In Granada, Spain, the Tapas Bar Scene Gets Fresh Life


Granada’s main attraction is undoubtedly the Alhambra, the stunning hilltop Moorish fortress that was home to the emirs who ruled the area in the 13th and 14th centuries. And while the majestic, ochre structure, a Unesco World Heritage site, is what mostly draws visitors here, there is perhaps no better way to unwind than to savor tapas gratis. Few travelers are privy to the tradition, but now, stylish newer spots like Tinta Fina, a sleek space with dark wood finishes, are bringing attention to the custom by sticking with it instead of following the latest food trends.

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Preparing ham tapas at Filigrana Delicatessen.

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Susana Girón for The New York Times

A few streets away, Sibarius, another newer establishment, is also adhering to convention. The bi-level contemporary boîte has a menu of Spanish, Asian and Peruvian dishes, but a glass of wine, a brandy or even a sparkling water means a hearty tapa is in store. The options change often, but a recent first round, referred to as una primera, was a bowl of steak-like tuna chunks in a pool of locally produced olive oil and garnished with orange zest and whole peppercorns.

One of the newest eateries to bow to this beloved culinary pastime is Filigrana Delicatessen. The airy space has been a popular hangout for locals since it opened last year, and pleasing this crowd is a top priority, said Alvaro Huertas, an energetic owner. “Free tapas are a way of life in Granada,” he said through an interpreter. “It’s what locals are accustomed to, and if I don’t follow this way, they won’t come.”

Tapa choices vary; the una primera on a Friday night last spring was bread crumbs mixed with sausage and peppers, while a ramekin of spicy chorizo accompanied by a thick slice of crusty white bread was the second.

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Susana Girón for The New York Times

More recent eateries like Filigrana Delicatessen are reviving the enthusiasm among locals in long-established joints in town and helping to attract tourists.

Opened in 1942, Bar Los Diamantes, is one such example.

The classic tapas bar, operating in five locations in and near Granada, has a no frills décor; the stellar small plates of seafood are lure enough.

There are about eight options, said Miguel Arias, an owner at Bar Los Diamantes, and the average bill with two or three glasses of Spanish wine is about 10 euros a person.

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A tapas presentation of cuttlefish fritters, manchego cheese and anchovies at Tinta Fina.

Credit
Susana Girón for The New York Times

Another Granada institution seeing a bump in patrons is the more than 70-year-old Cunini, where seafood tapas are also the star. Plates, meant for sharing, include prawns with the heads on, called quisquillas, seafood risotto and potato salad with baby shrimp.

And at the rustic La Tana, which is more than two decades old, Jesus Gonzalez Martin, an owner, said that traffic among both city residents and tourists had picked up. “Tourists, especially, are curious to see how the new and old tapas bars compare,” he said through an interpreter.

On a busy weekday afternoon, plates of tomato purée on toast topped with sardines, assorted sausages and omelet wedges layered with potatoes emerged from the tiny kitchen as crowds congregated around the handful of small wood tables and the bar.

For Mr. Romero, the tour guide, the evolving scene makes for a pleasurable tapas crawl.

“What ends up happening today that didn’t before is that we weave between the old and the new,” he said.

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