Last Updated: December 2018
We’ve experienced so many new and wonderful things since moving to Valencia, I thought I would begin to make sense of it all in a ‘The Best of…’ section. Easy to pull out by category and hopefully provide some quick tips, whether visiting Spain (Valencia in particular) or moving here.
First of all, let me say that we are not Foodies. I don’t take photos of my food on Instagram or FB. Although when my friends do it I find my mouth, sometimes actually waters. Jeff is a meat, potatoes, hamburger and pizza guy. The only reason he ever eats anything else is because I make it, or the reservations.
So moving to another country has been stretching his notion of what he will acceptably eat to the fullest extent. But, almost daily, he strikes out with me into the abyss. Sometimes its a big miss. But others have been surprising, even to him. The following are some of the best restaurants, gastro bars and watering holes we’ve encountered along the way, for culinary peasants like us. I’ll be updating them regularly. Perhaps I’ll have to start taking photos of my food.
- Swagat – Indian right off Grand Via on Salamanca – It’s authentic and the dishes are just the right size. The food is traditional tandoori and vegetarian dishes. I love the Murg Pakora and the Meat Samosas, but maybe just order the Swagat Platter and get a variety on the first time out. We try to go there once a week but it’s a little far away – worth the 25 minute walk from our house – or quick metro ride.
- Birlibirloque Bar – Spanish Gastro bar near the Cathedral– We found this place when it was threatening to rain and it was lunch time. We saw it and ran in as drops had begun to become monsoon. It’s small and the furnishings are IKEA. We sat down and they presented us with the menu for tapas. Usually, tapas isn’t for us. It can mean sardines on toast with some sauce or something else neither of us are interested in. This menu was a little different and the tuna tacos were heavenly. I ordered 3. We had good wine/beer and then some of the pork rib mini-sandwiches and small bite-sized burgers with caramelized onions and a sauce that melted in the mouth. Finally, the triple chocolate desert of chocolate gelato, brownie and a strange chocolate mousse with caramelized sugar skewers sprinkled with local sea salt that was so good we both moaned when we ate it. If I could marry a meal, it would be the one we had on this rainy day. But I’d rather live in sin with it forever. Go here – eat – and tell me what you think.
- Jijoneca – Heladeria (Ice cream) various neighborhoods in Valencia– In our family, ice cream matters. And we will walk a looong way if the ice cream is good. Jijoneca is good ice cream. Wait! No, it’s great ice cream. There are many locations in Valencia – one about a 15 minute walk from home. But we like the one at the beach. The selection is double what the one presents near our apartment, so whatever you’re in the mood for after a day at the beach, the Jijoneca at Malvorossa beach can accommodate it.
- Baltasar – Spanish near the Central Mercat – The perfect Spanish lunch. The gazpacho is feathery light, not too cold and perfectly seasoned. Sometimes gazpacho can be too spicy – like they hate the vegetables they put in it in the first place. Baltasar doesn’t try too hard. The food is straight forward but consistently good. My beet salad with goat cheese and a basil/olive oil sauce wasn’t over done. Unlike in the US, after a small soup and a salad, I could do desert. And with a menu del dia at 10.50 euros (yes, you heard that right, three courses for 10.50) and a glass of wine (good wine) was included, I can’t think of anything to complain about.
- Cafe Patacona – Morning Coffee on the Playa – You can get a coffee at 5 places on every block in Valencia – well, all of Spain really. But where you get it is important. There will always be the local, neighborhood places we will favor near our home. And I have a favorite dive bar in down town with crusty old guys who grunt when you place your order and when you pay. But my favorite place to have coffee these days is right on Patacona Beach in Alboraya.
We like Cafe Patacona for our morning coffee before we walk on the beach or right after. It’s on the other side of the river that separates Valencia’s Malvarossa Beach from Alboraya’s Patacona, and it’s quiet. And now, they know they us since we always sit at the number 7 table out front. The coffee is good but you’ll pay for the pleasure of looking at the Med while you drink. A very small price to pay. For afternoon coffee? Now that will depend greatly on where you find yourself at lunch or late afternoon, needing a pick-me-up. Then all bets are off.
- Torreta – Just damn good food on Patacona – We discovered Torreta by mistake. We tried to eat somewhere else but they were rude. So we saw Torreta and wandered in. What a heavenly mistake. Their ratatouille is perhaps the best I’ve ever had. And the pork cheek with vegatables, in a red wine reduction over root vegetable puree is like a massage for your mouth. When I cut into the pork cheek it fell apart. I could have eaten it with a dull baby spoon. We watched others order desserts that looked divine. The staff is nice and very, very attentive. We are going back for our Anniversary to enjoy more of their wonderful menu. Totally unpretentious but not your typical ‘Beachy’ atmosphere. Great food and good views of the Med. What more can you ask for and this time we’ll be ordering dessert!
- Bajo Flores ~ Pizaa a la Piedra – Old Benimachlet – We stumbled on this place. Literally, stumbled after wandering around looking for food. Nothing was satisfying and we just kept walking. We smelled it before we knew the place was there. They bake the pies in a ceramic pizza oven. The air tasted like heaven. My mouth watered. Emilie proclaimed it in her top pizza’s of all time. The pie was huge. Jeff had the lasagna and said it was good enough to send me out to get him more on a cold night. I had the Capresse salad meant for a table of 4 and ate the whole thing. The owner is a very cool guy in grey dreadlocks who was more than welcoming. Now we have our Pizza/Italien place. Whew!
- The Black Turtle – American Burgers at Arena – I have to update my ‘Best Burger’ category because we discovered the newly opened Black Turtle pub at our local Centro Commercial. The Black Turtle was started a few years ago by some Valencians who lived in the US and have tried to create a menu that most closely mimics one you might find in restaurants south of 25th street in NYC. And, while not always spot on, the burgers are right there. The meat is right – something that is hard to find in Spain – and it’s cooked correctly. The condiments are also the right ones and they offer Gluten Free buns (always a favorite with me). They have several location throughout the city. Including one in Rusafa.
- Portland Ale House – American Burgers on Salamanca off Gran Via – It’s a Portland-Style pub, as in Portland, Oregon in the US. It’s funky and packed to the rafters with all things Portland and Oregon, really. The pictures on the wall show Cannon Beach, where we used to vacation as a kid. The colleges memorabilia is hanging on the walls and the local soccer team is well represented. There is more than one street sign from my old stomping grounds in college. But while the trip down memory lane is fun, the burgers and fries are the read deal. These are Jeff approved since he’s the burger guy in our family. On a day when you just need a meal from back home in a place that looks familiar, the Portland Ale House if for you.
You can’t live in Spain and not LOVE olive oil and olives. First of all, if you drink in any bar, they will plunk down a bowl of olives in front of you to snack on. And in about 75% of the restaurants, you’ll have them placed on the table while you’re waiting for your meal, sometimes in place of bread.
Spain is the largest olive producer in the world and thus the largest olive oil producer. Its crazy cheap. I mean – really crazy. Wesson oil in the grocery store in the US costs about the same. We’ve gone on tours of some of the groves and met some of the people who make the oil (or just press what nature gave them) and we’ve developed our favorites. Pro tip: don’t buy your olive oil in a grocery store. Buy it from the grower – like wine. Get to know them and get access to their reserva. Its well worth it. Your afternoon ritual of dipping toastada in this heavenly, extra virgin nectar will thank you. And so will your taste buds and you will be rewarded. We do this ever afternoon and we’re starting to be able to tell the subtle differences between the types of olives, the age of trees and the presses. Here are our favorites.
- Mirall de la Terra – Chozas Carrascal – This is oil from the plateau southwest of Valencia, about 60 miles away. They cold press their olives from the 240 acres of groves that surround their winery. It’s a smooth oil and the finish at the taste isn’t acidic. The color is a rich green on the plate – I hadn’t seen this before. I can eat it every day, but I try to alternate so I don’t run out. A trek out there isn’t a quick undertaking but I’ll do it when I run out.
- Gota de Oro – San Mateu – The groves from this small farm to the Northwest of Valencia contain millennium trees. That is, trees that are over a thousand years old. They are very interesting as they store their own water in burl-like bulbs on their trunks, guarding themselves against the olive tree’s biggest enemy – drought. Gota de Oro produces two types of olive oil:
- Farga – This is the very trees producing the oil. Farga oil is thought to have almost magical properties and the trees are rare. It’s believed that they were brought to Spain from the Holy Land over a thousand years ago. Growing Farga trees is hard, apparently. They haven’t had luck in growing new ones, so the old trees are just that much more valuable. The oil is smooth going in, but it has more of a bite on the back end. Like a bit of pepper. Not bad but you notice it.
- Fruita – It’s more of an easy-to-eat oil. It actually has a fruity taste – almost sweet and means that you can eat more of it without thinking. Very dangerous. Fruita is made from much younger trees – but is still from the first gold press. No grocery store quality here. Just smooth, yummy light oil that goes down easy. Great for salads too.
We’ve tasted other oils, in restaurants and purchased it in specialty stores. So far, nothing has lived up to our favorites. I’m sure we’ll stumble upon more over time that we find irresistible, and I’ll update the page when we do..
We live in the city. Yes, we have Jeff’s motorcycle and we live near a Metro and Tram stop but sometimes you don’t feel like going out and you just want someone to bring it to you. Here in Valencia, this is an easy fix.
Most traditional fast food chains, your McDonalds and Burger Kings want you to initiate ‘en casa’ delivery. They seem to prefer it judging by all the ads on TV and the innumerable scooters parked outside them with the ‘En Casa’ signs festooning the boxes on the back.
But for me, while I can get my food delivered by Uber East – just like back home, here I prefer Glovo. Glovo will pick up and deliver nearly anything to you, presupposing it fits into what would be considered the size of an average fish tank. But they’ll also pick something up from you and take it somewhere or to someone else. It’s cheaper than a cab ride and they’ll go nearly anywhere – including ‘Taste of America’ which is rather a hike from our house.
I love how inexpensive it is (anywhere between 2,50 – 4 euros), but they advertise that they’ll literally take ‘Anything’ as long as it fits on a bike or motor scooter. This includes picking up prescriptions and gifts (oh, we do have an anniversary coming up – so Jeff will be off the hook this time:))
But if Glovo is busy it’s good to have Uber Eats to fall back on.
Home Improvement Stores
If you’re like us, we practically lived at Home Improvement stores on the weekends back in the US. We were always doing something to the house or garden. Making 3 trips down there wasn’t unusual in one weekend. So it stands to reason that when we got here we’d need to find one.
Also, getting settled requires tools. Drills and wrenches and screw drivers. Jeff shipped some of his more important tools – things he couldn’t live without. But it took about 6 months for it all to show up and we needed some things before them to set up house. And just like back in the US, we have our favorite. ‘The right tool for the right job’ is something my Dad always said. Each of them has their strengths and weaknesses.
- BrickoMart – This is the Home Depot of Valencia. And it even looks like Home Depot when you go in, with the orange motif and the hand written signage in black marker. It’s the first thing I thought of when we walked in. The closest one to us is in Shopping City in Alfafar, but you’ll fine everything you need, from plumbing, tiling and even scaffolding. It’s the real workman’s supply store. The staff here don’t speak great English but since it’s for the local tradesman I wouldn’t expect them to.
- Leroy Merlin – More of a home store, Leroy Merlin has a lot of home decor. Draperies and window coverings, pictures and framing, lighting and paint. Definitely a do-it-yourself type of stuff. Smaller things with easy homeowner assembly. They do have some tools but they’re more low end to mid range on durability. But as a homeowner, who is no building a house themselves, it’s probably OK for most people. Especially the apartment dweller. The staff can mostly speak English. You can find Leroy Merlin at both Shopping City in Alfafar and in Port Saplaya behind the Alcampo.
- Bauhaus – Last but not least, this store is a combo of both and twice as big. One side is home decor. The other is more for the tradesman or very ambitious home owner. Bauhaus has the best garden section with more outdoor furniture than Leroy Merlin and the seasonal selection of merchandise puts them to shame. The staff speak English and are very helpful. The only one of these we’ve seen in Valencia is at Shopping City in Alfafar.
So many people read books on iPads or e-readers that finding a good book is a couple of clicks away. We like to hold the book – even our kids are like this. So moving here proved a bit of a challenge because even ordering books in English on Amazon was not very successful. And the ones you can get are nearly double the price of what the publisher lists on the actual book. In the summer, Emilie and I went looking and we hoofed it all over this city. So now we know where some of them can be found.
- English Wooks – Google listed it as a ‘Book Store’ but it’s really just an alcove attached to an English Language school in Campanar. They do have a lot of English lesson exercise books. But they also have a few shelves of books in English by popular authors. And they have a decent shelf of used books that they sell at a fraction of the price. They also buy books too. You’re welcome to go in and browse and purchase but they’re not so used to people walking in from the street so you’ll have to explain why you’re there before they let you in. The person working the counter didn’t speak English very well (ironic for and English school) but my Spanish is crap so I can’t complain).
- Abacus Cooperatives – This is sort of an office supply/school supply store. They have everything you’ll need on that front. And in a couple of small shelves in the corner – mixed in with their other books in Spanish – they have some books in English. Some of them are the latest titles. Some are Harry Potter books, but we bought a couple for Em and she was happy. The staff speak English and are very helpful.
- El Corte Ingles – The book department on the ground floor at the one in Colon is impressive. They have all the first run titles in Spanish when they’re released. And tucked in there are 4 shelves of English books. I was so excited I wanted to buy them all. It was nice to stand there and just read the jackets – like I do back home at a Barnes and Noble. There is also a Starbucks on the ground floor – right by the books so I could have bought a grande soy chai extra hot no foam latte – and just pretended I was there but it was 10,000 degrees out that day so it seemed a little contrived. But I enjoyed it all the same. We bought so many books I’m still reading through the stack, but part of what I love the most is looking at our shelf and seeing what I’ve already read and feeling that sense of accomplishment. And being surrounded by books is my life’s ambition.