Food & Drink

Beginners guide to tapas, part 2

By now you know what on earth is a tapa and also have some idea of the kind of tapas you can order in a Spanish bar (If not check the Beginners Guide to tapas, part 1). So, let’s concentrate on the practicalities.

When can I have a tapa?

Well, anytime really. You don’t even need to be hungry; tapas are just a perfect excuse to go out with friends/family and socialize over a glass of wine or a beer.

Wine and a selection of cheeses

They can be eaten before lunch or dinner and are basically meant to keep you alive until the next meal. You are likely to have one or two drinks and order a couple of tapas or algo para picar (something to nibble), of course depending on how hungry you are and how late your lunch/dinner is going to be.

It is also really common to have them when you go out with your friends, regardless of if you have had dinner or not. The basic idea is to jump from bar to bar getting a drink and a tapa from each place. Tapas are the perfect trick for not getting too drunk on your bar-hopping nights.

A less traditional way to eat tapas, is to have them for lunch or dinner. It is common on Catalonia or Valencia for instance. In this case you will probably sit in a bar with your friends/family, get a bottle of wine and keep ordering tapas until you are all full and happy. Sometimes tourists are worried that just going for tapas wont be enough to still their hunger, but trust us; sometimes you need help to roll out from the bar after a good set of tapas.

Are they free?

More often than not you have to pay for tapas, however in some cities such as Granada o Leon, the tapas are free and you receive them when you buy a drink, which is kind of cool.

If you pay for the tapas, you usually get to choose what do you want. It tapas are free you most likely get a random tapa from whatever they have on the list. If you order several rounds of drinks, you probably get a different tapa every the time (if you are lucky).

If you are eating pintxos (check Beginners Guide to tapas, part 1 to find out what it is), you will usually pay according to the amount of toothpicks found in your plate by the end of the meal. We know they may taste good, but for your own safety don’t try to eat them just because you want to save some money.

Great, anything else I need to know?

Tapas are meant to be shared with friends or family (or strangers, why not), in that way you get to try many different dishes in one night.

If you want a bigger portion, you should ask for a ración (portion) or a plato (plate) instead of a tapa. That should have the double amount of food than a normal tapa; yet sizes can vary very much from place to place so we cannot really say how big the portion is going to be. Surprise, surprise! Anyhow, it's normal to order bigger portions when eating with more people.

Tapas are typically eaten in a bar. It is not something you cook at home, unless you are having a party or something like that. Everybody is welcome into a tapas bar, children and grandparents included.

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