In Spain bars are much more than informal places to drink, eat or meet: they are second homes for everybody, used by nature and nurture to pay them a visit more than once a day and have in there many things that most people in other countries have just at home.
That’s why Spain is now the second European Country in food services, right after Cyprus and growing, with more than half million food places, mostly bars, and ten millions people working on them, as the fellows below.
After beating the all-time winner Andalucía, the Valencian Community is now the Spanish leader, with more than thirty thousand bars: one every one hundred fifty inhabitants! With crisis pushing many people on the leave to invest all their funds in opening one more bar, it’s pretty hard to get one’s bearings in such a bar jungle!
Surviving at the Bar Jungle… Back to Basics!
One conservative but infallible alternative is stick to the oldest survivors in Valencia’s Bar Jungle, as the four healthy dinosaurs I am introducing to you next: they managed to survive right at the core of the city offering Valencian Bar Basics and add up some four hundred years alive and so well as people that pay them a visit!
The elder one, El Pilar a.k.a. La Pilareta, turns centenary in five years, as opened its doors in 1917 right at the historical core of the city, El Carmen, a quarter worth the visit itself! Beyond its age, El Pilar is an institution by its unique cloxinas (a typically Valencian kind of mussel), and a selection of classic tapas that is second to none. In addition, even if the place, below, has been reformed a few times, still holds its tangible magic to bring you back to the old times while listening waiters sing orders old-style. If I had to try just one of all four, I’ll try this one!
Next comes Cooperativa Amorós, with a large history since starting in 1929, turning into a cooperative in 1982, and passing to one of its members, José Mancebo, who has spent half his life in there and now balances tradition and his very own idiosyncrasy in adding niceties such as Ostrich Sandwich to a large menu of classic tapas and sandwiches or in offering his carefully selected wine list at very sensible prices. With visitors so illustrious as Orson Welles and Ava Garner or many current Valencian politicians, you can’t fail if you come into it!
Third in row, Taberna Vasca Che, is actually a Vasque tavern not a Valencian bar but, since opening in 1933 at one of the main Avenues, it has been adopted and cherished by everybody over here. All in all, it’s one of a kind, that reminds in setting to an old train wagon with compartments and in decoration to a lifetime mosaic. Vasque tapas are rightly considered at the top, and the Che offers its popular basics, such as txistorra, Stuffed Piquillo Peppers or Vizcaina Cod, as well as a very enjoyable and affordable daily menu and an unforgettable draught cider.
The younger of them (!), Los Toneles, founded in 1944 in front of the North Railway Station, has been for decades the main shelter for travellers coming by train to the city, and also for local people who know about its strong points: properly draught beer jars and traditional Valencian tapas and sandwiches: in particular, its famous ’squirt rings fried in batter sandwich’, its cod-balls and its red hot potatoes.