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Hungry for one of the best fried calamari sandwiches in Valencia? Our local Valencia tour guides recommend Bar El Tostadero, for their bocadillo de calamares a la Romana.
Open for 58 years and considered a local institution in the area, Bar El Tostadero offers great food and honest prices, serving traditional Spanish fare of breakfast, bocadillos and tapas. It is manned by four friendly faces behind the counters: Ismael, with the glasses and moustache is the longest serving, having worked here for 44 years, and their ‘youngest’ being Tony, who’s four years in and counting.
Their bocadillo de calamares is not like others you’ll find around town, as they use sepia (cuttlefish) instead of calamari (squid), because the former is more tender to the bite. Once the fish are freshly sliced up in-house, they are battered, deep-fried and put straight from the fryer into a long baguette. We recommend asking for a side of garlic mayonnaise (alioli) or garlic oil (ajo aceite) to kick it up a notch.
When I ask Tony for their secret to such a delicious calamares bocadillo, he causally smiles and says there are none. Besides letting me know about the sepia, the only other secret he will reveal is that it’s important to buy whole cuttlefish, and that they only prepare the quantity they will use for the day — no leftovers are pre-prepared and left aside. Getting the quantity needed takes a lot of work, as this place has a high turnover of customers, serving some 60 kilograms of sepia daily (or one tonne daily during festive periods), and can sell upwards of 1,400 bocadillos on each festive day!
Bar El Tostadero is open 7am until 8pm most nights, except Sundays, when they are closed all day (check their Facebook page for updates on their festive hours). Their busiest times are usually 11am to 3pm, and it’s not uncommon to see a metre-long queue out the door during busy festive periods such as Valencia’s Las Fallas.
When you come in, eat like a local and lean against the bar counter to enjoy your food if you can’t find a bar stool. If it’s too busy, takeaway is always a great option. Simply say, “Un bocadillo de calamares a la Romana para llevar por favor”. This is a cash-only bar, no credit cards accepted.
How to find it: Avinguda de l’Oest, 31, 46001 Valencia (a two-minute walk from the famous Central Market of Valencia).
What to order: bocadillo de calamares a la Romana (‘-a la Romana’ if you want the sepia fried; if you prefer them grilled, you can order it ‘-a la Plancha’)
Paella may be the dish that Valencia is most famed for, but if you’re only eating rice when you’re in town, you’re seriously missing out. That’s why we’re taking you deeper into the city’s culinary traditions on this flavour-packed food tour.