I could not resists the glistening cured meat set underneath marinated button mushrooms

San Sebastian: First encounter with pinxtos

November 1, 2011 | 1 Comment.

After arriving in San Sebastian on Monday night after 12 hours in the air and 6 hours of layovers, I decide the best way to combat jetlag delirium is to eat.

Normally my late night options would be extremely limited on a Monday night in Seattle, but when we hit up the hotel receptionist for recommendations, she gives us a worried look explaining, “Ah, it’s 10:30pm so it will be quite busy.”

Our hip mid-30’ish hotel guide throws out various ideas all located within a 10 minute stroll from our hotel.  Bergara is known for pinxtos (aka-small plates), but she notes it is quite expensive. She proceeds to tell us about another place that has a nice terrace, but her eyes light up as she describes Monpas, which is one of her personal favorites and apparently the local’s pinxtos and beer joint of choice.

Unassuming entrance to Monpas - Uber-cheap and delicious pinxtos await

We spot Monpas pretty easily as it is located in a prime spot overlooking the beach.  The hangout reminds me of one those cozy down-home locals bars from back home and it is hoppin’ with people of all ages consuming yards of beer.  Some look like they are decompressing after a hard day’s work, while others appear to have had a long day of surfing.

Two motorcycling buddies enjoying some adult beverages with pinxtos (on the left) in the background

We order a beer and then take a gander at the food.  Like many pinxto hubs in the coastal town of San Sebastian, this is the type of establishment where you needn’t worry about busting out too much intelligible Spanish in a jetlagged crazy state.  You simply go into Charlie Chaplin mode, take in the plates of finger foods on the bar counter, point to what you want, and the bartender puts it all on a plate for you.

The salmon pinxto sitting atop a creamy seafood sauce was one of my favorites and it cost under 2 euros

These small bites originated from the Basque region and were invented as a way to combat patrons from not getting too hammered at the tavern while enjoying a few adult beverages.  To this day, pinxtos are widely served at bars in San Sebastian and other parts of the Basque region.

I could not resist ordering at least one of the glistening cured meat pinxtos set underneath a trio of marinated button mushrooms

In a city boasting the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, I doubt my first meal in San Sebastian is going to generate anything close to international accolades, but for a whoppin’ 15 euros, this filling meal was the most satisfying and cost-efficient elixir I have ever encountered after a long day of flying.

Stay tuned for more posts on my adventures through Spain and Portugal.

Tip for pinxto consumption: I hear some of the best pinxtos are the hot made-to-order ones, which you can generally find written on a chalkboard or on a menu somewhere.  Although, I loved all of the pinxtos I consumed from the selection on the bar.


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