Budget-Friendly Restaurants in Bilbao: Locals’ Favorites

Bilbao, the largest city in Spain’s Basque Country, is renowned for its rich history, unique culture, and vibrant culinary scene. If you’re planning a trip to Bilbao, you’re in for a gastronomic treat. The city is a paradise for food lovers, offering everything from traditional Basque dishes to modern interpretations and, of course, the famous pintxos—small snacks that are a staple in the Basque Country. This guide is designed to help you find the best places to eat well and affordably in Bilbao, as recommended by locals. So, let’s dive into the culinary delights of this beautiful city.

An Introduction to Basque Cuisine

Before we explore the best places to eat in Bilbao, it’s essential to understand the basics of Basque cuisine. The Basque Country is known for its high-quality ingredients, innovative chefs, and unique culinary traditions. The cuisine is heavily influenced by the region’s geography, with a focus on seafood, meats, and fresh produce. Traditional Basque dishes often feature simple, robust flavors, and the emphasis is on the quality of the ingredients.

Pintxos: The Basque Tapas

Pintxos are a central part of Basque cuisine. These small snacks are typically served on bread and can include a variety of toppings, such as seafood, meats, cheese, and vegetables. Pintxos are usually held together with a toothpick, and in many bars, you pay based on the number of toothpicks on your plate. A typical way to enjoy pintxos is to hop from bar to bar, sampling different varieties along the way. This is known as “txikiteo” in Basque culture, and it’s a social activity enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Pintxos Bars in Bilbao

Bilbao is home to numerous pintxos bars, each with its unique twist on this classic Basque tradition. Here are some of the best streets and bars to explore if you’re interested in enjoying pintxos in Bilbao.

Unamuno Miguel Plaza

Located in the heart of Bilbao’s Old Town, Unamuno Miguel Plaza is a popular spot for pintxos. The area is bustling with activity, and you’ll find a variety of bars offering different types of pintxos. Two notable bars to check out are:

  • Plaza Unamuno Bar: A classic spot offering a variety of traditional pintxos.
  • Geltoki: Known for its creative and modern take on pintxos.

Andra Maria Kalea

Another popular street for pintxos in the Old Town is Andra Maria Kalea. This street has a mix of traditional and contemporary pintxos bars. Some recommended spots include:

  • Irrintzi: Offers a diverse selection of pintxos, including vegetarian options.
  • Txiriboga: Famous for its delicious croquettes.
  • Bodega Joserra: A historic bar known for its sandwiches and txikitos (small glasses of wine).

Ledesma Street

Ledesma Street is a favorite among locals for pintxos. The street has a lively atmosphere, and you’ll find a variety of bars offering different styles of pintxos. Some top recommendations are:

  • El Afilador: Known for its innovative pintxos.
  • Ledesma No. 5: Offers a wide selection of pintxos in a relaxed setting.
  • Periflu: A popular spot with a casual vibe.

Diputación Street

Diputación Street is another great area to explore for pintxos. It’s known for its historic bars and traditional pintxos. Two recommended spots are:

  • La Viña del Ensanche: A classic bar offering a variety of pintxos and traditional Basque dishes.
  • El Globo: Famous for its gratin pintxos, including txangurro and cod.

Ribera Market

Ribera Market is a must-visit spot for food lovers. Located in the Old Town, it’s one of the largest covered markets in Europe. The market has a variety of pintxos bars, and it’s a great place to eat in Bilbao, especially on a rainy day. The market also has outdoor terraces with views of the river and colorful houses.

Indautxu Neighborhood

Indautxu is another neighborhood in Bilbao with excellent pintxos bars. It’s a bit quieter than the Old Town, but you’ll still find a lively atmosphere and plenty of options. Some recommended bars include:

  • Covent Garden: Known for its pintxos and potato omelette.
  • El Serantes II: Specializes in seafood-based pintxos.
  • Munegorri: Offers a variety of pintxos made with seasonal products.

Traditional Basque Cuisine: Restaurants and Bars

In addition to pintxos, Bilbao has a rich tradition of Basque cuisine with hearty dishes and delicious flavors. Here are some restaurants and bars where you can enjoy traditional Basque cuisine without breaking the bank.

Txacoli Restaurant

  • Address: Carretera Artxanda-Santo Domingo Errepidea, 19
  • Txacoli Restaurant offers a variety of Basque dishes, including steak and cod with different sauces. They have a daily menu with a good selection of traditional dishes. It’s a great place for a hearty meal with a relaxed atmosphere.

Monterrey Restaurant

  • Address: Don Diego López Haroko Kale Nagusia
  • Monterrey is a traditional restaurant offering seasonal dishes such as artichokes, bonito, and mushrooms. The menu features classic Basque cuisine with high-quality ingredients. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a more formal dining experience.

Indusi Grill

  • Address: García Rivero Maisuaren Kalea, 7
  • Indusi Grill is a family-owned restaurant with a rustic Basque atmosphere. They offer a variety of dishes, including steak, omelettes, and sirloin with foie. It’s a cozy spot to enjoy traditional Basque cuisine.

La Ribera Market

  • Address: The Ribera Market is also a great place to try a variety of foods, including pintxos and traditional Basque dishes. The market has several pintxos bars, and it’s a good spot for a casual meal with friends.

Desserts and Sweet Treats in Bilbao

If you have a sweet tooth, Bilbao has plenty of pastry shops and cafes where you can indulge in traditional desserts and sweet treats. Here are some of the best places to satisfy your sweet cravings.

Arrese Pastry Shop

  • Address: Gran Vía 24 (and other locations)
  • Arrese is a famous pastry shop in Bilbao known for its rice cake (which contains no rice) and three-chocolate truffles. It’s a perfect spot for a sweet treat after a day of exploring Bilbao.

Martina de Zuricalday

  • Addresses: Several locations in Bilbao
  • This pastry shop has been around since 1830 and is known for its butter buns, a classic Bilbao dessert. It’s a great place to try traditional Basque sweets. If you visit on a Tuesday, you can enjoy everything at half price.

Iruña Coffee

  • Address: Plaza del Ensanche 11
  • Iruña Coffee is a historic cafe with beautiful interior decor. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike, offering a variety of desserts and coffee drinks. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the ambiance.

Alaska Ice Cream Shop

  • Address: Calle Astarloa 1
  • Alaska is a well-known ice cream shop in Bilbao, offering a wide selection of traditional ice creams. It’s a perfect place to cool off on a warm day and enjoy a sweet treat.

Conclusion: Enjoying Bilbao’s Culinary Scene

Bilbao offers a diverse and vibrant food scene with options for every budget and preference. Whether you’re exploring the city’s traditional pintxos bars, indulging in Basque cuisine at a family-owned restaurant, or enjoying a sweet treat at a historic pastry shop, Bilbao is sure to leave you with unforgettable culinary memories.

By following the recommendations from Bilbao residents, you can experience the best of what the city has to offer without breaking the bank. From classic pintxos to hearty Basque dishes and sweet desserts, Bilbao’s culinary scene has something for everyone. Enjoy your food adventure in this beautiful Basque city!

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