Eating tapas and drinking with the locals at Bar Jai-Ca

It’s easy to fall for Barcelona’s tourist traps but if you dig a little deeper you can find the genuine places the locals drink…

Like Bar Ja-Cai

Step away from Barri Gotic and La Rambla, stroll in the direction of the water and the demographics change. Backpacker hostels, weed shops and souvenir vendors are quickly replaced by supermercats, cramped apartments and alleys narrow enough for clotheslines to be strung from balcony to balcony. Here the moped rules the streets and local communities gather in cafes and cramped corner bars. This is the real Catalunya.

Hidden away in the beach side enclave of Barceloneta, Bar Jai-ca is your quintessential neighborhood bar. It’s 5pm and it’s already packed with a mix of tourists fresh off the boat and workers fresh off their shift. The bonhomie is bright, and the beers are flowing freely.

Old Estrella barrels line the wall and writing from another era marks out the days of the week, presumably indicating some kind of local lottery draw. Two modern copper kegs are the closest you’ll get to craft beers thankfully. The chairs look like they’ve come from a 1950s family home and the tiled topped tables are stained with decades of spilled red wine and tears.

We’ve come here for the tapas – not the fancy white plate experience, the scooped out of plastic containers with a battered metal spoon and dropped in front of you by a bar man already trying to memorize the next order being yelled at him from three tables over. It’s loud. A cacophonous mess of garbled sound waves that is playing havoc with the elder statesman of Team Watt who has joined us on this leg of our adventures. It’s no place for the hard of hearing as it’s next to impossible to hear each other chat either.

But who’s complaining when there’s $7 mojitos (not that anyone would hear you or care anyway). While we order first drinks, the next table pays for their last. As they add a tip to the bill, the bartender rings an old brass ship bell and all the staff collectively holler in appreciation. As a further show of gratification, the manager brings them a tray of shots – a routine that continues through the night amplifying the place as one table leaves (Ding! Ding! Ding!) and the next arrives.

A bowl overflowing with mussels in a creamy white wine sauce arrives followed by a steady pile of rich tapas. With a party of four, there’s barely room on the table and the little dishes are exchanged and collected regularly as we decimate the local treats. ham croquettes, Catalunyan bread and sautéed mushrooms ensure we’re all well fed by the time we ask for the check. Ding ding ding! The bar erupts with cheers! One round of passionfruit liqueur shots later and its out the doors of Bar Jai-ca and back to the relative peace and quiet of the Barceloneta back streets.

Ironically, there’s a quieter Bar Jai-ca just down the street.

WHAT?

Bar Jai-ca is a local tapas bar in the heart of Barceloneta.

WHERE?

Carrer de Ginebra, 13, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.

HOW?

Bar Jai-ca is open daily from 9am to 11:30pm. It packs out after 5pm, so expect to wait. Browse the menu and reserve a table here.

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