Every year here in my quaint little city straddling the border with France, the city hosts the annual Ruta del Pintxo (Pintxo Route). This tradition started some years ago and intends to give the bars and cafes a little economic push during the month of May. Mugan, the company that controls this pintxo route every year, is made up of most local businesses in Irun with the intention of supporting local shops and their owners. One of the great things about Spain is that small, local shops really do still exist and haven’t been run out of town by larger corporations (cough, cough America).
At the beginning of every April pintxo route posters begin to emerge in shops and bars around town and if you buy in one of these shops, you receive “tickets” for a discounted pintxo and a participation in a drawing for a trip (this year to Ibiza). The pintxo with this ticket costs 1.10 euros. You can also try this delicious little snacks without the ticket but will run anywhere from 2-3 euros.
Along with the pintxo route, all bars and restaurants that create specific pintxos compete for the coveted prize of Best Pintxo Mugan. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what the prize is for the best pintxo (maybe just bragging rights) but I’m know it’s something these bars and restaurants take very seriously.
The hubby and I go every year to try out some of these creations and this year was no exception. I know it seems like all we do is go for pintxos here in The Basque Country (this is only partially true) but when there are so many tasty ones to eat, it’s hard not to!
Here are the pintxos that we tried this year:
What’s in it: grilled txistorra (a spicy chorizo) wrapped in a crepe with cheese sauce and a perfectly cooked cherry tomato.
I had never been to this bar before even though it’s less than a 5 minute walk from our place. The bartender was really friendly and they had a Spanish bullfight on the TV, which I thought was very interesting (we’re not exactly in Andalucia). This pintxo was my favorite as I’m a sucker for txistorra.
Virginia Cafe & Restaurante
What’s in it: Slow-roasted pork with a dark beer reduction sauce and creamy potato puree.
Delicious! One of our favorites!
Bar & Restaurante Izartxo
What’s in it: fried pork ribs with green Padron peppers
I actually really liked this one. It was simple but well-prepared and because it was slightly salty it went down nicely with a cold beer.
Bar & Restaurante Arano
What’s in it: puff pastry cup filled with mushrooms and topped with cheese and bacon
We only go to this bar once a year for the Pintxo Route and their pintxos are usually one of the best but this one left me wanting more. We thought it was overly simple and the bartender was focusing more on the soccer game on TV than the customers.
What’s in it: Puff pastry filled with braised beef cheek and potato puree.
This was the clear winner in the hubby’s eyes. We actually went back again for seconds because he loved it so much!
What’s in it: 3 croquetas (first one jamon, second one squid with its ink, third one mushroom) on a stick.
I enjoyed the croquetas (one of my favorite foods) except for the squid. I’ve never been a fan and this was no exception.
Bar & Restaurante Zura
What’s in it: Cod fish stuffed red piquillo pepper battered in tempura and fried.
This one was just ok….neither a favorite nor the worst. The fact that my glass of white wine wasn’t served cold was more memorable than the pintxo.
Bar & Restaurante Irungo Atsegina
What’s in it: Farm-raised chicken battered and fried in a toasted corn batter with a homemade BBQ sauce and piece of herb toast.
This pintxo comes from arguably one of the best restaurants in Irun. I loved it because it combines two of my favorite things: chicken and BBQ sauce.
What’s in it: Shrimp wrapped in brie cheese fried in tempura with a red pepper sauce.
This is the Pintxo Route winner of the competition this year and it was quite delicious. I had never thought about putting shrimp and brie cheese together but it worked in all the right ways.
Which ones would you like to try? Are you a fan of pintxos? Does your city have a Pintxo Route?