Paella. That delicious traditional Spanish rice dish, the one thing you must order when you are visiting Spain, right? Well…not really.
One of the questions I get asked most by visitors is, ‘where can we try good paella in Seville?’. The short answer is, you can’t.
I have lost count of the number of complaints I get about ‘being ripped off for a plate of rice’. It just makes me want to facepalm and scream ‘you shouldn’t be ordering paella in Seville in the first place!”. You see, paella is a typical dish from Valencia, not Seville. So, while other cities may offer paella on their menus, it’s probably not their specialty. However, it’s a good money-maker and tourists tend to request it. A lot.
I get it, I do. You’ve heard all about paella, you’ve also heard about sangría and when you visit Spain you want to experience all these things. After all, paella is wonderful but perhaps Andalusia is not the best place to try it. If you want to skip the tourist trap, try some of these options instead.
7 local dishes to order in Seville instead of paella:
Easily my first choice when eating out. If you want to know how good the cooking is at a restaurant or tapas bar, order the croquetas caseras. They come in all sorts of varieties, but the most traditional ones are croquetas de puchero (a traditional stew flavour), jamón (can’t get more traditional than Spanish ham) or espinacas (spinach). If the croquetas are good, the rest of the food probably will be too. (I’m pretty sure I learnt that from watching one of Chicote’s episodes of Pesadilla en la cocina).
2. Solomillo al Whisky / Roquefort
Sirloin in Whisky or Roquefort sauce. These are two typical meat dishes you will find in most traditional tapas bars, and it’s usually a pretty sure bet.
This tender and juicy meat comes from the pig’s cheek and the sauce will leave you licking your lips. It is ever so tasty, so go on, give it a try! You won’t regret it.
4. Cola de toro
Given the city’s tradition with bullfighting, ox tail is a frequent item on the menu and one you shouldn’t skip.
These are typical summer dishes. Served cool, some are more salad like, such as tomate aliñado (tomato based), some more filling like papas aliñadas (potato based), or if you want something a little unusual, you could try huevas (hake spawn). If you’re looking for something cool in the summer heat, these are always a good choice.
This traditional cold tomato soup is originally from Córdoba. However, it can be found in most Seville eateries during the summer months. More traditional establishments will usually offer the tomato version, however newer gastrobars often offer other varieties such as strawberry salmorejo or beetroot salmorejo, giving the traditional recipe new flavours.
The posher version of a bocadillo, this is great for a quick and cheap meal. Essentially a fancy sandwich with pork or chicken, fried green pepper and Spanish jamón serrano, which gives it its name.
What to drink
The same goes for ordering drinks in Seville. You’ll never find a Spaniard ordering sangría in a bar.
- The local alternative to sangría is tinto de verano, a drink normally made with red wine and gaseosa (sweet sparkling water) or fizzy lemonade.
- Beer is a frequent option. In Seville, Cruzcampo is the most common brand but you can also find select craft beers in many places, especially if you are out in the Alameda area.
- One of the many local wines. Seville isn’t far from Jerez where the famous Sherry wines are from. But Seville has a good selection too. Just ask your waiter, they’ll be able to recommend a good one.
- Soft drinks. Lemon Fanta / Kas if you like fizzy drinks or Ice Tea/ Nestea if you’re not a fan of bubbles. A Coke / Pepsi is a perfectly good option, too.
- Water. This may seem like a pretty boring option, but many Spaniards will just ask for water. Unless you specify, you’ll get bottled water. If you want to save your pennies it is possible to ask for ‘un vaso de agua‘ or add ‘del grifo‘ to get tap water, which is perfectly adequate for drinking and free.
Menú del Día (Menu of the Day)
If you are looking for something other than tapas in Seville, a menú del día is your best bet. A menú del día typically includes a first and second course, dessert, bread and a drink. You’ll have anywhere between 3-8 options to choose from for your starter and main and several choices of dessert, too. Prices vary according to area and restaurant but they normally range between 8€ and 15€ per person.
Finding your new favourite tapas
Whether choosing tapas or a menú del día, you still need to watch out for tourist traps. The easiest way to do this is to avoid the city centre and especially the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, which caters almost exclusively to tourists. Head to neighbourhoods further from the monuments and you can find some really good deals. Also, look for restaurants with more Spanish customers than foreigners.
There is no reason not to eat well in Seville, you just need to know what to order. I hope these 7 tapas options will help you enjoy some of Spain’s rich gastronomy and discover that there is much more to Spanish food than paella.
What is your favourite Spanish dish? Which of these 7 alternatives to paella do you fancy trying?