Tapas Culture in Granada

  • Granada and its province are well known for their amazing tapas culture. The word tapas means "topper" and refers to a small plate used to cover a drink. The tradition is not to put the plate on top of the drink but to provide a small plate of food alongside a glass of wine or beer. There is a theory that long ago small plates would be put on top of drinks to keep the flies out (once you have experienced Spanish flies in May you will understand why this is a very reasonable thing to do) but today the plates hold food and are not served on top of the drinks.

    All of Spain and Portugal are well known for having tapas available almost anywhere. It is a very common form of early evening cuisine on the Iberian peninsula. But Granada Province is especially famous for the quality and commonality of the tapas culture and also for the fact that.... it is free!

    By free, I mean that the tapa (small food portion) is included, for free, when you buy a glass of wine or a glass of beer. What you will get is not something that you decide. Just sit down and order a wine or beer and a few minutes after you receive your drink you should get a little surprise plate of food. It is a wonderfully fun way to enjoy some free time and sample the local food.

    You do not get to decide what the food will be, so this is fun but not a dinner choice for everyone, especially picky eaters. If you, like my family, are vegetarian you will want to explain this when you order your first drink, not sometime later. This can be confusing if you are not used to food just appearing because normally you don't have to explain dietary requirements of that nature, you just do not order things with meat in it. But in Granada, you will need to explain this often.

    We first learned about the free tapas culture in Granada from a Rick Steves episode but were very surprised to actually see it happen first hand and were able to introduce several friends to it as well - everyone equally surprised to actually see it in action. This is especially surprising as beer and wine are so inexpensive in Spain and especially in Granada. Wine might only be one to three Euros and beer in a similar range. Even pretty nice tapas bars you are unlikely to spend over three Euros for a glass of wine and the food is often quite excellent. So the amount that you get for your money is extreme.

    Tapas can be most anything but are often a cheese plate, tortilla, ensaladilla rusa, tomato and onion salad, olive plate, bowl of nuts, jamón (ham) on bread, etc. All very typical Spanish foods. If you don't mind the pace, the drinks and the lack of control it is pretty easy to stick to a less expensive establishment, stick to lower cost drinks and drink and eat your way through a decent dinner for very little money. If you plan well, six Euros can get you pretty far in Granada.

  • Some tapas:


    Spanish Tortilla and a small tomato and onion salad.

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    Breadsticks with jamón

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    Cheese with jamón in it on baguette slices (bread is completely hidden.)

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    Meat variety plate with jamón, lobo and chorizo on baguette slices.