Mastering the Art of Pintxos: Blending in Like a Local in San Sebastián’s Famous Bars

Ah, San Sebastián! Famous for its superb beaches and elegant promenade, this town in Spain’s Basque Country is also a must for gourmets, thanks to its famous pintxo bars. But how can you enjoy these delicious little morsels like a true local without being stamped a “tourist” from the very first drink? Here are some essential tips for enjoying pintxos à la donostiarra (San Sebastián style)!

Understand the difference between tapas and pintxos

First rule, and not least 🚫, never use the word “tapas” when ordering in the Basque Country. Pintxos, unlike tapas which are often served on plates and can be eaten mainly sitting down, are usually presented on a slice of bread and are meant to be eaten standing up, often in a single mordeau. The toothpick above them is not just decorative: it serves to keep all the ingredients together and to count the pintxos consumed towards the bill.

Choosing and ordering pintxos like a local

Forget traditional table service! In San Sebastián, 🍴 the rule is to head for the counter, where the pintxos are beautifully laid out. Grab a tray, select the ones you fancy and show them to the staff to warm up if necessary. Be aware that some of the best bars don’t have menus, so the best approach is to opt for what’s available on the counter or what the locals order.

Immerse yourself in the local atmosphere

In the convivial atmosphere of a pintxo bar, staying too long in one place is considered a faux pas. The true Basque takes a pintxo and a shot to drink, consumes standing up, often outside or around a barrel, and continues on to another bar, creating a “poteo”, a bar crawl. 🍺 Try doing the same for an authentic experience!

What to drink with your pintxos?

The perfect pairing exists! One golden rule: locals drink a small glass of wine, called “zurito” for beer or “txikito” for wine. Txakoli, a local sparkling white wine, is perfectly refreshing with pintxos. For something different, try Basque cider, traditionally served by pouring from above to “break” it on contact with the glass, a method that enhances the flavor.

Pay the bill like a pro

When it’s time to pay, do as the locals do: list what you’ve had and pay at the counter. In San Sebastián, trust is key, and it’s customary to simply tell the bartender what you’ve eaten and drunk. ☝️ Be honest – locals respect those who are!

Places not to be missed

Looking for unforgettable pintxos? Don’t miss places like Bergara, renowned for its culinary innovations, or the Gurriti bar, famous since 1921. Not forgetting Casa Urola with its sophisticated pintxos and Bar Martinez for the ultimate local experience.