48 Hours in Linares (Jaén) for the Frugal Foodie

By Hannah Hawkinberry

A caña and slice of Spanish omelette (tortilla) are delicious together.

A caña and slice of Spanish omelette (tortilla) are delicious together.

Whether you’re planning your first trip around Andalucía or you’re a seasoned Spain explorer, chances are you haven’t heard of, let alone visited, Linares. The place certainly doesn’t appear in the guidebooks, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. In fact, if you’re traveling between southern Spain and Madrid, you may just happen upon this medium-sized town in a sea of olive groves without even meaning to.

Linares (population: 61,000) was once a booming mining town and was nearly named the capital of Jaén province a few hundred years ago. Because of its secondary status, it certainly isn’t the tourist trap that you might find in other parts of the south, and this just makes the local food scene just that much easier to explore. A lack of tourism means walking into almost any bar in town is guaranteed to offer you an authentic gastronomical experience.

And did I mention the price?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the famous Spanish tapas, or even tried some particularly tasty ones in your weekend trip to Granada or Córdoba. Let me tell you: tapas in Linares are a budget traveler’s dream. Not only do most bars in town offer a drink of your choice (excluding cocktails) and a tapa for only 1.80€–but also the portion sizes tend to be generous, considering that you only paid for what would be half a glass of wine in a place like Seville.

So, get ready all you foodies and cash-strapped travelers. I’m about to introduce you to a taste tester’s heaven, also known as a 48-hour gastronomical tour of Linares.

Day 1

Morning:La Churrería (Paseo de Linarejos) — If you’ve done your Spain foodie research, you probably already know that churros con chocolate are the best, most popular, hot fried breakfast around. Not only are they served up fresh from the fryer, they also come with a side of pure melted chocolate to dip them in. You read that right: not the powdery stuff the Nesquik bunny serves up, but straight-up melted chocolate in a cup. And this place serves it in what looks like a vintage train car, parked on a wide-open avenue shaded by palm trees and frequented by old Spanish men wearing bowler caps and sitting on beautifully-tiled benches.

I suppose it’s unnecessary at this point to mention you can get all this for only pocket change.

 

The remains of a churros feast at La Churreria.

The remains of a churros feast at La Churreria.

 

Afternoon: La Taberna del Vino (C/Sanchez Ramade)After taking a nice long walk up the Paseo, perhaps stopping for an hour or two at the gypsy market (which runs Tuesday and Friday mornings) to pick up some fresh tea leaves and a questionably new pair of socks, you might just be ready to eat again. In that case, La Taberna del Vino will be waiting for you with open arms and one of the tastiest, cheapest lunches you’ve had since you started your trip. Don’t let all the tourist directed “menú del día” signs posted all over Spain fool you, tapas can be had at lunch as well, and in Linares, you can walk away full.

The taberna is a particularly small, quaint bar on a tiny side street, easily missed by those not purposefully looking for it. With bright yellow painted walls and colorful Spanish tiles, shelves lined with wine bottles and cured ham hanging around — this place has everything you could want as far as Spanish atmosphere goes. The owners are exceptionally kind to foreigners and eager to make great recommendations about daily house specialties. Of course, as you’re lunching in the “wine tavern,” a glass of the house tinto with a side of strong, flavorful cheese is a must-order. If you’re looking for something more filling, all kinds of typical, delicious tapas from the region are served here. Some of the best options are the croissant de atun con tomate (tuna in tomato sauce served on a warm buttery croissant) and the pisto con huevo (an onion, pepper, zucchini, and tomato stew served hot or cold with fresh bread and a fried egg on top). Try one, try them all, eat until you’re full: even if you can make it to your fifth glass of wine and tapa, the bill still won’t exceed 10€.

Night: Taberna Albero (C/Pérez Galdós) — It’s around 9 o’clock on Day 1, and you’ve eaten your fill this morning, taken the obligatory siesta (considering nothing will be open for you to do or visit between 2pm and 5pm anyway) and perhaps explored the old neighborhood in town – Calle Conde de las Romanones and its surroundings, near the Santa Maria Church, are particularly scenic. Now you’re ready to return to the food scene and eat your way through another couple of tapas. The first destination is a small bar with only three tables and six bar stools, a cozy little furnace and black-and-white pictures of the city back in its mining days. Here, there are always unique, homemade tapas made by the exceptionally sweet and accommodating owner. Maybe this week you can try carne de monte – (fresh caught goat (or rabbit) from the nearby hills of Jaén) or champiñones con gambas y jamón  (mushrooms with shrimp and Spanish ham in a flavorful garlic sauce. ) And if none of that suits your fancy, there are always homemade migas, a typical dish here in Jaén county that is similar in consistency to bread stuffing and with the variety of ingredients in an everything pizza: chorizo, peppers, garlic, pork, bacon, and (of course) lots of olive oil… And don’t even think about paying more than a 1.80€.

El Lagartijo (C/Pérez Galdós)– Any good Spaniard knows you can’t spend the whole night at only one bar — but no one said you have to go too far. So, head across the street to El Lagartijo, a bull fighting themed bar/museum dedicated to the famous bullfighter, Manolete, who died in a bloody bullfight here in Linares many years ago. Here, walls full of photos of well-known fighters and heads of the bulls they have killed will greet you. Moving into the comedor or dining room, you can take a look at the small yet impressive museum that houses the extravagant regalia worn by these revered men. Surrounded by a lovely contrast of dark wood beams and bright Spanish tiles, you can order your tinto con limón (red wine with lemon soda) with a generous cut of Spanish tortilla or some solomillo (sirloin) in a wonderfully rich cream sauce for whatever change you have left over in your wallet that day.

 

Day 2

Linares tapas bars are atmospheric, cheap, and delicious.

Linares tapas bars are atmospheric, cheap, and delicious.

Morning: Café IndaloBuenos días! By now, you’ve slept off all that amazing food you ate yesterday, and you’re ready to start another day of gastronomical discoveries. Head to this quaint café perfect for a typical Spanish breakfast, which, of course, shouldn’t be eaten before 11am. It doesn’t matter if you’re someone who must have her morning coffee or are not such a big fan, the Spanish café con leche, a high quality espresso diluted in an entire cup of milk, is a crowd pleaser.  However, if you truly can’t stomach a drop of coffee worry not: there is always some fresh orange juice straight from the orange rind to the juicer. To complete the perfect Andaluz breakfast you should then order — repeat after me — “una media tosta’ con jamón y tomate” which roughly translates: half a toasted baguette with high quality olive oil, pureed tomato, salt and cured ham like you’ve probably never tried it before. It’s the breakfast of {Spanish} champions. Vegetarians and those with a sweet tooth fear not. You can also ask for toast with butter and jam and still fit right in.

Afternoon: Café di Cappriccio (C/Sagunto) — One of the most popular cafes in town, Café di Cappriccio (also known as Café Castúlo) is a coffee shop with a glass case of delicious pastries in the window and outdoor seating — even in winter, when tall heaters are placed under the cover of a cozy tent. Coffee lovers will rejoice with the variety of flavors and add-ons found here, including in-house ground coffee beans to go. To accompany your coffee, you might choose a deliciously hot and flaky croissant with Spanish ham and oozing melted cheese. Or maybe you’d prefer a typical rosca sandwich, which comes in the shape of a bagel but with a much softer dough and a variety of fillings to suit your fancy. Afterwards, if your sweet tooth can’t be ignored, there are waffles topped with rich condensed milk, crepes drizzled in chocolate sauce, small cakes of all flavors and fresh fruit milkshakes

Night: La Carbonería (C/Zabala) — After an afternoon spent getting lost among the olive groves just outside the city and a visit to the Santa María church, you can head over as early as 8pm on the weekends to claim your stool at a romantic little table in the low-lit atmosphere of the Carbonería. This place will soon be packed so order your glass of wine and tapa before you have to start gesturing wildly at the bartender to get his attention. Here, you can find a list of over a dozen roscas to choose from, all free with your drink. Whether you prefer anchovies and Roquefort, salmon with cream cheese, juicy pork tenderloin or the classic Spanish ham and cheese, your mouth won’t be disappointed, and your wallet will thank you.

El Cordobés (C/Doctor Flemming) — Let’s be honest: it’s day 2, you’re probably tired, and your stomach is screaming at you in blissful agony to stop already. But it’s your last night in Linares, and you’ve got to finish right. El Cordobés is the perfect place for one final hurrah. Whether it’s a cold clara (beer with lemon or regular soda), caña or tinto con limón, you’ll enjoy your last cheap, quality drink in this bustling yet peaceful bar. Try Spanish ham sliced super thin from the leg sitting on the counter or some miniature clams (almejas) soaked in butter. And don’t forget to try the olives that will undoubtedly come with your tapa, as only the best olives come from this province, the largest producer of olive oil in the world.

As you sit in El Cordobés, sipping your red wine, savoring cured ham and listening to the locals speak in their perfect Andalusian accents, take note: you are most certainly the only tourist in the place but somehow, you’ve fit right in. This is what it feels like to be Spanish. This is the Linares experience.

 

The typical 'tinto and tapa with olives'

The typical ‘tinto and tapa with olives’

Afternoon: La Taberna del Vino (C/Sanchez Ramade)

After taking a nice long walk up the Paseo, perhaps stopping for an hour or two at the gypsy market (which runs Tuesday and Friday mornings) at the end to pick up some fresh tea leaves and a questionably new pair of socks, you might just be ready to eat again. In that case, La Taberna del Vino will be waiting for you with open arms and one of the tastiest, cheapest lunches you’ve had since you started your trip. Don’t let all the tourist directed “menú del día” signs posted all over Spain fool you, tapas can be had at lunch as well, and in Linares, you can walk away full.

 Taberna del Vino is a particularly small, quaint bar on a tiny side street, easily missed by those not purposefully looking for it. With bright yellow painted walls and colorful Spanish tiles, shelves lined with wine bottles and cured ham hanging around — this place has everything you could want as far as Spanish atmosphere goes. The owners are exceptionally kind to foreigners and eager to make great recommendations about daily house specialties. Of course, being the “wine tavern” a glass of the house tinto with a side of strong, flavorful cheese is a must order. But, if you’re looking for something more filling all kinds of typical, delicious tapas from the region are served here. Some of the best include the croissant de atun con tomate (tuna in tomato sauce served on a warm buttery croissant) and pisto con huevo (an onion, pepper, zucchini, and tomato stew served hot or cold with fresh bread and a fried egg on top). Try one, try them all — eat until your full — even if you can make it to your fifth glass of wine and tapa the bill still won’t surpass 10€.

Comments
2 Responses to “48 Hours in Linares (Jaén) for the Frugal Foodie”
  1. Renske says:

    Really nice, Hannah! I already feel like going out for some tapas now .. How lucky are we here, in Linares!

  2. This was great, Hannah! I’ve been looking forward to some kind of Linares post on 48-horas for a while, and this totally fits the bill. When I got stuck in town last week (I feel like “stuck” isn’t the best verb, but whatevz), it was actually a great opportunity to get some good, cheap, authentic tapas. Looking forward to visiting the rest of the places on this list soon!

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