Bar Rodrigo and Barcelona

The wall moldings at Bar Rodrigo were the color of the cafe con leche that they served after breakfast on our second visit to the restaurant. The first one was after a failed attempt at dining at a recommended seafood restaurant called Cheriff Mariscos in Barceloneta, whose highly-praised paella was not sampled during the trip because they were never open when we made the trek to Carrer Ginebra where they were. Instead, we had seafood tapas across the street with some vino, negra y blanco. Both were frio, but sufficed as companion to the sumptuous plates of comida.

Licked-clean paellera at Bar Rodrigo

It was not a sad walk back to Placa Maria, but a resignation of sorts, after all, Cheriff Mariscos just wasn’t meant to be, regardless of friends’ prodding to try “the best paella in Barcelona.” I couldn’t wait for them any longer so I had paelleras in front of me everyday, sampling enough to realize that there weren’t many ways to improve an already classic and standardized recipe. Maybe that was just an effort at consolation, until serendipitously (my favorite way), we came across Bar Rodrigo which, with its smoky interior, incandescent bulbs and a working cigarette machine at the far corner, was as authentic as I wanted a Spanish restaurant to be.Two old balding men ran the show, but the clientele were the ones who starred in it. It was apparent that mostly tourists frequented the establishment because each item on their menu had very accurate photographs of the dishes but didn’t have an English translation. The help staff will very gently speak to you in Spanish and expect that you will eventually catch on and understand. Two slot machines were often in use by white-haired men in old-fashioned trousers, and during one’s meal one would be serenaded by the sound of coins and a recorded voice saying, “Uno, dos, tres! Premio! Premio!?” Middle-aged ladies would laugh loudly while puffing on their cigarettes post-meal, tapping ashes onto empty plates with shrimp heads and mussel shells from the paella which was always a labor of love. “Paella? Veinte cinco minutos? Si?”  they would ask before sending the order to the kitchen before all others so as to get it started ora mismo.Bar Rodrigo became a refuge and a very anticipated treat after walking for miles to view the sights of the enchanting city. The sangria was just right and the fried green peppers were an excellent complement to the gambas frias, almondigas, jamon y queso, salchichas, choricitos and paella. The gray and white marble tabletops could never be properly cleaned because of their frequent use. It was a perfect camouflage to the ashes flicked casually onto the glass ashtrays on top of each table in this restaurant, and even in the whole city, where we non-smokers were obviously the more foolish minority.

There was much love for its stained cream-colored walls and cigarette butts stuck underneath bar stools on our last night as paella connoisseurs walking the city alleys to and from Portal Nou, so giving Rodrigo a last go made perfect sense. It was a slow Monday night for him as he tried to convince us to order paella for two instead of just para uno. I declined and confidently asked, “Acceptamos

The wall moldings at Bar Rodrigo were the color of the cafe con leche that they served after breakfast on our second visit to the restaurant. The first one was after a failed attempt at dining at a recommended seafood restaurant called Cheriff Mariscos in Barceloneta, whose highly-praised paella was not sampled during the trip because they were never open when we made the trek to Carrer Ginebra where they were. Instead, we had seafood tapas across the street with some vino, negra y blanco. Both were frio, but sufficed as companion to the sumptuous plates of comida.

It was not a sad walk back to Placa Maria, but a resignation of sorts, after all, Cheriff Mariscos just wasn’t meant to be, regardless of friends’ prodding to try “the best paella in Barcelona.” I couldn’t wait for them any longer so I had paelleras in front of me everyday, sampling enough to realize that there weren’t many ways to improve an already classic and standardized recipe. Maybe that was just an effort at consolation, until serendipitously (my favorite way), we came across Bar Rodrigo which, with its smoky interior, incandescent bulbs and a working cigarette machine at the far corner, was as authentic as I wanted a Spanish restaurant to be.

Two old balding men ran the show, but the clientele were the ones who starred in it. It was apparent that mostly tourists frequented the establishment because each item on their menu had very accurate photographs of the dishes but didn’t have an English translation. The help staff will very gently speak to you in Spanish and expect that you will eventually catch on and understand. Two slot machines were often in use by white-haired men in old-fashioned trousers, and during one’s meal one would be serenaded by the sound of coins and a recorded voice saying ?Uno, dos, tres! Premio! Premio!? Middle-aged ladies would laugh loudly while puffing on their cigarettes post-meal, tapping ashes onto empty plates with shrimp heads and mussel shells from the paella which was always a labor of love. ?Paella?veinte cinco minutos?si?? they would ask before sending the order to the kitchen before all others so as to get it started ora mismo.

Bar Rodrigo became a refuge and a very anticipated treat after walking for miles to view the sights of the enchanting city. The sangria was just right and the fried green peppers were an excellent complement to the gambas frias, almondigas, jamon y queso, salchichas, choricitos and paella. The gray and white marble tabletops could never be properly cleaned because of their frequent use. It was a perfect camouflage to the ashes flicked casually onto the glass ashtrays on top of each table in this restaurant, and even in the whole city, where we non-smokers were obviously the more foolish minority.

There was much love for its stained cream-colored walls and cigarette butts stuck underneath barstools on our last night as paella connoisseurs walking the city alleys to and from Portal Nou, so giving Rodrigo a last go made perfect sense. It was a slow Monday night for him as he tried to convince us to order paella for two instead of just para uno. I declined and confidently asked, ?Acceptamos Visa?? showing off my newfound Spanish skills borne out of reading street signs and growing up in a country which was once a Spanish Colony.  “Si, no problema,” he said, as we waited for our paella over a pitcher of sangria, more peppers and more shrimp. We laughed throughout our meal and only remembered to take a photo when all the food was gone, busying ourselves with Spanish translation questions to the most obscene questions, beginning with “Como se dice? (How do you say?)”

On the way out of the restaurant, after we said our adios and our gracias, I decided to ask  my partner another obscene question. It started as “Come se dice…” but ended in a comedic tragedy. A half-second after I uttered the word “tetas,” my sangria-sorry foot tripped on the curb and caused me to fall to the ground on my knee, laughing and crying at the end of the night, our sweaters smelling of garlic, grease and cigarettes, breaths of shrimp, saffron and sangria, my knee in pain and our corazon full of love for our Barcelona.

Remains of the day

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5 thoughts on “Bar Rodrigo and Barcelona

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