Tapa Thursdays: Free Munchies in Seville

When I moved to Seville, I imagined I’d nibble on cheese and cured meats as I had a glass of beer, munch on free tapas and never have to go to the grocery store. Andalucía would practically be enticing me to eat as much as my belly could hold.

Spoiler alert: No free tapas are given with your drink in Seville.

If you want free tapas, try Granada or Jaén, but don’t expect them in the capital city of Sevilla.

Bar staff will occasionally give you a small plate of snacks, but never enough to make a meal. In fact, the origin of the tapa itself is believed to have served a purpose: to cover a drink of sticky-sweet sherry from flies (or perhaps to make sure patrons took it easy on the slosh).

The Novio and I area experienced purveyors of cerveza: we go out once or twice during the work week to have a few beers before dinner, and snack on peanuts or olives while we do. Here’s an unofficial list to bar snacks in Southern Spain:

Olives

Olives are king in Andalucía: it’s estimated that over 2.1 million hectares of soil here are dedicated to producing aceitunas (ah-see-ah-too-nuns). This is far and away the most common snack you’ll receive, and their briny taste matches well with a beer or dry sherry.

Altramuces / “Chochos”

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The Novio introduced me (and several friends, just to state the facts) to these weird legumes in a waxy coating. Though they’re really called altramuces (all-tray-moo-thez), sevillanos refer to them as chochos. I’d stick to the proper name.

To eat them, use your incisor tooth to make a small tear in the shell, then force the bean out. It’s a lot of work for just a morsel, but they’re yummy!

Cheese or Cured Meats

While far less common, some bars will give you a few slivers of cured meats or cheeses, plus picos. Apart from the mighty jamón, I love salchichón and any sort of hard cheese.

Shrimp

Truth be told: the Novio and I fell in love over beers and shrimp at La Grande. Nearby Huelva is home to the gamba blanca, and prawns are a common addition to many regional dishes. At its most simple, the shrimp is boiled and sprinkled with sea salt. Say it with me: gahm-buhs.

Nuts

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Nuts of any time, called frutos secos (froo-toes say-coz), are served at student bars. Sometimes they’re peanuts, sometimes they’re a mixed bag, but they’re always served extra salty. Almonds are quite popular, too, but they usually come at a small price.

Potato Chips

Is there as beautiful of a marriage as a cold beer and salty potato chips? Those made locally in Andalucía are fried with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Along with olives, potato chips are quite common fare, called patatas fritas (pah-tah-tahz free-tuhs).

Gummies

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Gummy candy, called chucherías or gominolas in the South, are clearly not a palate cleanser for beer or dry sherry. Instead, ask for a small plate of chuches (choo-chase) when you’re out having a cocktail or mixed drink.

Of course, tapas aren’t hard to find, either, and they won’t break your budget. If you need something to tide you over while having a pre-meal drink, be sure to ask the bartender if there’s anything you can snack on.

Are there free tapas where you live, or a variation on these munchies? 

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. I’ve been spoiled to live in Jaén province and now in Galicia, where huge free tapas are the norm, but there’s a soft spot in my heart for these little munchies, too! ^_^ My favorites are the olives-and-potato chips combo you sometimes get, and I love that cocktails usually come accompanied with gummy worms and mixed roasted nuts.
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..Gaudí Week #3: Park Güell in Barcelona, SpainMy Profile

  2. Pedro Meca Garcia says:

    where are those free tapas everyone talks about? i was in Granada years ago and i don’t remember to have been served any of them…..here in Murcia the only free thing that i have seen is some “frutos secos” when asking for some beer while watching a football match.

    the origin of the term “tapas” comes from the verb “tapar” (to cover) as when in the Middle Ages it was ruled that wine should be served with a piece of bread….usually the bread was placed on top of the jar acting like a “tapa” (lid/cover)…….the reason to serve bread along with wine was to avoid drunkers because the effect of alcohol on an empty stomach is much worse than a stomach with bread acting like a filter.

  3. Christine says:

    There are so many versions of how tapas came about, I for one am just glad they did!
    It took me awhile to get used to the mixture of nuts and gummies but now when I see just a bowl of nuts I’m like, “where are the gummies?”. There are a few places in Malaga that still serve free tapa but they are not in the tourist parts (whew!).
    Now I wish some one told me how to eat altramuces, like an ass I was munching hard on them and was like wow this is rough going.(I now love them)
    As always great post Cat. I can’t wait to get back. sigh!

    • Cat Gaa says:

      I’ve heard of a few places giving out tapas in Seville, but have found it to be hit or miss. I love the concept of eating for free (and drinking…and just eating), so getting free snacks or even a free dish is total icing on the cake!

  4. Buck says:

    I’m kind of sad to hear that the true and free tapas have gone the way of the Dodo bird through most of Spain. When do you think this tradition largely died out?

    In my hometown, we certainly don’t have a tapas but there is one bar here that serves free bacon (along with $1 cans of PBR and giant fishbowls of cheap booze mixes).
    Buck recently posted..How to Apply for Non Lucrative Visa for Spain as US CitizenMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Don’t worry – there are still plenty of places in Granada, both on Calle Elvira and even in the more residential neighborhoods! For as long as I’ve been in Seville, we’ve never had it, but other smaller capital cities still do. My guess would be the financial crisis has made bars cut back so that they can actually make a profit.

      And as for that bar – where is it?! I’ll be home this summer and planned on heading up to Wisco to visit a friend! I have a soft spot for PBR.

      • Buck says:

        Haha – fortunately for you, PBR is pretty ubiquitous in these parts!

        If you make it to Madison, Wando’s is your spot, especially on Tuesdays. Although I can’t really recommend it as it is primarily a stinky college bar. Plenty of other options in the area closer to the Capitol square, though.

      • Cat Gaa says:

        Little do you know that stinky college bars are the ones I like most! I’ll be back in Chicago this summer for a bit, and likely will head up to Wisco for a few days with my dad. I’ll let you know!

  5. Hi Cat: I never go out to the bars in Spain (or anywhere) because I don’t drink alcohol. How do you think they would react to a non-drinker like me? Is it acceptable to just order a tonic? I’d love to participate in this tradition but don’t want people to look at me like I’m some kind of weird alien.
    Barbara Weibel recently posted..PHOTO: Inside the viharn of Wat Muen San, also known as the silver temple, in Chiang Mai, ThailandMy Profile

    • Cat Gaa says:

      Hi Barbara, nice to hear from you! These days, you sometimes have to ask once or twice for the snacks, but considering that non-alcoholic drinks almost always cost more than a beer or glass of wine, you’re more than likely to get them with a tonic or a soft drink. Bars have taken on a life of their own as places of social interaction, whether it’s watching a sporting event or serving as a place to gather. Not to be missed!

  6. Ashley Duncan says:

    I never knew that about the origin of tapas!! So interesting. Laughed at your “chocho” advice, and heartily agree about salchichón, yummm. My favorite free munchie would have to be potato chips, and I wish I got more gummies! Might have to start going out more.

  7. What? No free tapas in Seville? What is the world coming to? That’s OK, they look like they are worth paying for. That sausage!!
    Val-Eating The Globe recently posted..Something’s Fishy At Pescau Restaurant In San Miguel, MexicoMy Profile

  8. Kaley says:

    “Though they’re really called altramuces (all-tray-moo-thez), sevillanos refer to them as chochos. I’d stick to the proper name.”

    Don’t care to elaborate? :)
    Kaley recently posted..So You’re Dating a Spaniard—DianeMy Profile

  9. Molly says:

    Kaley is naughty ; )

    In Granada we are spoilt and have free tapas with our drinks. They vary HUGELY in quality from bar to bar. Some make a dinner when having 2 or 3 drinks, others are packed out with lots if mayonnaise and bread…

    The jellies and sweets are also served in Granada when you order a copa or cocktail. Love this, I always dig out the fizzy cola bottles!

    My favourite tapa is Aubergines with honey…

    • Cat Gaa says:

      I love the aubergines and honey, one of my favorites! Do you have any go-to bars in Seville, Molly? I’m always on the lookout for more!

  10. Javier says:

    I’m so glad I found out this blog!

  11. Rachel says:

    I’m lucky enough to live in Jaen, land of free tapas so it’s always a bit like ‘hey where’s my tapas’ when we go elsewhere. Long may they be free here as it is easy to have a meal with three drinks – alcholic or soft!

    Molly I agree I just love fried aubergines dribbled with molasses – berenjenas con miel de cana.
    Yuuuuuummmmmmmm.

  12. Steve says:

    I remember when I first came to live in Andalusia there weren’t so many free tapas around, you had to go to real neighborhood bars, but the last ten years seems have a seen a tapas bar explosion, well, at least in Nerja. A shame that it hasn’t reached los pijos de Sevilla! jajaja

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