Imagine, if you will, a working person’s typical weekday lunch out.
Perhaps you are visualizing someone hurriedly pushing a tray through a buffet line….
….or tapping their foot at a take away restaurant counter….
….or downing a sandwich and a pop at the corner cafe….
Whatever the scenario is that you picture, it most certainly involves the person chowing down something quick and easy and at a rapid pace. Thus is the reality for those in the US who opt against “brown baggin'” it at work – a rushed lunch based on convenience and not necessarily on pleasure or health.
Fortunately for them, the way we dine out on a work day in the United States is not copied by the Spaniards.
¡No way José! 😉
People from Spain, my friends, who choose to dine out during their lunch break are granted the opportunity enjoy and even (you won’t believe this!) savor their meal.
All this is made possible in Spain thanks to the concept of the Menu del Día* (Literally the Menu of the Day… or probably more commonly referred to as the “Lunch Special” over in the US).
Luckily for all you, your favorite investigative reporter (moi!) had the chance to dine out at a Spanish Menu the other day and is bursting with excitement to share the details of her lunch experience! 😉
¡Que Aproveche! (Enjoy! [the meal])
*Remember too that in Spain it is typical for people to work a divided shift – meaning that they have a break in the middle of the day for lunch of about 3 hours long. This extensive break definitely enhances the menú experience.
What does a Menú del Día consist of?
Basically it’s a multi-course lunch special that most Spanish restaurants offer Mon-Fri. The menu is limited – usually you have two or three options to select from for each course.
The menú also almost always includes drinks (water or wine!), complimentary bread rolls, and sometimes coffee at the end. You order everything at the beginning and it is brought out to you one plate at a time.
And the best part? Because it’s a limited selection of food (compared to ordering off of the fixed menu) a Menu del Día is very economic – costing between 9-18 euros per person depending on the “fanciness level” of the establishment.
Therefore, if you’re like me and have a limited budget, eating a menú is a great way to try the food at a ritzy nice restaurant which you couldn’t, under normal circumstances, afford to eat a multi-course meal.
Wouldn’t you know! That’s exactly what Diego and I did the other day – lunched out at a fancy place during his work break but ordered from the special menú and saved ourselves some “doll hairs” 😉
The Lunch Break Down – Course by Course
That black board easel thing that I’m posing next to explains what this classy place was offering on their Menú del día. Did you figure out yet what the lunch consists of….?
…. yeah me either….!
Half the time at “nicer” restaurants I don’t understand the Spanish food terminology – what usually happens is that I ask the waiter a bunch of questions…. end up still being confused… and then finally Diego gives me the “bare bones” description of what the food is.
For example, I didn’t understand what the dessert was of this particular menú and after struggling to comprehend the waiter’s accurate culinary explanation Diego interrupted and said – “basicamente son pequeñas bolas rellenas de nata” (basically their little dough balls stuffed with cream).
Ha, finally someone’s speaking my language!
Getting back on track….
We both started the lunch with a some soupy pasta concoction (called fideuá – it originates from Cataluña) cooked with seafood! ”Twas quite delicious! I especially liked what was inside of those shells – so fresh and yummy!
Next up were the main courses!
There were two things to select from on this particular menú – I chose the fish option – and Diego ordered the rabo del toro (meat from a bull’s tail!!)
His was super tender and juicy, and my lenguado (a type of fish) didn’t disappoint either 🙂
It was at this point that I slopped some of fish sauce of my white shirt…. whoopsies!
Thankfully, the waiters were supper attentive to my spills and immediately supplied me with a stain removing wipe! Talk about service!
Once both of our plate were clean it was time to bring out the dessert!
We ended lunch by each enjoying our own “parfait” (my terminology). It consisted of a cookie, cream puff, caramel sauce, and whipped cream. Tasty!
Last but not least we sipped on mini espressos to keep us awake and functioning since our stomachs were busy digesting all of that goodness.
The Overall Experience
Diego and I stayed at the restaurant for a little over an hour. We were there so long not because the place was crowded (we arrived promptly at 2 pm – pretty early to start lunch in Spain!), nor because we had a slow waiter – that’s simply the beauty of the menú – you are forced to take your time while eating it!
Each course is brought out separately – up to the coffee at the end! (Yes, I realize that ordering multiple dishes is possible at a restaurant in the US…) yet still…. I absolutely love enjoying a Menú del Día because it is so drawn out! You never feel like you have to eat everything up in half hour – you’re allowed to talk, eat slowly, enjoy the food, and anticipate the many courses! That almost never happens during a midday work lunch in the US.
What I also love to do is scope out what the waiters bring to the other people eating a menú…. That way I can get a idea about what’s coming my way!
Also, I tend to “compete” with Diego when it comes to eating lunch out – since there’s usually two choices on the menú for main course, I always try to order differently than him – that way we can compare the two options and decide which is best!
Oh, and I almost forgot!
Check out the “generous” tip we left at this place!
One Euro!!! Here this is perfectly acceptable to leave as a tip (you’re not required to leave anything!) There’s no 20% of the bill business like there is at home 🙂