A few meters from the Barcelona City Council offices, behind wooden doors filled with Street art, is “El Cuiner de Damasc” (Carrer dels Templers 2), recognized throughout Barcelona as the place where the best kebabs are served. Fresh products, homemade preparation and the best vibe of its people, will have you come back more than once.
Our friend Facundo, an Argentine who came to Barcelona more than 16 years ago, had told us: “The best kebab in Barcelona is in the Placa Sant Miquel”. And if someone affirms something so emphatically, especially if it is food, we are going to check it out.
The truth is that Barcelona is full of places like this. A kebab for a good price is the ideal proposal when you are hungry and not on a big budget.
Or in a hurry and looking for a two-course lunch and dessert (same goes for dinner).
We confess we have tried several kebabs, that’s why we were intrigued by this place, so centric and so recommended. And I say “so recommended”, because later we discovered that not only was Facundo a regular and a fan of these kebabs, but there were many more who talked about him. So, we went there one night to see if this place deserved so much praise.
Arriving at “El Cuiner de Damasc”
So we reached the doors of “El Cuiner de Damasc”, at the corner of Carrer dels Templers and Carrer del Palau, in the Gothic Quarter. A few meters away is the Placa de Sant Miquel, with its famous sculpture paying tribute to the castellers and the Barcelona City Council.
There cannot be something more central in the city.
As soon as we entered we were greeted by a queue of people waiting to make their order.
Yes, there is a queue.
And yes, it can be long. The queue and the wait.
But it does not matter. Here at the Cuiner de Damasc you wait for how long is necessary. Because it’s worth it.
As much as to eat the best kebab in Barcelona.
Those who arrive already know that this is the possible scenario, especially if one goes in after 9pm.
The Cuiner closes at 11pm; so around 10:30 pm no one else can enter.
The lucky ones who have stayed inside will receive their prize, which is buying and enjoying the best kebab in town. Those who arrive later will have to return another day, but earlier.
There are some places that achieve that fame and can afford to close, even knowing that there are people left out. Or even not having a large sign with your name on the facade for them to find.
The thing is that El Cuiner de Damasc does not need that. Their fame precedes them.
And their clients accept it. Because in return, this place offers you the warmth of its service, the freshest products and flavors that make you want to visit again.
At the end of the day, isn’t that what we are looking for in a good food place? It could be said that they know how to apply this infallible formula and it shows.
Their team and products
Salem is the owner,who arrived from Syria years ago, and who welcomes his customers. Sympathetic and sociable, he can be seen among the tables chatting with people.
Carlos and Carles are behind the counter, preparing and cooking the kebabs one by one. There is a phrase that Carlos told us when we met him, that sums it up: “I don’t have clients, I have friends.”
And it’s true. He makes you feel like a long-time friend, while putting all the dedication to that next kebab that will be yours in a few minutes.
The other key is this word: “homemade”.
They make everything, from the pita bread to the döner kebab that spins around against the fire, ready be cooked.
They prepare the combination of turkey and lamb meats themselves, which gets roasted. And it is Carlos who is responsible for ensuring that they are well done, juicy and pushed against the fire. Work and dedication.
And then came the flavor. Incredible.
Thanks to the perfect combination of bread, meat, vegetables and the sauce they prepare. At this point I am just speechless, and I do ask you to go and try it.
As our friend Facundo once told us: “Go and try it.”
We tell you the same, go and try it, do it and you will know what we are talking about.
If you are enjoying the kebab from El Cuiner de Damasc, walk a few steps and reach thePlaça Sant Miqueland then continue your tour of the Gothic Quarter, which you will love.
Here’s how to find the place if you are walking around the Gothic Quarter:
One of the best sandwich places of Barcelona, with affordable prices and an ideal location for everyone in Barcelona, both tourists and locals. A “bar on a budget” not to be missed, whenever in a rush, with few money in the wallet and very hungry.
We could say, without any fear of being wrong, that it’s already a classic of Barcelona.
Its reputation is so big that now goes beyond any frontier, and when you reach its door you’ll find out that its clients come from all over the world. Everyone who’s visiting Barcelona with a tight budget, but still craving for delicious things and very hungry, is usually waiting on the line to buy their sandwich in Bo de B.
It’s a little place, around the corner from the post office, located in one of the ends of the Barrio Gótico. They started this business 11 years ago, and the reputation they have gained has to do with the most important thing we are looking for when it’s time to eat: fresh products, tasty, with generous portions and affordable prices.
This is why this place gained a spot in our list of recommendations, and in this section we call “bars on a budget”, in which we like to share some info about places to eat and drink, with good quality, and without breaking the bank.
Truth is, to be clear: this is not exactly a bar per se.
As a matter of fact they don’t sell alcohol, and most people buy their food to take away.
We’re not going to lie, we want you to trust us, since Bo de B, even though their business model may not seem adequate, it’s perfect for this section, as far as quality and prices are concerned.
If you want to eat well and on a budget, this is the place to go.
You can always buy beers in any of the supermarkets that are nearby, that is never an issue in Barcelona.
Let’s now talk about the next thing coming, Bo de B: its (curious) name is in Catalan. “Bo” is good (bueno), and the B, of our dear Barcelona.
So its name is no lie: this is the Good of Barcelona.
What do they offer? Especially “bocadillos”, which means sandwiches.
You will find all the options in the window outside, so you can already decide which one you are going to enjoy, while you are waiting in line: beef sandwich, chicken, salmon, vegetables only and burgers.
All of those cost around 4 euros. For 50 cents more, you can add the Feta cheese, something we strongly recommend.
Now, if you have more time, can’t eat bread or want to sit down while eating and relax Bo de B has some tables (not many) inside the place.
You can eat your sandwich there, or enjoy any of the other options that they offer in the menu: their meals on plate.
They consist of a variety of vegetables, salads, with the option to add ingredients like chicken or beef for example, which are cooked on the spot.
These plates are big and generous, and even though they cost a couple of euros more than sandwiches, they are perfect if you want something natural and fresh, that will fill you up for many hours.
Let’s focus on something: the freshness of the products, especially here in Bo de B where they are cooked on the spot. When your turn finally arrives, they ask you for the option you chose, and the meat (already marinated) is cooked right there. So this is not a fast food place at all, and the lines during high season can get pretty long.
But it’s always worth the wait.
How does Bo de B work?
We tell you this because after years serving their customers, they developed a system that makes the place more efficient.
We are going to share this info, in case you are new to places like this. When you reach the place you will probably meet with the people in line. In fact, in our video we said that, at 12:05pm, 5 minutes after opening, there were several people before us.
This detail is essential: if you are going to buy your food to take away, like we did, the line to follow is the one that extends towards the right of the door (looking at the door). On the other hand, if you want to eat inside Bo de B, the line for that is on the left side. This way, they are able to serve us, their clients, more efficiently.
Here’s another detail: since there is not much space inside, the line is formed outside and only 1 or 2 people at a time are let in, as soon as they are done serving other customers.
Lots of rules, right? Don’t worry, this is not the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld. These people are lovely, and when you’re there, they will receive you with a big smile and a good vibe.
And now, with the sandwich in your hand, and your stomach begging for mercy after stimulating it with the aromas and colors of Bo de B, you look for a place to finally satiate your hunger.
The brave ones, or the ones with a very wide mouth, can eat and walk at the same time something impossible for most customers.
This is not the case, due to my tiny hands. If you are like me, and you don’t want all that you ate to end up on your clothes, let us suggest the perfect spot to eat your sandwich without fear: the post office’s stairs, right in front of Bo de B.
Same place we, and many more, did choose, in the video we already shared. The sun accompanies you, some pigeons as well, and this turns into a nice place to relax for some minutes, while enjoying the texture and all the great flavors that a nice sandwich like this has.
The warm bread, spongy inside and crunchy outside; the variety of vegetables, the spicy and marinated meat, the feta cheese, melting, and the sauces that keep it all together… they tend to drip a little, watch out for that.
So in the end, sandwiches in Bo de B are best eaten while sitting down, with your legs wide open, to keep your clothes clean, knowing that your mouth and hands are going to get dirty.
What a joy it gives, how delicious, and how good it is to have it for this cheap!
While you enjoy what you had in Bo de B you can check out some interesting spots nearby, like thePost Officeor theCap de Barcelona esculpture.
Here are the directions, for when you are in the Barrio Gótico:
Spain is recognized in the world for “flamenco”, bulls, “paellas” and “tapas” (and Barcelona in this last point does not escape the rule). But we know very well that this is a very limited view of reality: Spain is much richer and more diverse than just these four elements. In a country of little more than 505 thousand square kilometers, diverse traditions, languages, identities and cultures coexist that make the experience of knowing the true Spain much more interesting.
But of one of these four characteristic elements, we can say that it is a national good: “tapas”.
“Going out” or “going for tapas” is such a Spanish custom that it goes through the country in any direction. Obviously, there are differences according to the regions. You don’t have the same experience everywhere and, of course, “tapas” in Barcelona have their characteristics … but we’ll get to that.
Let’s start first by defining what a “tapa” is. Because although everyone who visits this country is looking to “eat tapas”, it often happens that they do not know for sure exactly what it is.
Well, it is very simple: the “tapa” is an aperitif that accompanies the drink, which may or may not be alcoholic. This appetizer can range from some olives, a slice of ham or a wedge of cheese to a plate of potatoes or croquettes to share.
The action of going to a bar, ordering a drink that will come with a “tapa”, leaving that bar and going to the next one to repeat with another glass and another “tapa”, and so on until you get tired (or have had too many drinks, whichever comes first), is basically “going for tapas” (“ir de tapas” in spanish).
A custom that is deeply rooted and that many locals enjoy with friends or family. It is also a good way to meet people and eat out without spending too much.
WHY THE NAME “TAPA”?
To trace the origin of “tapas” and its name, you have to travel back in time. But how much do you have to go back? That is not so clear, because the origin has so many versions that we can locate it both in the thirteenth century, as well as in the sixteenth or nineteenth centuries. And the reality is that the appearance of the word “tapa” in its culinary sense in the RAE (Real Academia Española) Dictionary was only during the 20th century.
The modern concept of “tapas” is likely to have been born out of food shortages after the Spanish Civil War, but that does not deny that they have been part of the gastronomic history of these lands throughout the centuries, long before the nineteen hundreds.
Through the oral tradition we have received different stories that tell us about the birth of the “tapa” and that are already part of popular culture.
The first takes place in the middle of the 13th century. The king of Castile, Alfonso X el Sabio (no, he was not an X-Men), had an ailment that had to be treated with sips of wine (it sounds much better than taking pills, doesn’t it?). The point is that, to avoid the effects of alcohol, the king took small bites accompanying the drink. The treatment had positive results and, having recovered, Alfonso X arranged for wine to be served with a small portion of food in all the taverns of his kingdom. A portion that helped “cover” (in spanish “to cover” is “tapar”) the effects of wine on consumers.
ANOTHER VERSION OF THE BIRTH OF THE “TAPA”
Version number two: now it is the turn of the Spanish Catholic Kings, the famous Fernando de Aragón and Isabel de Castile.
In times of their reigns, a recurring problem was that of the cart drivers who collided or generated a variety of incidents at the exit of the taverns for having drunk a little too much. As a measure to avoid these nuisances, the tavern keepers were forced to serve a “tapa” with wine or beer. Why the name? Because that small portion of cheese, ham or whatever should be served on a small plate that covered the top of the glass. The client had to eat the “tapa ” first, and then take the lid off his glass and drink its contents, without having an empty stomach.
THESE THINGS ALWAYS COME IN THREES
The following version is attributed, with some variations, to two kings separated by almost four centuries. Both take place in Cádiz and relate very similar situations.
The oldest story is played, again, by Fernando de Aragón. On his journey, he stopped with Queen Isabel at a hostel. There was a lot of wind that day, “east wind”, and the king asked that his cup be covered with a slice of some sausage so that the sand did not enter his glass. The tavern keeper covered it with cheese and, handing it to the king, said: “Here is your “tapa”, Your Majesty.” Voilá! The “tapa” was created.
However, another story tells something very similar but with King Alfonso XIII, at the end of the 19th century. The stage is again, Cádiz. It seems that the king wanted to have a sherry wine and stopped with his entourage at a “meson” (some version says that the “meson” still exists and is the “Ventorrillo del Chato”). The winds from Cádiz made an appearance again, but this time it was the tavern keeper who had, all by himself, the great idea of covering the glass to prevent sand or dust from entering into it. He used a slice of ham and delivered the “covered” drink to the king. Alfonso XIII liked the idea so much that he ate the “cover” or “tapa”, and repeated the request.
All of these stories are legends. But all agree that the “tapa” arises as a need to cover the drink or that it is an aid to alcohol consumption. The most curious thing is that in all of them, the kings are the protagonists and those who validate their existence.
The reality is that already in the 18th century there are records of the use of stale bread or small plates with food to cover the glasses. And most likely, this practice had to do with a kind of “hygiene”: doing so protected the drink from dust or insects.
Another practical origin of the cover has to do with the interests of the tavern keepers. By putting a salty snack next to the drink, the customer would surely have another drink to quench their thirst.
Whatever birth, so difficult to trace in time, today the “tapa” is a sign of identity.
Of those first slices of sausages or cheeses, today we can also enjoy hot tapas that include omelets (the famous “tortilla”), croquettes or squid “a la romana”.
And they admit any setting: from smaller or traditional taverns or bars, through haute cuisine to banquets of the Spanish Court.
If you are in Spain, tapas is almost an obligation. A delicious obligation.
OUT FOR “TAPAS” IN BARCELONA
In some areas, such as Almería or Granada, the “tapa” is free. When ordering your drink, they always put you some “tapas” with it, to taste. You only pay for the drink and, we could say, you eat for free!
But here in Barcelona (and for that matter, in Catalonia), this is not the rule for “tapas”. There are very few places where this occurs. In general, you go to a bar, ask for your drink and some tapas to share, which has its price, of course.
And another detail. In Madrid, for example, the ritual of “going for tapas” is carried out to the letter: a bar, drink and “tapas”; then another bar, with its respective drink and its “tapa” … and so on until the bars are closed … or the money gone … or the friends who invite when the money runs out.
But for Barcelona, this is not so exact. When we meet friends to eat “tapas”, we usually go to a bar or tavern that we like, and right there we drink and eat everything we want. It could be said that it is a little more “sedentary”: the itinerant life of “tapas” is lost a bit.
Touring Spain “tapeando” can be a very rewarding experience. In each corner of this country you can discover a different way of “ir de tapas”, but it is also the best excuse to get to know its people, its culture, the products of its land, enjoying incredible flavors. And always, at a very good price. So, shall we go for “tapas”?
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