Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant
I shifted my weight from one leg to another as we stood in line. A warm sense of familiarity and excitement fluttered in my chest. Laura raised her eyebrow and looked at her watch for the tenth time and muttered something under that heavy accent that I couldn’t understand. Carlota just sighed and kept hovering over the people in front of us, standing in her toes and trying to get a look at the place that had attracted so many hungry people. I ignored Laura’s skeptical eyes; I knew that if they did not seat us in the next five minutes, she was going to walk to the pizza place next door. Over my dead body. Luckily enough, we were invited right in before those two murdered me. If it were any other restaurant, I would not have dared to bring my friends with me, because what right does a Colombian have on taking two born-and-raised Spaniards to eat at a Spanish restaurant? I know…none. But don’t blame me. I had a craving for jàmon and Manchego croquetas that had been nudging at me for weeks.
Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant is tightly nestled along the busy and never-ending Beacon Street, but undeniably stands out with its heavy glass doors and gray rustic tiles of vintage looking wood. Sitting at dinner with my friends, we didn’t feel like we were just eating food, we were actually enjoying ourselves without caring about our deafening Spanish voices and unbridled laughter. Most importantly, we were happy, and in that we were not alone. Smiles seemed to be served by the waiters, along with the golden olive oil and freshly baked bread.
Barcelona’s dynamic menu includes a refreshing variety of seasonal ingredients and complex flavors that keep the customers on their toes. They also serve the best wine from their award-winning selections of bottles from Spain and South America. Hence, their gastronomic combination of tradition and experimentation represents the two different worlds inside the venue.
In the “young and hip” side of the restaurant, you have the big parties of students, in groups of no less than eight to ten people, all sitting in rows of never-ending tables with three or four pitchers of red wine sangria passed around like water. Sitting in that sea of compulsive selfie takers, you are bound to either hear the well-known “happy birthday” song awkwardly spat out by a bunch of off-tune voices, or the melody of a tipsy, overly-emotional parent commemorating their child who has graduated and barely made it to the merciless world of the labor market. Left and right, servers can be spotted clumsily trying to fit all of the table participants into one single shot so the memory of the evening can be later recalled and shared.
At Barcelona it always feels like everybody is celebrating something.
Contrastingly, the left side of the restaurant is filled with the “grown-ups” sitting patiently along the bar, individuals with nine-to-five jobs that desperately need a break from the conference rooms and phone calls, and seek to escape with a good bottle of Pinot Noir or Albariño. On this side, though, celebrations are also present, normally caused by unexpected promotions, anniversaries, or the mere fact that the hell-of-a-week they’ve been having has finally come to an end. On Fridays and Saturdays, however, the space catches more energy. All of a sudden, the stools are no longer compatible with the number of bodies seeking to drink and the room begins to look more like a cocktail party than the “sit down quietly and drink your sorrows” type of bar found anywhere else. Barcelona brings out the best in everyone as it becomes a place where people can come together and drink without feeling guilty, because it’s drinking in honor of something, or someone.
Although the types of celebrations can vary between the two different sides of the restaurant, there is a factor that brings all of the people together, regardless of age or upcoming salary: the food. The food is the same in every single table. The beauty of eating at a tapas place like Barcelona is that there are no rules when it comes to ordering. You don’t have to choose just one dish, you can order all of them if you want. Can’t decide between the gambas al ajillo or the sweet potato hummus? Try them both! Eating at Barcelona is a unique experience as it gives you the freedom to experiment. If you don’t like something, chances are somebody else will eat it–this gives you room to keep trying bits and pieces of everything until you find those flavors you’re looking for. Last year’s Executive Chef Steven Brand basically sums it up as he says, “It’s not just dining because you’re hungry, it’s dining because it’s fun.” It’s fun to celebrate and mix things up in your palate. It is fun to let yourself be surprised or even disturbed by the unexpected flavors stuck in between your teeth.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that sharing only applies to the tapas – trust me, you are going to want to order more than one dessert. There is no way of choosing only one. My friends and I ordered the porras, spanish churros. With one bite, I got everything one looks for in a churro: the perfect crunchiness in the outside and the comfort of the softness in the inside. I was not overwhelmed by the cinnamon sugar in any way, and it paired perfectly with the taste of the fresh dough and the side of melted chocolate. But, as you may expect, curiosity got the best of us, so we ordered the dulce de leche crepe. The vanilla ice cream on top melted against the warm crepe while the layer of chocolate sauce and crushed walnuts added a satisfying crunch to the bite. This sweet combination was the perfect ending we were looking for to feel satisfied, and after taking a look at the check, we found yet another reason to celebrate.
So, when it comes to properly enjoying this transcendental experience of eating at Barcelona, there is one general rule that you need to follow. Drumroll please…you have to be hungry! And, yes, I mean this literally and if you are, you will not be disappointed, especially if you order the patatas bravas, or the chorizo with sweet and sour figs. The bravas are the Spanish classic, and the chef respects tradition as he cuts them in the traditional cube form, and adds nothing to them but paprika, the aioli sauce, and their famous salsa brava. The potatoes are fried to perfection–every time I order them they are cloaked by a golden crunch that you have to bite though to get the softness hidden inside. The saltiness of the potato is married to the creamy garlic sauce, creating a perfect balance. On the other hand, the chorizo with sweet and sour figs is everything but traditional. Who would have guessed that chorizo, an ingredient that is in itself salty and fatty, would get along so well with figs and caramelized brown sugar? A genius, that’s who. But when I refer to hunger, I also mean another type of hunger, a hunger for celebration and community. Yes, you have to crave the rich taste of Spanish culture, but you also have to yearn for the long conversations and the sense of unity that the restaurant harbors. Barcelona serves the food in small plates on purpose: it wants you to interact with those around you. It sets you up so that when you’re asking for someone to pass the delicious seafood paella, you are inevitably starting a conversation; you are sparking a new connection or strengthening another relationship. Thus, Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant celebrates life with you and stays open until the last guest leaves. In the meantime, as those last few plates are passed around and scraped clean and the glasses are refilled until the last drop, you have just enough time to raise your glasses and say, salud!
Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant, 1700 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446