Spain has a tendency to break every rule when it comes to dining and drinking. Bars here are an ideal spot for breakfast, cafés always serve beer and pubs are perfect places to have an authentic meal.
Bar. A bar means so much more in Spain that it does elsewhere. A Spanish bar is basically the same concept as an informal restaurant. The term is used as a kind of catch-all word for most small food and drink establishments. In fact, bars are so prevalent that many claim Spain has more bars per capita than any other country in the world!
Bars serve everything from breakfast in the morning to tapas at night. You can order just about anything at a bar. Beer, wine, vermouth and soft drinks are popular bar items on the beverage side of things. For food, most bars are best at simple breakfasts like toast and fresh squeezed orange juice, lunch menus of the day, evening tapas and dinner raciónes (shared plates).
Taberna. Tabernas are typically an older, cozier bar where you can eat or drink sitting at a table or standing in the bar area. Tabernas are all about tradition. They often have Spanish staples like tortilla española and croquetas along with regional dishes and tapas. Tabernas are great places to try traditional Spanish foods!
Restaurante. Table cloths, multiple glasses, wine menus… restaurantes are the real deal when it comes to dining out in Spain. Restaurants are usually the most formal type of eating establishment and can range from a place for casual sit-down lunches to three Michelin starred gastronomic experiences.
At lunch, most restaurants have both a daily set menu and an a la carte menu. At dinner the majority have only a la carte menus, although the most elegant spots may have a fixed tasting menu.
Depending on the restaurant, you can either order raciónes, large plates meant to be shared, or individual plates. Some restaurants also offer dishes in smaller sizes like media raciónes (half plates) and tapas (small plates).
Cafetería (Café). A cafetería is about halfway between a coffeehouse and a traditional Spanish bar. Some establishments kill two birds with one stone by calling themselves a bar-cafetería! They tend to be very informal and are open all day. Many have outdoor seating and a also small tables to sit inside.
In the morning, cafeterías serve various types of pastries like croissants (with or without chocolate), muffins and doughnuts. Many also have churros with hot chocolate, mini-sandwiches with tortilla española (egg and potato omelet) or ham and cheese and toasted baguette bread with either butter and jam or olive oil and tomato. Also delicious at cafeterías are the fresh squeezed orange juice and cafe con leche (coffee with milk).
Bar de Copas (Cocktail Bar). A Spanish bar de copas is, for all intents and purposes, a cocktail bar. They are usually open late and do not serve food. A bar de copas can mean everything from an elegant rooftop terrace overlooking the city to a tiny neighborhood bar that pours your average mixed drinks. While there are varying levels of fanciness, most bares de copas serve cocktails, mixed drinks and liqueurs.