Tapas, a custom of serving small plates of food to accompany a drink, is the national dish of Spain.
The origin stories of tapas vary. One legend states that King Alfonso X el Sabio (or the Wise), who ruled in the 13th century, was ailing and ate small snacks and drank wine in order to recover. Another says that since the word tapa means “cover” in Spanish, a piece of bread with ham and cheese would cover a glass of sherry to keep the flies away. A more practical legend says farmers and farm workers consumed tapas to sustain their energy to work long, arduous hours.
Each region of Spain has its own particular variety of tapas, and these varieties differ greatly. The social custom of eating tapas is that after work, people go to tapas bars for a small glass of wine and tapas as a snack, followed by a full dinner. Customs have changed along with the times, and nowadays the trend for the younger generation is to have a half dozen or so servings of tapas as their meal.
Seville is one of the top food cities in Spain, and their tapas bars and restaurants are numerous. In addition to classic tapas bars, there’s a new crop of creative and inventive chefs who have taken tapas to a whole new, gourmet level.
We have collected the best of the contemporary and classic tapas bars in Seville and share them below with you.
1. Ovejas Negras
Meaning “black sheep” in Spanish, Ovejas Negras is on-trend. Two chefs who worked at the legendary El Bulli restaurant, at one time in the early 2000s the most famous restaurant in the world, pooled their talents to open their own modest and casual tapas bar. The no-nonsense, industrial design has concrete floors, wood-top tables, and exposed shelves of cans, bottles, and cartons of food products the restaurant uses. Specialties include pan-sauteed foie gras with toast, mini wok with chicken and vegetables, and for dessert, New York-style cheesecake served in a jar.
2. La Brunilda
Judging by the line of hungry and patient locals that forms before they even open, La Brunilda is the tapas bar that should go to the top of your list. A massive blue door on a slender side street welcomes you into a light-filled space with exposed stone walls, white bentwood chairs, and blonde wood-topped tables. The eclectic and expansive menu of over 20 dishes includes fresh burrata with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and dried fruit; tuna tataki with couscous and vegetables; codfish fritters with a pear; super crispy spicy potatoes, and Cajun-style chicken with cilantro guacamole.
Lunch is from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner is from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
3. Bodeguita Romero
Serving a more traditional tapas menu, Bodeguita Romero is another tapas bar that’s always packed. A family-owned business for over 70 years, Bodeguita Romero is located on a corner in the heart of Seville’s historic district. Inside, there’s an extensive, white-tiled bar with bar stools and additional dining tables nearby, and there’s also a number of outdoor tables.
Popular favorites on the classic Andalusian menu include slow-cooked, Iberian beef cheeks from an old recipe, shrimp tortillas, grilled codfish, fried anchovies, Manchego cheese, roasted potatoes, and thin slices of bellota ham.
Bodeguita Romero also offers a broad drink menu including rioja, white, and sparkling wines, and a refreshing cocktail of red wine with lemonade.
4. Vineria San Telmo
Located near the 17th-century baroque San Telmo Place, Vineria San Telmo is a wine and tapas bar. The almost overwhelming 33-page wine list specializes in wines from the Andalusian region, including white wines, roses, red wines, sparkling wines, and sweet dessert wines. Glasses start at an incredibly affordable price.
The tapas menu at Vineria San Telmo is a well-balanced combination of hot and cold dishes. Standouts are a garlicky gazpacho, salmon tartare, potato tortilla, yucca chips, and fried chicken with sweet mustard sauce. If you desire more than just tapas, Vineria San Telmo also offers main courses of Argentinian steak, squid ink pasta with grilled scallops and prawns, and salmon tataki with leeks.
Save room for delectable desserts, such as egg yolk flan, toffee and banana pie, and orange-scented chocolate cake.
The restaurant has a large outdoor terrace, and the handsome indoor dining room has wine-colored, lacquered chairs and a white and dark red tile floor.
5. Casa Morales
One of the oldest bodegas and tapas bars in Seville, the storied Casa Morales has been family-owned since 1850. It’s a combination of a wine bar, shop, and a 19th-century-style restaurant that has looked almost the same since it opened. You can enjoy a glass of wine, sherry, or a beer and fresh Spanish olives at Garcia de Vinuesa bar. After, you can walk around the corner to the dining room to have tapas or a full meal. Typical tapas served includes lomo en mantec (pork loin), tuna solomillo with tomato and olive oil, grilled ham and artichokes, fried salted cod, artichoke ensaladilla with crabmeat, and classic potato tortilla.
6. Las Teresas
Another 19th-century gem is Las Teresas. Located in the old Jewish Quarter lined with super narrow cobblestone streets and ancient buildings, Las Teresas is a compact tapas bar from 1870 with loads of charm and history. Rows of their famous Iberian hams hang from the white beamed ceiling and a long white marble-topped bar fills the long, narrow space. The long, appetizing list of tapas includes platters of chorizo sausage, sirloin steak tips with whiskey, red tuna, skewered shrimp, fried calamari, spinach with chickpeas, and fried squid.
7. Bar Alfalfa
Bar Alfalfa offers a cool alternative to Spanish tapas by adding an Italian touch. The Italian owners bring you tapas with buffalo mozzarella, tomato, and oregano, mortadella, marinated eggplant with balsamic vinegar and mint, beef carpaccio with arugula and lemon, and baked provolone with garlic. A section of the menu has bruschetta (bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil) with various toppings, such as gorgonzola and mascarpone cheese with walnuts, chopped tomatoes, and eggplant, and sun-dried tomato pesto and pecorino cheese. Bar Alfalfa is tiny and doesn’t take reservations, so be patient if there’s a line.
8. El Rinconcillo
Another oldie but goodie, El Rinconcillo is the oldest tapas bar in Seville. Founded in 1670 and owned by the De Rueda family since 1858, this institution shouldn’t be missed. A second building was added to the original bar in 1897, and both still retain the original charm and appearance of yesteryear.
The extensive tapas menu includes house-made croquettes, omelets filled with either white asparagus, Manchego cheese, or chorizo, and marinated bonito fish, codfish fritters, gazpacho, and salmon and avocado tartare.
If you still have room for lunch or dinner, El Rinconcillo also has a full menu with traditional dishes such as cooked spinach with garbanzo beans, a salad of smoked sardines and greens, lamb chops, black rice with cuttlefish and shrimp, baked pork cheeks with sauce, Mediterranean style sea bass, and sirloin steak. For something sweet, have the classic Manchego cheese served with quince jelly or the flan made with cheese.
9. El Pinton
A more modern take on the old-fashioned tapas bar, El Pinton is more like a real restaurant with tables and chairs, rather than a stand-up bar. The light-filled interior has painted tile walls, contemporary chairs of mint green metal with yellow cushions, and floating light bulbs.
The unusual tapas menu has dishes such as mussels with spicy tomato sauce, seasonal mushrooms with egg yolk and truffle cream, homemade pate of partridge and apples, Iberian beef, and risotto with smoked cheese.
There’s also an impressive cocktail list compared to most tapas restaurants, with drinks such as red vermouth with gin and soda, pisco sour, cosmopolitans, pina coladas, and margaritas.
Tapas is quite inexpensive, and you could enjoy three to four plates as a meal and a glass of wine for under 20 euros ($24) per person, tip included.
Spaniards tend to eat on the late side, so restaurants usually serve lunch from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and dinner from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., so leave your 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. mealtimes at home.