Tapeo por León: Eating in León, Spain

In life, we all find ourselves at crossroads. I’ll be honest: mine wasn’t life-changing or even that important, but it had to be made: Spend a day in the cheese and blood sausage capital of Spain, or one in a town with a big cathedral. Those of you who know me know I would have probably chosen the first, but bus communication really decided my route.

I said goodbye to Julie and José and boarded a bus to León. The valleys of Galicia flattened out to the stark plains of Castilla y León, the ancient old kingdom of the Spanish Empire. It was here that The Catholic Kings married and began their reconquest of the peninsula, here that Saint Teresa the mystic had her illusions and here that I fell in love with the country I now call home.

León was a city I never visited in that summer abroad. I had just hours in the city, but it was enough to make me swoon for Castilla all over again.
There’s a famous cathedral, the last upon the Camino de Santiago before reaching the end itself, with gorgeous naves and stained glass. There’s a Gaudí-designed house that remains the only Modernist monument in all of Old Castille. Then there’s the Barrio Húmedo, literally the Wet Neighborhood, for its abundance of bars and cafes.
I saved up my appetite until dinnertime, when the sun struck Santa María Cathedral into dripping golden hues. I never even think about eating before 11pm, but a friend’s suggestions were looming in my brain. The email was something to the effect of: “You can see the cathedral, walk, blah, blah, blah…and here are a bunch of suggestions for eating. So I followed my belly towards the bar.
What surprised me the most was that most tapas came for free with a drink. I ate like a king for less than I’d pay for a normal meal in Sevilla.

Bar Bambara, C/Matasiete
Consumed: One Mahou bottelín, one tapa of patatas al cabrales (fries with pungent cheese from Asturias)
Total Cost: 1,60

This place was completely unassuming, and I came because I had seen the poster advertising free tapas earlier in the day. I wouldn’t say the bar was anything special, but who can argue with free food?
TOTAL: 1,60
Bar Rebote

Consumed: Two large beers, three croquetas (morcilla, pizza and cheese)

Total Cost: 4,40
I am a croqueta aficionado. If it’s on the menu, I almost always order it, because fried potato and cheese delicacies are nothing short of typical Spanish and really delicious. But the croquetas at Rebote, a small tavern on Plaza San Martín that serves nothing else, are really special. Even at 9pm, the place was packed and the service speedy and friendly. And the croquetas. I tried cheese, pizza and morcilla, a blood sausage typical in Northern Castilla, and coul have easily stayed all night.
TOTAL: 6,00

Bar In Situ. C/Matasiete
Consumed: Two cortos con limón, sopa de ajo (garlic soup), bollo preñao (literally, impregnated bun, but really just chorizo in a bun).
Total Cost: 2,00
I don’t know what I was expecting from this crowded locale. The crowd was young and lively, especially for a Wednesday, and the food was great. While the lemon soda in my drink didn’t mix well with the sopa de ajo, a typical broth served with chunks of bread, I left feeling fuller than usual at dinner and needed a walk around the vivacious neighborhood before going to bed early.

TOTAL: 8,00
Castilla isn’t known for its cuisine necessarily, aside from roast suckling pig and morcilla, in the same way that other regions are. But, madre mía, I’m happy as long as my belly is full of good food!
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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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