Upon landing, I marched straight through El Prat, passing the Desigual and Dehesa Santa Maria with those big yellow letters that anyone who has ever lived in Barcelona would likely recognize. Ten minutes after reaching ground, I was already on the Aerobus headed to the center, where familiar Independista flags dangled out of windows (along with the newer, less familiar “Si” flags). It was an emotional experience to say the least. I arrived at Plaza Catalunya, hopped on the bus to Diagonal, then casually strutted my stuff up Gracia, all the way to where Ben and I once lived on Martinez de la Rosa. On our street I noticed what had closed (El Patio Latino, unsurprisingly), what had since appeared (motorcycle garage, artisanal craft store) and what had remained exactly the same (Los Amigos dive bar/restaurant, the Condis on the corner with the very loud reggaeton). I met my friend outside, popped up to my old apartment (now inhabited by a friend who let me stay there for the a few days) and – as if this past 7 months in Bordeaux were actually just a weekend trip I was now returning from – we strolled up to Placa del Sol. A little over one hour after landing I was already living my best Barcelona life, sitting on the steps of the plaza with a bottle from La Bodega del Sol opened by some dude with a lighter, smoking a cigarette and freshening up with one of those IPA’s with the fox logo on the cap (whose name I always forget).
After something so familiar, I was craving a meal at a familiar place too, so my friend and I stopped by La Cava on Corsega, on the way to Entrepanes Dias (whose terrace was, unfortunately, full). I like La Cava. And I visited the place a lot. It sort of became the go-to spot for when everything else, including its sister restaurant La Pepita, was full. They give you big jugs of vermut with 2 olives there, and it’s cheap. The food is vermut-side tapas and good. They always seem to have space at the long bar and there’s a little counter facing the street, which makes for the perfect spot when it’s not taken.
We had some pimientos del padron to start with spicy mayo drizzled on. The bursted skins are sprinkled with coarse salt. Crunchy on the outside with a tender interior, with a nice caramelized flavor mixing with a bit of char. A simple little snack I’ve missed being able to have literally anywhere at anytime.
Next, the house croquetas stuffed with shrimp bits and bechamel. These were delicious one-bite snacks, plump and juicy with a sandy, crunchy breadcrumb coating. The shrimp inside was also fine, tender bits running through the smooth, creamy filling.
La Cava’s patatas bravas (hey, that rhymes!) are some of the best non-gourmet bravas in town, perhaps second only to Kasparo in El Raval. They come in a flat tin, a generous portion to share between two. The potatoes are perfectly cooked with the crunchy skins hit with coarse salt. Actual diced, stewed and spicy-seasoned tomatoes replace the spicy red sauce, which normally accompanies the “white sauce” (aioli) in this dish. The aioli is also quite good – creamy and smooth in texture and not as slimy as usual. The garlic flavor is there but not as aggressive as in versions of this dish I’ve had so many times before.
On my first night back in Barcelona since moving from there, La Cava served the same function as it always did when I was living there: an accessible place serving food after 10 with an easy menu of good food. And, as vermuterias in Barcelona tend to do, they have a mean house vermut too, which has never let me down.