The morning meal has many faces in Barcelona. You might have a regular breakfast, with coffee and a pastry. Then there’s a salty version, which includes the usual elements: eggs, ham and, of course, bacon. Finally, there’s a traditional dish called esmorçars de cullera, or breakfast with a fork because you often need a utensil to eat it, which is the Catalan approach to brunch. That “fork” breakfast can involve meat, or butifarra (a typical Catalan sausage), seafood (like squid, with garlic and parsley), or simply a potato omelet. To be completely authentic, the dish needs to be paired with a glass of wine. The best places in Barcelona serving this kind of meal (in addition to other styles of breakfast) are the older venues, most of them bodegas with no interest in design or decoration. They are what they are: traditional, old-school canteens with great food. Here are my favorites:
Quim de la Boqueria
There is no question that this bar is a classic, but it is also tucked inside another classic: the Boqueria market. Indeed, La Boqueria was recently named the best market in the world and Quim is the bar in La Boqueria (along with Pinotxo, another legendary spot). So, all other considerations aside, this is an obligatory visit while in Barcelona. Go early in the morning (it opens at 7 a.m.), find a place at the counter and ask for the day’s special: it’s worth every penny.
This is a relaxed and cozy bar that serves some of the best sandwiches in the city. It’s worshiped by the neighbors and is frequented primarily by locals (loyal clients, most of them) because they serve a fine breakfast at a very fair price. Try the fried-dough bunyols, the meat-and-potato bomba, or my favorite: the wide range of pepitos (crusty-bread sandwiches filled with tuna, Catalan sausage or salmon). Just be sure to go hungry.
Chef Alexis Peñalver opened this bar a few years ago. Perhaps since it's located in front of a famous market—La llibertat, in the very hipster neighborhood of Gracia—breakfast is the busiest time of day. They serve an incredible fork breakfast in a wonderfully old-school environment with a long counter. Be sure to try the ravioli; they change the menu constantly, so if it's not listed, ask for it anyway.
Can Ros is another great example of a great fork breakfast to be found in the Gracia neighborhood. The menu features perfect sandwiches, rich entrée dishes, and a strange combination of both that’s one of my favorite meals in the entire city: a meatball sandwich with a special sauce and peas on toasted bread (I recommend some exercise before ordering this). This bar is, like others on this list, not especially worried about its physical aspects, because they know the food they put on the table is nothing short of amazing. Check out their excellent wines by the glass, too.
This bar is a bit removed from the usual tourist grid—it’s 15 minutes from the city center by subway— but it’s definitely worth a visit. The cod sandwich with green peppers alone is worth the trip. The restaurant is inside the Collblanc Market, a few minutes from the Barcelona Soccer Club stadium, so if you go there for a match, you can’t miss it.