

After giving serious thought to whether I could break it and liberate the contents to pay for our purchases, I passed up the version with money suspended in it.

money seat

Instead, I went for what I hope will be sturdy wooden toilet seat that I can sit on while staring up into my bathroom skylight for hours on end and wondering where all our money went when we bought a house that we were sure was move-in ready. The price for the version we bought was $25, but since we have three bathrooms, things added up quickly.

We also bought a trash can, a seemingly mundane kitchen item that ended up costing us $80. The selection was fairly baffling, and in the end, we were just worn down and became numb to the ridiculous pricing. I pretty sure the final conversation went like this:

XFE: Do you want the semi-circular one or the oval slim profile one?

ME: When can we go eat?

XFE: After you make a decision. Now, brushed metal or polished?

ME: What’s this for again?

We currently have a trash compactor in our (soon-to-be ex) kitchen. We love that trash compactor. It is, without a doubt, the thing we’ll probably miss most.

Ovetto Recycling Egg 250
This “recycling egg” is $250. It actually scares me a little bit.

I was describing the wonders of our new $80 trash can (surely such a treasure deserves to be honored in poetry shouted from the rooftops) to a co-worker today. One of the features is a lid lock. My co-worker looked at me oddly until I went on to explain the lock helps keep the lid up while you peel a potato or something. BUT, a locking trash can might be far more practical for us since I like to throw money away. Literally.

Last week, I was cleaning out my purse and came across one of those bank cash envelopes that I had taken with me to Costa Rica. I threw the envelope out. Then on Friday, I remembered that there might be some money still in that envelope. About $110. Buried under a week’s worth of trash. We (meaning XFE) retrieved it, washed it, and set it on the window sill to dry. XFE has claimed it as a finder’s fee, which seems very fair.

We continued on our home improvement streak by trying to burn down the house we currently rent making lamb kebabs on the grill. Flames shot out of the back of the grill, but I don’t care. These kebabs (which XFE makes with feta and a whole bunch of Turkish spices) are worth the visits from the neighborhood fire marshall.

kebabs
Burn, baby, burn. Kebab inferno.

We had slightly better luck with bacon wrapped scallops on Sunday, which were also the bomb.com. Of course, there was a slight glitch: We’d already moved our scallop skewers (different from our kebab skewers, which are larger. What, you don’t have an array of grilling skewers?) to the new house. XFE also went and retrieved the proper skewers so we could have these delicious scallops alongside a caprese salad and wonderful Australian viognier.

scallops

Then Sunday night, we stumbled upon this gem from the Discovery Channel. It was a documentary (using that term very loosely here, Discovery) about mermaids and the vast government conspiracy to cover up their existence. I was OBSESSED with mermaids when I was a kid (the movie Splash had a very lasting impact on me), so of course, I was totally convinced that mermaids were real, and of course, had evolved from so-called aquatic apes. I mean, they had actual NOAA scientists on there. So, it must be legit, right? Or not.

discovery mermaids

Wait, maybe Dr. Paul Robertson really does exist but there’s a conspiracy to cover up HIS existence. Now my head hurts. If you need me, I’ll to be sitting in the bathroom on my fancy wooden toilet seat.