WEEKEND TRAVEL

Lugo: the home of free tapas

Seven bars in the city where a drink always comes with a complimentary bite of something delicious

Lugo boasts one of the few completely intact Roman walls in the world, but the 2,000-year-old city is also special because of its welcoming atmosphere and the exquisite complementary tapas that invariably come with a drink. Delicacies such as pulpo con cachelos (octopus with potato) empanadas, bollos preñados (stuffed pastries), tortillas, anchovies and even Cuban rice are among the tapas served up in bars across town free of charge.

The 101 Vinos tavern, en Lugo.
The 101 Vinos tavern, en Lugo.Óscar Corral

The best can be found around Rúa da Milagrosa and Rúa Nova as well as in the Plaza do Campo and the Augas Férreas areas. Here, we bar hop across Lugo on the city’s choice tapas circuit.

1. Fonte do Rei 2 (Av. de Madrid, 63)

Crowded tables and a bar heaving with people are a familiar sight at Fonte do Rei 2, one of Lugo’s most celebrated tapas bars where you can sample chorizo criollo (Creole sausage), and costillas de cerdo (steak and pork ribs roasted over a large wood-fired oven). The kitchen, meanwhile, produces traditional pulpo (octopus) served on oil-drizzled wooden platters that, according to owner Ramón García, should always be well seasoned. “The wood has to be saturated with oil,” he says. “If you serve the food on a new platter, it will taste of wood or even of bleach if it has hardly been washed. There’s a trick to everything.”

2. Lagar (Rúa da Milagrosa, 38)

El Lagar is a family establishment in the Milagrosa district that attracts mainly local custom. The menu features everything from canapés, ensaladilla (Russian salad), carne de cerdo adobada (pickled pork) and patatas bravas (spicy fried potatoes) to more elaborate dishes such as codillo asado (roasted pork knuckle), anchovies, chicken skewers, pigs trotters or morro de cerdo (pigs snout). The food is served on large dishes allowing the customer to eat in comfort.

3. ¡Oh, mi Habana! (Av de Magoi, 134)

Offering a taste of Havana in Lugo, this bar only opened recently but it has already become an obligatory pit stop on the tapas trail. Like the best Cuban bars, it features a porch, Caribbean motifs and an old red Cadillac. And when it comes to snacks, there’s everything from Cuban rice to pescado frito con patatas paja (fried fish with straw potatoes), chicken and melted cheese toasts, fried banana with rice and beans or lasaña de plátano macho con carne (banana lasagna).

If you arrive later in the evening, the cocktails are heavenly, whether you opt for simple Cuban rum with a dash of lime or a range of fruit concoctions shaken with Caribbean flair.

4. Ave César (Rúa Nova, 10)

This bar features a kitsch Roman atmosphere with décor replete with golden imitation Ionic columns. The potatoes, whether spiced with chilly or garlic, are their star tapa, but there is always a tray of aperitifs on the bar top for customers to pick from, filled with pastries, pies, tortilla, smoked ham and cheese.

5. 101 Vinos (Rúa do Miño, 6)

The 101 Vinos bar is tucked away in the heart of the old quarter and boasts beer taps that drop from the ceiling and barrels that hang over the tables. It also has a terrace with views of the fountain in the Plaza do Campo that flows with wine instead of water once a year to celebrate the Day of Saint Martha, patron saint of catering. Even when it’s full, this tavern has a peaceful and pleasant vibe.

6. La Fábrica (Rúa Nova, 15)

This is a large establishment with three big bars and tables from which the waiters shout the orders through to the kitchen in traditional fashion. They offer a wide variety of tapas, both hot and cold, including garlic pasta salad, fabes con almejas (beans with clams), caldo gallego (Galician soup), mejillones a la marinera (mussels), merluza a la gallega (Galician hake), lacón (shoulder of pork), and meatballs.

7. Cervecería A Carballeira (Av. de Magoi, 63)

A quiet, somewhat somber bar, Cervecería A Carballeira does delicious arepas – a maize-based tortilla popular in Venezuela – that can be eaten with cheese, butter, chicken, mince, or guacamole. It also has a small wooden balcony outside with three tables and a sofa to relax on while you savor your taste of Latin America in the north of Spain.

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