This blog post was originally posted on July 14, 2017 and was updated on September 9, 2020.
Ask any group of visitors to Spain what they’re most excited to try and many people will say paella.
We’re the first to admit that good paella is tricky to find outside its home region of Valencia. However, paella is all about the ingredients you use and the way you prepare it.
With high-quality fish, meats, and vegetables available in the markets of San Sebastian, the innovative chefs of Spain’s unofficial gastronomy capital create delicious versions of paella. What’s more, there are even more amazing rice dishes to enjoy in the city too, full of unique local flavor!
Dodge the dreaded tourist traps with our tips on where to eat paella in San Sebastian, and where to find some other unmissable rice dishes as well.
How to spot great (or not-so-great) paella in San Sebastian
Due to paella’s popularity abroad, it’s easy to fall into a tourist trap when it comes to seeking it out here in Spain. Many restaurants will sell frozen, reheated rice that they then call “paella” on the menu—with an exorbitant price tag to match.
To be sure you get your money’s worth (and keep your tastebuds happy), here’s how to spot an authentic paella in San Sebastian.
- Avoid places with large, bright photos of paella outside. This will often be the aforementioned frozen rice, and isn’t worth your time.
- Service at Spanish restaurants can be more laid-back than what many visitors are used to. But when it comes to paella, you want to be waiting a while—the longer, the better, generally speaking. This ensures that your rice is being made to order.
- When your paella comes to the table, it should ideally be served in the same large, shallow pan it was prepared in. The rice should be short-grain (ideally bomba), and a brownish-orange color rather than bright yellow. (Yellow paella is often a sign of food coloring.)
- Paella isn’t an easy or quick dish to make, so be wary of any restaurant that offers it on the menu every day, unless that place is an arrocería (a restaurant specializing in rice dishes that has the facilities to produce large amounts of paella every day). Many decent paellas will only be offered one day a week, so keep your eye out for chalkboards in front of restaurants advertising “paella hoy” (paella today).
- Last but not least, know that people are hesitant to say paella on menus outside of Valencia. Don’t overlook any kind of “arroz” (rice) on a menu—this tends to be a rice dish served with local ingredients. Amazing food without the well-known title!
Where to Eat Paella in San Sebastian
Restaurante Ama Lur
Located in the vibrant Gros neighborhood, Restaurante Ama Lur is a great spot to enjoy delicious, traditional Basque food. Specializing in roast meats, especially chicken, Ama Lur has a great range of dishes and does an authentic paella on Wednesdays and holidays.
If you have a sweet tooth, they also have a delicious pantxineta tart, one of our favorite traditional Basque desserts. They also do most of their menu to go (para llevar) so it’s the perfect place to stock up on delicious food to take to the beach. Overall, this is a great option if you’re unsure of where to eat paella in San Sebastian.
La Cuchara de San Telmo
This amazing bar, hidden away in the iconic Old Town, is the perfect marriage of Basque tradition and modernity.
Apart from a wonderful selection of delicious pintxos, La Cuchara de San Telmo has an unmissable rice dish you simply must try. Made from Italian orzo, the risotto cremoso dish is one of the highlights on the menu. Pair it with a delicious wine and soak up the local atmosphere.
When it comes to Restaurante Narru, it’s all about the location. Situated on the promenade overlooking La Concha beach, the views from the bar are amazing. You can also head downstairs to the airy, more formal dining area for a bit more peace and quiet.
In terms of where to find paella in San Sebastian, Restaurante Narru is a great option, as the iconic rice dish is a regular special in the restaurant. However, it’s also an amazing spot for some other authentic Spanish rice dishes. Don’t miss the arroz con almejas, a beautifully presented rice specialty with large Galician clams.
Another San Sebastian gem with an incredible rice dish in the Old Town is Borda Berri. Also made of orzo, the risotto de hongos con langostinos is unforgettable. This mushroom and prawn risotto is served with a beautiful tosta de Idiazabal, a lightly toasted piece of bread topped with Idiazabal cheese.
Borda Berri may not be the place to go if you’re wondering where to eat paella in San Sebastian. But this beautifully constructed rice dish certainly matches any amazing paella we’ve ever had!