A play on words: Creative pintxos in San Sebastian!

“We’re going to do three things in San Sebastian,”EAT EAT EAT”, I told my mom enthusiastically over Skype as we planned her 14 day visit to Spain and Basque Country. Known as the gastronomic capital of the world, based on having the most amount of Michelin star restaurants per square kilometer combined with innovative and experimenting chefs, I wanted to indulge. For us to indulge.

Eat our way through the old quarter and new barrios to decide for ourselves just how delicious the food is, to see if it’s worthy of such a prestigious title because you know, I’m such an expert at all things food related.


It was just a wonderful excuse to go pintxo hoping for lunch and dinner and the occasional moment, our stomachs were confused if we were still hungry or trying to digest all the scrumptiousness we had consumed. You see with so many pintxo bars and possibilities,72 hours didn’t seem like enough time to try everything. Trying everything could take years… but as soon as our stomachs growled we made a bee-line to my Must try bars!

Quinoa salad with apple foam dressing!

Quinoa salad with apple foam dressing!

With an ample list of creative and classic bars to try that I found from fellow bloggers and friends who had visited before, I dragged my obliging mom (thanks for being so adventurous) off the main  “tourist pintxo street” after sampling one a pintxo in a tourist crowded with picturesque pintxos nearly overflowing off the counter. With a hunch on where this bar was, A Fuego Negro, I found it a few streets over within the Casco Viejo (old quarter) and popped in, I wondered where the pintxos were because there were none on the counter and did a quick glance around to get a sense of the place. 

Hip, modern, dark bar with monochrome colors of grey with splatters of red, fake movie posters on the wall with counter space  along the bar and the wall and a few tables near the door.

A Fuego Negro

A Fuego Negro

I like this place. 

I pushed my way through the crowded bar and ordered a tinto and txakoli and snagged a table when I saw people grabbing their coats out of the corner of my eye. You can’t mess around for a table and chairs- you got to claim it quick! with a feeling of over stimulation realized, a ha! They make ya pintxos ready to order!  

In fact, if I didn’t know better and hadn’t done my research, I likely would have walked right out assuming it was just a bar. Unlike many of the pintxo bars in San Sebastian, there weren’t any pintxos on the counter and you could easily be fooled into thinking, as some Spanish tourists scratched their heads and said among themselves, “They don’t have pintxos here.” I kindly clued them in, pointing to their big menu on the wall, written in Spanish with some Euskara thrown in. 

My mom gave me full reign to order for the both of us and feeling both excited and overwhelmed, I tried to decipher the menu. Almost every pintxo had a few ingredients I wasn’t sure off and instead of confidently asking the busy bar staff, I decided to play “Let’s be adventurous and jump head in!”

I did just that!

I ordered a quinoa salad with apple foam dressing. Different but straightforward.

And a pintxo called CORAZOONES (pollo, patatas and cogollos)

I wasn’t sure of the English name for cogollos but they knew they were some type of leafy salad green. (turns out it’s another word for stem or heart of the lettuce… notice something here?) Chicken and potatoes. Phew. Easy and straightforward, right?

When they called our order, I was surprised our dish was so small. Teeny-tiny.



My mom was patient as I photographed our food, capturing our food memories  before we carefully dug in. Deep red potatoes cut into heart shapes adorned the top as bite-sized dark chicken pieces mixed with cogollos in a tasty Thai sesame spiced sauce. Yum!

As we savored the flavors of each bite, I wondered about the chicken.  The shape was interesting and this chicken a bit more chewy than usual. Hmmm.

Being all too curious, my brain tried to piece together the name with each ingredient. Cogollos (now I know means heart or stem), the potatoes cut into the shape of a heart and then mid-chew, I knew…

but I kept my thoughts to myself. 

There were a few bites left of chicken and I kindly offered them to my mom,”Those are yours,”  as she jumped right in without hesitating.

When she finished, all the sauce scrapped out of the bowl, I asked her if she thought the chicken was a bit different. Yeah. 

I think I know what we just ate, I mustered. I think it’s best I don’t know, she happily replied. That’s the attitude mom! Oh man, our food adventures are just beginning and thank goodness she’s willing to try new things in this land of jamón and all things meat considering she’s practically a vegetarian.

Corazoones means hearrrts…

Our dish was a play on words!

Well, now we can add that to the list of things we’ve tried!

A fuego negro, hip innovative pintxo bar in San Sebastian

A fuego negro, hip innovative pintxo bar in San Sebastian

As I went to pay the bill, I overheard the bartender who had taken my order offer up suggestions to an American couple who had prime real estate at the bar counter. She handed them an English menu and spoke in near perfect English of their house specialities.

My mouth dropped. Say what? 

Why was I apprehensive to ask them simply because they were busy? The irony!**

My mom and I laughed our way out of the bar, content with ourselves for experimenting and not squirming at what we had inadvertently consumed.

Off to the next bar…

Have you ever ordered something on the menu without knowing exactly what you were ordering? Or order something that was a play on words (that makes sense after the fact)?

(Next time I come back, I’m asking more questions… which I did a day later and ironically backfired on me with a rude bar man who threw an English menu at me when I asked him in Spanish about the Euskara infused words on the menu and told me, he couldn’t help me! Damn him, I know Spanish! Explain to me in Spanish!

I‘m currently on my second self-made pintxo tour in San Sebastian during the Vitoria-Gasteiz  San Prudencio holiday!


4 thoughts on “A play on words: Creative pintxos in San Sebastian!

  1. Pingback: Eating my heart out: In the gastronomic capital of the world, San Sebastian | Roamingtheworld

  2. A lunchtime spent eating pintxos in the old quarter of San Sebastian (on a daytrip across the border whilst on holiday in Biarritz) was one of the spurs that eventually resulted in my moving to Spain. I was so captivated by the energy of the place (and the food!) that my interest in the whole country was piqued like never before.

    • Thanks for stopping by. I realize I came across your blog back in February when I was planning a trip to Asturias and almost got in touch! WOw. a holiday changed your life! That’s awesome!

  3. Potatoes cut into hearts even, they really put some thought into the dish haha. Love you and your mom’s adventurous spirit! (Is heart anything like liver by the way? I haven’t tried heart but for some reason I imagine it has the same taste as liver)

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