While the Spanish tapa, or small plate, is still a bit of a novelty in American bars, in its country of origin, it’s so much the norm that in city Andalucian city of Granada, it’s free. If you’re traveling in the region and are feeling a bit peckish, order a couple drinks at a restaurant or, yes, tapas bar and you’ll most likely be given a free snack. (Other cities known for complimentary tapas include Salamanca, Madrid, and Leon, though the practice is more prevalent, and is best known in, Granada.)
The tapas in Granada and the surrounding area range from puntalitas (small fried squid) to berenjenas con miel, a Granada specialty of eggplant with sugar cane syrup, with classic dishes like potatoes with onions, fried bacalao (salted cod), rustic bread with Manchego cheese or ham, and pan con tomate (the delicious Spanish answer to bruschetta) to round them out.
Generally if you order alcohol or even a soda at a restaurant, you’ll get tapas on the house. But as American ex-pat and Granada resident Caroline Wheeler points out, it’s important to mind one’s P’s and Q’s when it comes to free food: “Never, never complain about the tapa.” While some places allow you to pick your tapas, the food is a gift from the establishment, Wheeler explains, and the staff might not be afraid to give you a stern talking to if you gripe about what they’ve offered once it’s been served. A couple other points to remember: If you’re a vegetarian, you can ask about a veg-only tapa ahead of time. And this is very important so pay attention: Once you’ve ordered your main meal, tapas are off the table. So Wheeler recommends ordering drinks only first and then ordering your entrees once the tapas have been served.