A crowd formed outside the restaurant called Bodega Santa Cruz in Seville at noon. We just arrived after a two-hour drive from Malaga and decided that the best thing to do before visiting the sights would be to have lunch. I did not take the buzzing, aggressive crowd placing orders at the bar as inviting, nor did the rest of the group (namely, my sister and her husband). Except that to my wife, a Myers-Briggs ESTP personality (impulsive, charming, live-for-the-moment) who is also a Chinese calendar goat (always in groups), the chaos at Bodega Santa Cruz was the ultimate attraction.
In she went, charging into the packed dark wood space with her tiny Asian body against the heavy-set Spaniards chatting in Castillan lisps. My wife had mastered her grah-thee-yath even before she landed in Spain. I knew she would turn a stressful moment into another adventure, so I sat outside with my sister and waited, secretly fidgeting because I wasn’t ready to deal with the stress of a crowded lunchroom.
She got us a table in the corner, right in the plain view of our bartender who marked our orders on the bar with a piece of chalk. Pretty soon our round and friendly guy started calling our pack leaders Manolito and Manolita, enthusiastically yelling out our orders “Boquerones!” and “Sardinas!” We began with a 2-Euro plate of paella with a side roll and a couple of glasses of house vino tinto, followed by some fried fish. The boquerones was crispy and tasty and the sardines tasted freshly-caught and its meat was still red with blood. With the help of the rapidly consumed wine, we started laughing, forgetting about the hunger that was just beginning to make us antsy a few minutes prior.
My wife was not satisfied by the chalkboard menu on the wall and began to look around. She had this way of getting questions answered without exactly having to ask.
“Look at her,” my sister said, “she’s making friends already!” Right then a group of big women started laughing with her, suggesting a bunch of plates they thought we should have. At their prodding we ordered the alcachofa (artichoke stew with pork) and we dipped our bread in the delicious slow-cooked sauce. We ordered some more wine, more beer, more food.
We were feeling good after the meal at Bodega Santa Cruz and could have stayed there all day if the menu items weren’t disappearing as our meal went on. We ordered coffee to fuel our legs for some sightseeing and more adventures. Our friend at the bar tallied his chalkboard count and gave us a very reasonable bill.
We walked out with the lesson that sometimes the commotion might be worth it. After a day of walking we passed the bodega again and were tempted to go back inside, but we knew it would be hard to top the first time. With the amazing food, booze and happy family time, we’re all hoping it won’t be the last.
Bodega Santa Cruz
Calle de Rodrigo Caro, 1A
41004 Sevilla, Spain