Can Cargol: Traditional Catalan Food in Barcelona

Can Cargol Barcelona reviews

When my friend Mariana told us to trust her when it came to our Barcelona dinner plans, I breathed a sigh of relief. I truly enjoy researching restaurants and (as a bit of a control freak) I like being in charge of where we go, but sometimes it’s nice to leave things to someone else! And as a fellow travel blogger from Costa Rica (with Catalan grandparents and Spanish nationality) Mariana was the perfect person to show us around the city. After a lovely tour through the quirky Gràcia neighborhood, Mariana brought us down into her own barrio, Dreta de l’Eixample, where we visited the 24-hour flower market at Mercat Concepció before heading next door for dinner at the cozy Catalan restaurant, Can Cargol.

Mercat de la Concepció
The 24-hour flower market at the Mercat de la Concepció.

Can Cargol Barcelona reviews, traditional Catalan food in Barcelona

Can Cargol is a rustic restaurant that specializes in traditional Catalan food in Barcelona, which includes grilled meats and vegetables prepared on their indoor barbecue. Cargol means snail, and snails are indeed their house specialty, which is obvious as table after table slurps them from their shell. Unfortunately, none of us are fans of the slimy critters, and I can’t speak to their quality. We went to Can Cargol after a day of snacking and were in the mood for lighter dishes. Mariana took charge and ordered us some local Catalan specialties. The portions were generous, especially for their price, and everything was delicious in a rustic kind of way.

Can Cargol isn’t fancy, the waiters can be a bit informal and the food is not refined– but all in all this meal was part of one of my favorite nights in Barcelona (I also had great company!). I’d recommend it for exploring Catalan food at a very affordable price in Barcelona.

What we tried

Pan con tomate, traditional Catalan food in Barcelona
Pa amb tomàquet

Mariana showed us exactly how she makes the famous pan con tomate, bread with tomato. The bread at Can Cargol was freshly grilled, and she began by rubbing a garlic clove (unpeeled) over the crispy exterior. Then, she cut a small, overripe tomato in half and aggressively rubbed half of it all over the bread. Finally, she topped the bread with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. It was delicious!

Fotmatge a la brasa
Fotmatge a la brasa

Next up was queso a la brasa, a big chunk of grilled cheese with tomatoes and oregano. It was yummy, especially the slightly burnt bits of cheese– my favorite part.

Calcots a la Brasa
Calcots a la brasa

These were my first calçots (a special type of onion harvested in Catalonia), so I don’t have much to compare them to. They were fun (though messy) to eat, and the nutty Romesco sauce has long been a favorite. Their version was a bit oily, but it did the job.

Carxofes a la brasa
Carxofes a la brasa

The alcachofas a la brasa (grilled artichokes) were probably my favorite dish of the night. I savored every garlicky leaf until I finally got to the tender heart inside. Delicious!

Traditional Catalan foods in Barcelona
Escalivada amb anxoves

Escalivada is the name of a dish consisting of smoky roasted vegetables, usually eggplant and bell peppers. Topped with anchovies and olives, it was healthy and satisfying.

typical catalan food
Esqueixada de bacallà

I’d never heard of esqueixada de bacalao, but I am definitely a fan. Made with shredded salt cod, chopped peppers, tomatoes, and onions, and dressed with vinegar and olive oil, esqueixada was the perfect dish to finish our dinner (before desserts!).

typical Catalan food
Mel y Mató

Mató is a fresh Catalan cheese (similar to ricotta) that is generally served with local honey as a dessert. It wouldn’t have been my pick, but I tried Ale’s and it was quite good.

traditional food in Barcelona
Flan

Mariana opted for a homemade flan with orange essence. It was creamy and eggy, just like flan should be.

crema catalana traditional food in Barcelona
Crema Catalana

But the best was (of course) my own dessert, the eggy crema catalana topped with a crunchy layer of caramelized sugar. It was the best crema catalana of my trip!

The Highs: I loved the garlicky artichokes and the delicious crema catalana. And I felt like we were out in the Catalan countryside versus in the middle of a big city!

The Lows: While I enjoyed the informal service, the restaurant does have some bad reviews that describe rude waiters and being rushed out quickly. This was not our personal experience, but don’t go expecting five star service.

The Verdict: A great option for trying traditional Catalan food in Barcelona at a very reasonable price. Best for sharing plates with friends or family.

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