Sants residents will identify themselves as “from Sants”- not “from Barcelona” as one would assume. Poble Nou, Poble Sec, the Raval- all have enough craft coffee shops to signal there are hipsters about. Sants? Nope, you will have a cortado or you will have a con leche and don’t start with milk alternatives. This is a neighborhood that people live in, where Airbnb short lets are largely nonexistent.
I’m here on a Saturday morning to go on a tour with Culinary Backstreets. We start off at Mercat de Sants which I’ve never visited. The wooden ceiling is reminiscent of the newly refurbished Sant Antoni market but this market is alive with people doing their shopping on a Saturday morning. “Ultim?” I hear people asking one another in Catalan. It’s the practical local custom of identifying the last person in line to allow a loose crowd to form in lieu of a more conventional queue without anyone missing their turn. The vegetable stalls advertise KM0 produce, helpfully displaying origin on plump artichokes or fresh fava beans. The stall in the middle serving cooked pulses and food is doing a roaring trade.
Mireia, our tour guide, is from Vic (of llonganissa fame) and a resident of Sants. She is a food writer, contributing to the local Time Out and foreign publications such as Vanity Fair. She doesn’t have a single social media channel fearing it might interfere with her productivity. Culinary Backstreets prefers guides like Mirella, educated professionals – journalists as a preference but there is also a sommelier for the Bodega tour and a chef for one of the market tours.
This harks back to the founding of Culinary Back Streets in Istanbul by a Washington Post journalist and a local blogger who set out, as the name implies, to offer a more authentic and subtle experience for visitors. Unsurprisingly, I find out that more than half the people in our group have been on Culinary Backstreet tours in 13 other cities (from Tiblisi to Athens).
The tour takes four and a half hours and runs the gamut from cheese, to vinegared boquerones, to black sausage with scrambled eggs, to Cava to a visit to an artisanal chocolate workshop with shelves filled with large chocolate eggs for the imminent Easter celebrations.
I deem each stop worthy enough for its own entry on the blog. Most truly are insider tips carefully vetted by the Culinary Back Streets team. At no point do we bump into another gaggle of visitors taking pictures of their lunch.
In addition to food anecdotes, we hear about Sants history and visit some of the factories that were once prevalent in the area. Our walk, threads through picturesque residential streets, one with a large banner announcing a weekend Calçotada to raise money for the summer Sants festival.
It’s a tremendous morning out even for a resident like myself and I plan to come back to quite a few of the places I have been introduced to.
Culinary Backstreets Tour