Guide to the best pintxos in San Sebastián

best pintxos in san sebastian
With the world’s highest concentration of Michelin stars per inhabitant, San Sebastian is well known for being a Mecca for foodies from all around the planet. However, this well deserved gastronomic reputation does not come from its fine-dining restaurants but from the very basics of its day-to-day food culture: the Basque pintxos.

Over the last few decades San Sebastian –or Donosti or Donostia as the locals know it– has become the undisputed number one world’s capital for foodies. A short walk down the old town and you will discover why if you love food, this is the closest to paradise you’ll find down here in planet Earth.

Three 3-Michelin-star restaurants and a total of 16 stars for a city of under 200k people make it the world’s highest concentration of Michelin-stars per inhabitant. Two of the top 10 best restaurants in the world are also based here. And not only that… the city offers an endless number of pintxos (the Basque version of tapas) bars and something else than not everybody knows: over 300 private membership gastronomic societies where friends gather to cook and talk about food and life.

With such a vast food offering and entire areas where you can find literally one bar after the next one, choosing the right places to enjoy your pintxos can be an overwhelming experience for many visitors. This is why after having spent five weeks visiting dozens of bars in town, we are now ready to share our favourite places where to find the best pintxos in San Sebastian.

LA CUCHARA DE SAN TELMO

This unpretentious little place located in a hidden corner of the old town in San Sebastián serves some of the best pintxos in town. La Cuchara de San Telmo is an ever-bustling gastronomic temple where the ‘New Basque Cuisine’ keeps shining in all its glory. Contrary to the standard local practice, here the pintxos are not on display but made-to-order instead.

What to order:
Foie con compota de manzana (Foie with apple sauce)
Carrilleras al vino (Pork cheeks cooked in red wine)
Oreja crujiente (Crispy pig ear)
Risotto con queso idiazabal (Risotto with Idiazabal cheese)

Where: Calle 31 de Agosto, 28

A FUEGO NEGRO

A fuego negro deserves a category of its own. Lead by Executive Chef Edorta Lamo, this cool-looking pintxos bar in the old town of San Sebastián offers a modern take of the traditional Basque pintxo. Far from dismissing the tradition, A fuego negro serves what they arguably are some of the most innovative pintxos in town. The menu is full of fun, surprising and often eccentric propositions. An obligatory stop for anyone doing a decent round of the old town.

edorta lamo a fuego negro best pintxos in san sebastian

With Edorta Lamo, Head Chef at A Fuego Negro

What to order:
Black rabas (squids cooked in its own ink which are presented like fried calamari)
Mini kobe burger with banana chips
Txitxarro, oveja y menta en tosta de cereza (round fish, sheep and mint on a cherry toast).

Where: Calle 31 de Agosto, 31

SIRIMIRI GASTROTEKA

This very pleasant pintxos bar in Calle Mayor sources great local produce to combine the best of the traditional Basque food with some occasional influences from far away cuisines such as their wonderful Pao Bao. Their great cocktails menu makes it the ideal place to enjoy your pintxos whilst enjoying some fancy drinking.

sirimiri gastroteka best pintxos in san sebastian

A groom drinks his last beer at Sirimiri just before getting married

What to order:
Pao Bao
Gilda (olive, green chillies and anchovies – click here to see our recipe)

Where: Calle Mayor, 18

BAR SPORT

True that Bar Sport might not be the most exciting venue in San Sebastian. However this popular pintxos bar offers a loud but easy-going atmosphere. It is packed with local regulars who come here looking to enjoy some conversation over one of the most impressive grilled foies that you might ever come across. Not a bad deal and definitely one you should not skip when visiting the city.

What to order:
Grilled foie

Where: Calle Fermin Calbeton, 10

BETI-JAI BERRIA

Having recently gone through a major refurbishment that has completely changed its look, the Beti-Jai Berria is now one of the coolest pintxos bars in San Sebastian. Its modern and minimalist interior design help to create a super pleasant atmosphere where the great selection of beautiful looking pintxos are central to the decoration. One piece of advice… once you get hypnotized by the spectacular display of cold pintxos over the bar counter, remember that the best this venue has to offer are some of the hot pintxos that are made-to-order, specially their super tender and delicious pork cheeks.

beji bai berri best pintxos in san sebastian donostia

What to order:
Carrillera ibérica (Iberica pork cheeks)

Where: Calle Fermin Calbeton 22

GANBARA

If I remember well, the first time I learnt about Ganbara was when I heard Juan Mari Arzak say in a TV program that this restaurant served some of the best pintxos in San Sebastian. It would always be difficult to disagree with Mr. Arzak, but the truth is that few other places offer such a great cuisine and superb products. The way they treat the product is simply spectacular and if we talk mushrooms here, we would need a whole chapter apart! Definitely one of our favourite places.

ganbara best pintxos in san sebastian donostia

What to order:
Setas y hongos con huevo y foie (Mushrooms mix with egg yolk and foie)
Kokotxas de merluza rebozadas (Battered hake throat)
Kokotxas de merluza al pil-pil (Pil-pil style hake throat)
Pastel de txangurro (Crab meat tartalette)
Esparrago rebozado (Battered white asparagus)

Where: Calle San Jeronimo, 19

BODEGA DONOSTIARRA

This classic pintxos bar in the Gros district has been running non-stop since 1928. Today, it offers a completely revamped look but the same amazing pintxos as it always did. It is extremely popular amongst the locals so make sure you go early or you might not be able to even get in!!

What to order:
Induráin (Bonito tuna, chilli, anchovy, olive and spring onion)
El Completo (Bonito tuna and anchovy mini-sandwich)

Where: Calle de Peña y Goñi, 13

BAR BERGARA

Some of our favourite pintxos in San Sebastian are served in this cool-looking and multi-awarded bar in the popular Gros district. Well away from the most touristy areas, everything over their counter is simply delicious. Try the ‘Itxaso‘ (monkfish with seafood puree), the ‘Txalupa‘ (mushrooms and king prawns gratin) and the ‘Udaberri‘ (courgette tart with crayfish puree). Their ‘Delicia de pato‘ (Calvados-marinated duck) is also to die for.

What to order:
Itxaso (Monkfish with seafood puree)
Txalupa (Mushrooms and king prawns gratin)
Udaberri (Courgette tart with crayfish puree)

Where: Calle del General Artetxe, 8

BAR NESTOR

No tortilla is more demanded in San Sebastian than the one from Bar Nestor. But don’t expect to get there and order a piece for yourself just like that. That would be way too easy. Instead Bar Nestor serves only two tortillas a day, each one made of 16 individual portions. The first one gets served at 1pm and the second at 8pm… And that’s it! So if you really fancy one of these pieces of desire, you’ll need to get there early and put your name down in the list. Then when the tortilla gets served, the barman will shout loud the name of the lucky few who will be able to enjoy a piece of this amazing delicatessen.

bar nestor best pintxos in san sebastian donostia

The always bustling Bar Nestor

What to order:
Tortilla de patata (Potato omelette)
Ensalada de la huerta (Tomato salad)

Where: Calle Arrandegi, 11

LA VIÑA

Right. We are not going to recommend you any of the pintxos here. They are not bad. But they are not the best. So what’s the deal you might be thinking… La Viña offers something extremely special, something that we are 100% sure you will remember until the end of your days. So what is it so special about it?… Cheesecake!! Of course not any cheesecake but in our opinion, the best cheesecake we have ever tried anywhere in the world!! Don’t you believe us? Try yourself and let us know how you loved it!

cheesecake bar la viña best pintxos in san sebastian donostia

The World’s Best cheesecake at Bar La Viña

What to order:
Tarta de queso (Homemade cheesecake)

Where: Calle 31 de Agosto, 3

BAR ZERUKO

Despite the incredibly vast selection of pintxos bars in San Sebastian, it’d be fair to comment on the fact that the immense majority of them adopt a traditional approach to their pintxos offering. Bar Zeruko is one of the very rare exceptions. Its kitchen – together with ‘A fuego negro’ – is one of the most inventive in town, and their brilliant chefs have created a playful and entertaining offering of beautiful and modern-looking pintxos with surprising presentations and exciting combinations of flavours, colours and textures.

pintxos bar zeruko best pintxos in san sebastian donostia

Pintxos selection at Bar Zeruko

What to order:
Mini-tarrina de bacalao al sarmiento con ensalada efervescente de caserio (Grilled cod with efervescent farmhouse salad)

Where: Calle Pescaderia, 10

GANDARIAS

Located in the main crossroad of ‘Pintxos Kingdom’, Gandarias is a San Sebastian classic and an all-time favourite for both locals and visitors equally. This ever-buzzling establishment offers a spectacular atmosphere and – given you manage to reach the extremely crowded bar counter – some really impressive traditional pintxos too.

Gandarias best pintxos in san sebastian donostia

What to order:
Manitas de cerdo (Pork trotters)
Besugo salvaje a la parrilla (Grilled wild sea-bream)
Risotto de hongos e idiazabal (Idiazabal cheese and mushrooms risotto)

Where: Calle 31 de Agosto, 23

TXEPETXA

Three Michelin-starred chef Martín Berasategui claims that the best pintxo in town is made here at Txepetxa. It is the ‘Anchovy with crayfish on toast’, a beautiful mouthful of pleasure that – if you like anchovies – will take you straight to heaven. Worth saying that any of the other anchovy-based pintxos are not bad either!

Txepetxa best pintxos in san sebastian donostia

What to order:
Anchoa con centollo (Anchovy with crayfish on toast)
Anchoa con erizo de mar (Anchovy with sea urchin on toast)

Where: Calle Pescaderia, 5

TXULETA

The fact that this place is better known for its famous txuleta (beef steak) doesn’t mean you should ignore its pintxos offering. Grab one of the outdoor standing tables and order a ‘pintxo de txuleta’ or their delicious ‘tuna belly on toast’ whilst you drink a txakoli and immerse yourself in the surrounding buzz from the very epicentre of the pintxos action in the old town of San Sebastian.

Txuleta best pintxos in san sebastian donostia

What to order:
Pintxo de txuleta (Beef steak pintxo)
Tosta de ventresca (Tuna belly on toast)

Where: Plaza de la Trinidad, 2

LA CUEVA

This tiny place located just across the road from Txuleta is well known for its grilled garlicky mushrooms. It might sound simple but there is a trick for everything. Don’t get it wrong, you can’t leave San Sebastian without trying them at least once. Seriously that good!

What to order:
Champis al ajillo (Grilled garlic mushrooms)

Where: Plaza de la Trinidad