I’ve learned a lot of things in Spain. Just ask Christine. Certainly one of those lessons has been to speak up. As Spaniards are candid about their opinions and not really all that patient, their bar language is a reflection of the gregarious personality that even my six-year-old students display.
And this is why I loved El Tintero, a malagueño restaurant that puts it all to practice.
Let me preface: It was my pal Hayley’s 27th birthday, so I had to make a trip out to her current home of Antequera for a quick visit. Lady loves her Spanish everything, though seafood is not really her cup of té (and neither is coffee, for the record). Still, our friend Julie of Forenex fame was also visiting, so it only seemed right for her husband Fer to drive us to Málaga for fresh seafood.
I’ve always had a soft spot for chiringuitos, even long before I even started eating fish. I dreamed of istting under a red Coca Cola umbrella, wasting away the summers with a cold glass of San Miguel in my hand and my toes burrowing into the cool sand. El Tintero is the Joe Pa of chiringuito beach bars – wildly eccentric, the best at his trade – and worth trying to match Sarah of Love and Paella’s fantastic write-up from a few years back.
Perched at the end of a long line of beachfront restaurants on the Playa del Dedo on Málaga’s far east stretch, El Tintero specializes in seafood. But there’s no menu – instead, the feeding time works like a subasta, or auction. Waiters in the standard white-shirt, black-pants uniform pass around with plates of anything from the sea – from Malaga’s famous espetos (charred sardines cooked on a skewer) to arroz meloso to fresh clams and whole fish a la plancha.
Our, um, upset tummies (all the red velvet cake the night before, clearly) welcomed the beer brought in jars and Fernando’s choice of puntilltas to get started. Hayley flagged down a waiter for arroz marinero, and I shouted for razor clams bursting out of their long shells and sardines. The place was crawling with people, ONCE lottery ticket sellers and the occasional busker, but all the noise made for a non-necessity to converse. Our mouths were so full at times, we could barely work up the nerve to order more.
The plates became more readily available as the sun crept along the shoreline horizon and 5pm closing time approached. Our bellies couldn’t fit anything more in, even though the plates became more and more appetizing as the eating wore on. The quick-talking ME COBRO!! waiter carried around a portable credit card machine and a very accurate mental calculator and totaled our plates – 7,50€ for each of our seven plates plus a few jars of beer and a few bottles of water. Exhaling, we made room for a few bites of chocolate cake and a coffee.
My love of fried fish has definitely followed in the same trend of my love of going to the beach (I’m totally a mountain girl, but live in one of the flattest parts of Spain), so fried fish is high on my list of summertime favorites. Pecaíto frito – fried fish – is one of the specialties in Sevilla and present on any menu or in any freiduría. Here’s a quick glossary:
- calamares fritos – squid rings
- cazón – a member of the shark family, soaked in brine and fried
- chanquetes – white bait
- choco – fried cuttlefish
- gambas – prawns, usually boiled or battered and fried
- langostas – any type of shellfish
- mejillones – clams
- navajas – razor clams
- puntillitas – fried baby squid
- sardinas – fried sardines
If you go to El Tintero take the exit that circumvents the city center and takes you out towards Almería, exiting at El Palo and continuing on towards the coast and the Playa del Dedo. Be aware that parking on the street is limited, so you’ll likely have to pay a busker who will help you park your car. Plates are 7,50€ unless otherwise noted (5€ on Fridays), and gratuity is included with your bill. Expect to pay about 15€ a head for food and drinks.