Sometimes I just need someone to teach me how to tapa.
Every city in Spain plays by their own tapas rules. Granada’s tapas are huge and free. Bilbao’s are small and pricey. Madrid is a mixed bag and León is an infallible tapas wonderland. But what about the tapas in La Coruña, my home away from home for the summer?
Turns out Coruña takes the best of land and sea, adds in the freshest local ingredients and turns it all into some spot-on tapas.
Thanks to a handful of stellar local tapas gurus and a seriously unhealthy amount of tapas tasting, I have been able to frolic through a month of excellent eating. They’ve helped me unlock the secrets of how to tapa in La Coruña. And I have to admit, I’m going to go through some serious La Coruña tapas withdrawals when I head back to Madrid next week!
Jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, La Coruña is the hammerhead-shaped corner of the far northwestern Spanish province of Galicia.
Coruña is known for two things: stellar seafood and barbecued meat. Seafood because it is a port city surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean and meat because the green hills of rainy Galicia are cow grazing heaven.
More than 45 tons of seafood are hauled into Coruña’s port each year. Scallops, crab, shrimp, mussels, clams, squid, octopus… the list of deliciousness goes on and on.
Much of the fresh seafood caught in the cold Atlantic waters off of Coruña’s coastline goes straight to the city’s bars and restaurants. This small coastal town of about 245,000 is packed with white table clothed marisco restaurants, wood tabled octopus houses and everything in between.
It can be pretty tricky to find a tapa of fresh seafood though. For bar hopping, meat is where it’s at. From crispy pork ribs to juicy beef steaks, the quality of Galician meat is on full display in Coruña’s tapas bars and parrillada grill houses. I rarely eat meat, but in Galicia I can’t get enough!
How It Works
Prime Coruña tapas time starts at around 9:00 p.m. The street side tables fill with people drinking the local beer, Estrella Galicia, and regional white wines like Albariño and Godello.
Many places in La Coruña will serve a small tapa with your drink, but only a few make it past an aperitivo of chips or a small square of tortilla española into the realm of true tapas. There are some notable exceptions that offer tasty cured meats, cheeses or soups!
Luckily tapas here are fairly inexpensive, usually about €1.50.
What To Order
Meat or seafood? Mar or tierra? It’s a question that plagues my daily existence in Coruña. Do I want a fire-charred bit of unfairly juicy, otherworldly flavorful steak? But then how could I ever pass up the zamburiñas (mini scallops), the most perfect dish on God’s green Earth? My advice: get it all!
Even the average tapa of tortilla española in Coruña is phenomenal. The tortilla here tends to be cooked much less than in most other parts of Spain. The eggy, finely sliced potatoey center oozes out in a golden wave when sliced. Hello tortilla heaven!
This extra juicy style of tortilla making is thanks to the tiny pueblo Betanzos. The ultra-runny tortilla in Betanzos, about 25 kilometers southeast of Coruña, is so hugely popular (it was named the best tortilla in the country in 2011) that has inspired the entire province to copy its gooey style.
The seafood in Coruña cannot be beat. My go-tos are zamburiñas (variegated scallops, seared with olive oil and served on the half shell), navajas (razor clams, simply steamed) and gambas or langostinos a la plancha (shrimp, grilled whole with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with fat sea salt crystals).
Seafood is rarely served as a tapa, but it would be a sacrilege not to include it in a post about food in Coruña. Instead of a small tapa, order a ración (shared plate) of whichever marisco suits your fancy!
Pork as it should be. Raxo is cubed pork tenderloin that has been marinated for hours in olive oil, garlic, white wine and spices. It is then seared over high heat until the edges are crispy and the center is delightfully juicy.
That juicy goodness runs down into the french fries it is always served with to make a plate of downright deliciousness, that is 100 percent Galician.
Tequeños are a decidedly Coruñan thing. These half-foot-long sticks of flash fried dough ooze with melty cheese in a way that is all kinds of right.
The recipe was brought to Coruña by Venezuelan immigrants and quickly became a staple of the city’s tapas scene. Devour them while you’re here because you’ll be hard pressed to find tequeños anywhere else in the country!
Queso del Pais
It may be called the “country’s cheese”, but this cheese has Galicia written all over it. The go-to cheese here is soft, creamy and usually made from the milk of Galician Blonde cows. The best part, though, is it’s name: tetilla, which literally means “titty.”
Legend has it that centuries ago there was a statue of a woman with very large breasts in a town center in the province of Coruña. The mayor of the town found the well-endowed statue to be too vulgar for the town square and ordered her breasts be shaved down. In retaliation, the local cheesemakers made their cheese in the shape of a breast. The style was so popular it stuck!
I am rarely a white wine drinker, but in Galicia it is a must. The region produces some awesome white wines that pair perfectly with the seafood served in Coruña!
There two main Galician white wine grapes are Albariño and Godello, Albariño being drier and Godello being fruitier. They are produced throughout five Denomination of Origen Control regions, although Ribeiro is the oldest and arguably most prestigious white wine region in Galicia.
Estrella Galicia’s 1906 Reserva Especial
I love a nice bottle of white wine when I’m out for seafood, but for a night of tapas I’ve only got eyes for a “mil nueve.” The local brewer’s 1906 Special Reserve is perhaps my favorite beer of all time. I’m not usually a beer drinker, but for a 1906 (or mil nueve for short) I’ll become one.
Where To Go
The narrow cobblestoned streets in the old town of Coruña are packed with bar after bar. The shade awnings from the multitude of restaurants create a convenient umbrella to protect not only from the sun, but from the frequent drizzle.
When I’m feeling indecisive, I stroll down Estrella and Barrera streets. Just blocks from the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, Calle Real, you can’t go wrong with any of the tapas spots on these streets!
For the true stand-out gems, though, I’m willing to make a detour (which in the small center of Coruña means a five minute walk). Here are my go-tos:
This nearly 80-year-old bar is a classic of Coruña’s tapas scene. In fact, in may be the most famous tapas spot in the city!
Bombilla keeps it simple with a menu of only about half a dozen options. I highly recommend the jumbo croqueta, which is nearly the size of my fist! The tortilla and the fried calamari are also worth a try. All the tapas at Bombilla only €1!
Where to find it: Calle de Torreiro, 6
O Viñedo de Tito
Wine barrel tables are scattered beneath a canopy of grapevines that fill the sky of the narrow street in Coruña’s old town center. O Viñedo de Tito is my ideal setting for having a glass of wine.
Add to that their excellent local wines list, fresh seafood, delightful seared mushrooms and cheese so creamy it should be illegal and you’ve got one helluvah tapas spot!
Where to find it: Travesía Estrecha de San Andrés, 4
O Recuncho de Mayte
When I saw that all the tapas at O Recuncho were only €1 I was skeptical. But after tasting the melt-in-your-mouth raxo and the crispy pan-fried mushrooms I was sold. The spot is nothing fancy but the food needeth no frills. It’s done right.
Where to find it: Calle Pórtico de San Andrés, 11
A Taberna de Cunqueiro
Cunqueiro is just what I want in a tapas bar. They atmosphere is antique and lively, the wine options are right and the tapas are plentiful. Along with a small plate of tortilla or charcuterie, they always give you a mini clay bowl of soup!
Rúa Estrella, 22
The addicting namesake tapa at El Tequeño is like the beautiful child of a mozzarella stick and a kolache. The tables at El Tequeño are clustered on the cobblestones of Coruña’s main plaza, making it one of the most idyllic tapas spots in the city. And did I mention the tequeños are only €1.50?
Where to find it: Praza de María Pita, at No. 21.
Anduriña is all about raxo. It’s one of the only spots in town that make not just pork, but also chicken raxo. Ideally spiced, perfectly charred and delightfully juicy, the raxo at this family owned tapas bar is the real deal.
Where to find it: Calle Estrella, 8
Have you ever been to this part of Spain? What were your favorite tapas in La Coruña?