San Sebastian is a beacon of Basque Country, a distinctive region in northern Spain and southwest France that has its own language. Lush, rolling hills yield premium produce and meat, which fuel a parade of Old Town pintxo bars, plus many Michelin-starred kitchens. Learn about 15 top places to eat or drink in San Sebastian and the surrounding País Vasco.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
This 25-year-old restaurant occupies a two-story stone building, with a bar downstairs and an upstairs dining room with layered walls, white clothed tables, plenty of plantlife, and an arched wood ceiling. Chef Victor Arguinzoniz cooks mostly local ingredients over a magical wood grill. His brazo burns grape and grape vines for beef, and oak for seafood and vegetables. The results fuel a tasting menu, which features plenty of scintillating house-made highlights, starting with two types of crusty house-made bread, mozzarella crafted from farmhouse buffaloes, tangy goat’s milk butter, and fresh chorizo made with a recipe from Arguinzoniz’s grandmother featuring loosely packed meat cut from close to an Iberian pig’s spine. From there, expect a parade of treasured vegetable and seafood dishes, The food was magnificent, and so was the setting, which included a mountain backdrop and a flock of sheep that ambled down the main street as dessert arrived and the sun set on a drizzly day.
MUST ORDER: Tasting Menu, with particular standouts including Borage Broth with wood-kissed cockles, Prawns of Palamós, Beef Chop Chuleton, and Reduced Milk Ice Cream with beetroot juice
Talented young chef Ander González recently started appearing on a travel show on Spanish television, No es País para Sosos, in which he joins Ramón Roteta in promoting Basque gastronomy. When he’s at Astelena in San Sebastian’s Parte Vieja (Old Town), he commands the dining room and presents the best of the region on the plate. González takes his heritage seriously, but the dining room is by no means stuffy, with white clothed tables sporting flower-filled vases, art-lined walls, and Motown playing on the stereo. Astelena offers a reasonably priced 36€ tasting menu, along with plenty of a la carte options, including plump Orio blood sausage plated on grilled red Morrón peppers, grilled scallops gracing silky potato cream, and hearty hake steak with clams. No matter what you order, conclude with Un Chapito de Pacharán, the local digestif of choice, distilled from grapes, with anise flavor.
MUST ORDER: Cheeks of Beef Astelena-Style, Grilled Scallops, Hake Steak, Orio Black Pudding, Un Chapito de Pacharán
3. Atari Gastroteka
No, you won’t have to jockey for position with Donkey Kong and Q-Bert at the wood bar. Instead, this fashionable pintxos destination in the shadow of an Old Town basilica features reclaimed wood and pastel green walls, bustling wood tables and a waterfall’s worth of wine. Foie gras is particularly noteworthy, prepared a la plancha and plated with white chocolate cream sauce, cornbread and a red dome of raspberry pate de fruit. Langostinos are also exemplary, plump, sweet and drizzled with parsley oil.
MUST ORDER: Brocheta de Langostinos, Foie Plancha
4. Bar Azkena
Exciting food stalls hide in the basement of Bretxa’s market compound. For the past 14 years, a goateed man has served high-value breakfast and lunch. He keeps croissants and ham creations on the counter, plus tortillas. Tortilla de Anchoas should be an even bigger draw than it is, with a savory complement of salsa de pimiento verde, potato chips, fried garlic, green peppers and chives. He also sells Tortilla de Patatas slabs with pimiento verde and onion. Some people drink coffee with breakfast, others wine. Both camps seem pleased.
MUST ORDER: Tortilla de Anchoas
5. Bar Bergara
This welcoming bar dates to 1950 and resides across the bridge from Old Town. A brown awning and planter-lined patio front a tiny dining hall, which sports purple walls, communal tables topped with pintxo key words, actual pintxos on the white counter, and blackboard menus. Foie gras and seafood both headline popular pintxos that you won’t find on the counter, but are still well worth ordering. Txalupa Gratinado de Setas was of particular interest, featuring toasted bread touting langostinos, cream, cava and Parmesan cheese gratin.
MUST ORDER: Risotto de Hongoa de Foie, Txalupa Gratinado de Setas