Directly across the street from Bar Gran Sol in Hondarribia is Bar Alcanadre, a much more laid back and traditional spot where a pintxo is a pinxto and not so much an abstract work of art. The food here doesn’t take itself so seriously and neither does the service. The guy behind the bar was incredibly friendly, explaining each item without my having to ask. Alcanadre was actually the only pintxeria I visited where the staff made the whole process easier. Everywhere else I had to awkwardly shoulder myself up to the bar and loiter there, all the while pointing and asking “What’s this? And this? And this, is this bacalao too?” At Alcanadre you know what you’re getting, you pick out what you want and only after eating do you tell them what you ordered. They trust you and you pay. And it’s pretty cheap for what it is.
I assumed at first that the two pintxo bars directly across the street from one another would be somewhat competitive, but I came to realize that just the opposite is true. They occupy totally different niches and play totally different roles in the dining scene of Calle San Pedro. While Gran Sol is more of a wine bar in which to order maybe one or two high-end snacks, Alcanadre is your typical Basque pintxo bar. It’s the one where everybody knows your name.
After the two award winners at Big Sun I was still feeling hungry and my stomach was still churning acid from the night before. So, I did not shy away from bread-based pintxos this time around. I got bread with jamón ibérico, salty, nutty and cured. I devoured it within seconds. I also picked one smeared with spider crab spread with a few thin slivers of egg and cheese sprinkled over the top. It was smooth and slightly sweet with very delicate marine flavors. The julianne of egg added an interesting texture, though not much flavor. This wasn’t one of my favorites, though it did abate my hunger quite a bit.
My favorite that morning had to be the morcilla cocida, which is just that and nothing more. It was a juicy hunk of blood sausage bursting straight out of its casing. The texture was velvety smooth with bits of plump rice that soaked up the excess grease without drying the thing out in the least. Over the top were lain a few slivers of pickled onion and pepper, the acidity and crunch of which provided a nice contrast to the warm, mushy meat. Plain and simple: I love blood sausage. And this one was not half bad.
While perhaps not much of a destination in itself, Bar Alcanadre is a great stop during an afternoon of pintxo-hopping. The selection is the typical array of Basque goodies: ham, sausage, fried stuff, pickled stuff, fishy stuff, on bread, off bread or served in a shell. The variety is just as impressive as that of any bar in Old Town Donostia. What stands out is the service: honest, helpful and seemingly very happy to be there.