Pamplona Guide: How to order and eat pintxos

Bar Gaucho is one of Pamplona’s best pintxo bars. They have some of the tastiest and most creative concoctions.

By Laura Davison

The first night I was in Pamplona, two other Mizzou students and I got a recommendation of a nearby pintxo bar and restaurant. We easily found the place, but when we got there, we realized we had no idea what to do. Were we supposed to seat ourselves? Was there a menu? Were we supposed to order at the bar? At what point in the meal were we supposed to pay? 

We sat at a table and tried to observe what others were doing. After a few minutes of confusion, I finally went up to the barmi. “Hi, I’m sorry I’m not from here, so I don’t know how this works,” I asked the bartender in Spanish. “We want to order a few things. Can you walk us through it?”

He helped us, we figured it out and we learned how to not make fools out of ourselves–at least not when it came to ordering food.

Pinchos can be anything from a bread topped with ham or cheese to a small sandwich or a small bit of meat with a sauce.

How to order and eat pintxos:

Pamplona has a ton of pintxos bars. The best are located on Calle Estafeta and Calle San Nicolás near the main Plaza del Castillo downtown. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to enjoy some of Pamplona’s specialties.

1. Go up to the bar and take a look. All the pintxos will be displayed. Often times, they won’t have labels, so if you want to know more about one, just ask.

2. Select the pintxo you want. If you are eating pintxos as your meal (which many people certainly do), three to four will fill you up. But don’t feel like you have to eat them all at one place. Part of the fun of Pamplona’s pintxo culture is that you can hit up several different places, having a pintxo or two at each.

3. Most Spaniards order their pintxos with a glass of the house wine or a caña (whatever type of beer they have on tap). On Tuesday and Thursday nights in Pamplona a pintxo and beverage cost 2 euros.

San Sebastian is known for having some of the best pinchos. They taste as good as they look.

San Sebastian is known for having some of the best pinchos. They taste as good as they look.

4. After you order, you pay the bartender. Tipping is not necessary in most scenarios, this included. At a sit down dinner you could leave a few coins as a tip, but definitely not the 15-20 percent rule we are accustomed to.  After you have your food, go sit down at a table inside or go outside where there are standing height tables. It’s important to note that some pintxos bars also are restaurants and serve dinner as well. Those restaurants may have certain sections of seating that are only for patrons having dinner and not just pintxos.

My favorite pintxo bars: Casa Otano, Bar Guacho, Bodegon Sarria, La Estafeta

Hungry yet? Here is a slideshow of some of the pintxos each bar created for Semana del Pintxo, an annual event where Pamplona eateries compete to create the best new pintxo.

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