Courtesy of Surya

Our picks for top quality—but affordable—dinner options for two.

Isabelle Kliger
February 08, 2016

As one of the world's premier destinations for food-lovers, it goes without saying that Barcelona is home to an abundance of gourmet restaurants. What may be less known is that the Catalan capital is also a great place to go if you want to enjoy good-quality, inexpensive food from around the world. Here are our picks for the best meals for two that $50 can buy in the city.

1. La Esquina

With its elegant décor, outstanding service and delicious food, it's easy to see why La Esquina has quickly become one of the hottest spots on the Barcelona restaurant scene since it opened last November. Despite being rather trendy, it's also surprisingly affordable. We recommend the smoked salmon ($10) to start, followed by the cauliflower risotto ($14) and pork belly ($18) mains. For dessert, the tarte tatin is widely popular: at $8 per person it may exceed the budget, but it's worth it). Wash that down with a couple of glasses of house white ($3).

2. Bar El Velódromo

This timeless Barcelona eatery serves food throughout the day, from early morning until the wee hours. We suggest going when it's less crowded (like a late lunch or early dinner) to enjoy the classic décor and extensive menu. To eat like a local, order a selection of four or five tapas to share. Choose from the ensaladilla rusa (Russian salad; $4), patatas bravas ($4), eggplant tempura with romesco sauce ($6), salmon tartare ($13), pescaditos fritos (deep fried whitebait; $11.50) and calamari ($11). You'll still have enough cash for a bottle of delicious house wine ($13).

3. Paradiso

Barcelona's hottest new cocktail bar has joined forces with the team from Rooftop Smokehouse (one of the city's most popular food trucks) to create a unique mix of exclusive cocktails and mouthwatering charcuterie. All the food is artisanal, smoked in Rooftop's own kitchen, and made from carefully selected raw materials. The cocktails, meanwhile, are the exquisite concoctions of master mixologist Giacomo Giannotti (who won the 2014 World Class Best Bartender in Spain and came in 8th in the global final in London). Kick things off with a couple of tasty pastrami sandwiches ($8) or two platters to share (priced at $11 or $13) and let yourselves be wowed by Gianotti's creations. Don't miss the delightful tequila-based Hugo Sánchez or the spectacular Solera Presidente, with chocolate and vanilla smoke and berry cotton candy, served in a pipe.

4. Pappa Sven

Since opening its doors five years ago, this popular Swedish restaurant has created quite following for herring and gravadlax in the Catalan capital. While a delicious plate of Swedish meatballs will set you back $16 any night of the week, we suggest you pay Pappa Sven a visit on a Wednesday for Swedish tapas night. While the menu changes weekly, the concept remains the same: a delightful selection of bite-size Swedish dishes all priced at $1. Order 12-15 tapas each, add a bottle of house wine for $16, and your bill will still come in under budget.

5. El Tianguis

With tacos starting at $3 and cocktails at $4, this bright, lively Mexican bar is cheap and cheerful every night of the week. Even more so on Tuesdays, when tacos and beers start at only $1 each. Don't miss the delicious flavored daiquiris (we're partial to the mango) and the spicy pork cheek "cachete" taco.

6. Ziryab

This cozy eatery serves up a delightful fusion of Mediterranean and North African cuisine, combined with some interesting Catalan and Lebanese wines. We suggest you make like a local and order a selection of dishes to share, like the six mini dips ($13), bacon dates ($8), marinated chicken or shrimp brochette ($10), and grilled halloumi with pesto ($7). If you're on a budget, a bottle of Catalan wine starts at $16, or try the full-bodied Lebanese Ixsir Altitudes for $25.

7. Surya

We don't know if Surya is more popular for its colorful cocktails or the food that's bursting with spice, flavor, and fragrance. One thing's for sure, this place is nearly always busy. Start with the potato vadas ($6) and a serving of papadums ($2), followed by the shrimp madras ($13) if you like your curry spicy; try the chicken korma ($11) if you don't. Either way, there's enough left over for an exotic mojito or apple lychee martini ($10 each).

Isabelle Kliger is based in Barcelona and covers Spain for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram

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