Esmorzar de Forquilla – The Plentiful Catalan Breakfast
WHERE TO EAT A TRUE FORK BREAKFAST
Fork Breakfast – esmorzar de forquilla in Catalan, is the breakfast of champions. In general, Spaniards eat continental breakfast: a cup of coffee and a bakery or toast. A sandwich to the most. Most jobs are quite sedentary and we don’t need many calories to survive until lunchtime. And brunch is something relatively new to Barcelona. Locals see it as a fun thing to do occasionally, but not every weekend.
Fork breakfast is a different thing. Called desayuno de cuchara in Spanish (spoon breakfast, instead), it’s not meant to be a combination of breakfast and lunch. Market vendors woke up very early and needed to prepare for a long day of physical effort. And nothing prepared them better than a rich breakfast.
Not just beans and sausage like in English breakfast, but earthy stews and grilled meats. Not a light toast but thick slices of countryside bread with good cheeses and cold cuts. Not a cup of coffee or a sophisticated mimosa, but a porró of red wine. Not bakeries or sweets, but a carajillo (coffee with a dash of liquor) to wake up the body and add a sweeter end to the meal. Eat early and a lot, work hard, then have a late lunch. Esmorzar de forquilla is not an excuse to skip a meal.
Bikers and hikers know where to replenish their energy levels in countryside road bars. But what about Barcelona city? We’ve selected the best options for you.
Recommended places to eat esmorzar de forquilla in Barcelona:
Tapas bars at La Boqueria Market
Or at any local food market, but La Boqueria is a personal favorite of mine. As we discussed before, esmorzars de forquilla started out to serve market vendors. And food markets continue to be one of the few places where locals get up early and work long hours. So market bars are the place where fork breakfast still keeps its original purpose. These days El Quim is not opening early enough for breakfast, so head to Pinotxo instead.
Enjoy it when tourists haven’t arrived yet, see Juanito talk to the regulars. Let his nephew Jordi recommend you a few choices. Watch the rest of the family (yes, most of them are relatives) work between the counter and the stoves. It’ won’t be a cheap breakfast, but you’ll remember the experience and cherish it for years to come.
Located on 133 Diputacio street, in the corner with Urgell st, Gelida is the kind of bar that you wouldn’t expect to find in the modesnist Eixample district. An old-fashioned bodega with wine barrels and old tiles, it offers home-made food at very affordable prices. They open at 7AM, and their kitchen is fully open then, busy preparing traditional recipes to feed their regulars.
Meatballs, rabbit, pig trotters, or cod. Adventurous eaters will have a blast here. But if you are more conservative you won’t be disappointed either. HINT: If you desperately need a sweet end to your meal don’t miss the main headquarters of Escriba cake makers, just 2 blocks away.
Hop on the L5 to reach the Horta District. Very close to the station you’ll find this other old bar that has made esmorzars de forquilla part of their identity. Open in 1930, the walls are covered in old black and white pictures of the bar and the neighborhood. And the old-fashioned decoration will also take you on a nostalgic trip back in time.
They open at 7AM Mon-Fri, but if you are a meat lover, don’t miss their Saturday Grilled Breakfast special. Starting at 7.30AM, it’s a haven of grilled meats, assorted sausages and bacon. Served with white beans or baked potatoes, and wine from their 22 barrels, served on a porró bottle.
La Cova Fumada
Fish and seafood lovers head to the Barceloneta District, instead. They open at 9AM, but come early: the bar doesn’t even have a sign and you might need to look around a bit to locate it. But eventually there’ll be a line of regulars standing outside, waiting to be allowed in.
True to the fishermen origins of the neighborhood, fish and seafood stews and grills are staples in their menu. But don’t leave without ordering their Bomba spicy meat croquettes: it is said this recipe was invented here. Get also a “pirata”: it’s their version of carajillo, with rum and a slice of lemon.
Coming to the working class district of the Zona Franca from the city center is uite an excursion: there’s no direct subway connection. However, that doesn’t stop well off clients pilgriming here. In this small but very busy venue you’ll find an interesting representation of the “real Barcelona”.
This family owned business serves delicious food based in Spanish, Basque and Catalan recipes. The second generation has added subtle creative twists. The result is food that pleases the most gourmet palates but your grandma wouldn’t call a “non-sense experiment”. Definitely worth the trip.
Want a real fork breakfast outside of Barcelona?
It is said that it was precisely here that one day writter Josep Pla figured out the expression “esmorzar de forquilla”. He spent the night at one of the rooms of La Fonda Europa (a “fonda” is a traditional Catalan countryside hostel). When he woke up in the morning, seeing the local restaurants packed with people eating what looked like lunch to him, he thought he had overslept. So he named such kind of meals “fork meals”.
To get there, take the R3 train from Plaça Catalunya to Granollers-Canovelles or the R2N from Passeig de Gracia to Granollers Centre. Both rides take pretty much the same: 30 minutes or so. And then it’s also around 15 minutes walk from either station to this emblematic temple of food. Bonus if you do it on a Thursday, when the village market takes place.
Nowadays you continue to find here honest food like Josep Pla used to like: true to the seasons and the local landscape.
Are you planning to have esmorzar de forquilla during your trip to Barcelona?
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