A few weeks ago, my friend and I visited Barcelona Wine Bar in Raleigh. We don’t often go to Raleigh, but it was definitely worth the trip. I will preface this whole post with… I had already had a few drinks before we arrived and so don’t know that it will be as detailed as some of my other posts. And also I was with a friend and so I worry less about keeping all the details about the restaurant stored in my brain and more on being present with the people in my life. Her and I have dined out a lot together and have enjoyed tapas style restaurants, like Barcelona, for the variety of foods offered to accommodate both of our dietary needs.
We first noticed Barcelona earlier this year when we ventured to Raleigh to work from the cute coffee shop next door. That day, I believe we had some obligations back in Chapel Hill and were not able to stay and check out Barcelona. We had checked out the menu, and decided it could be a good option to try at a later time. So we were big city gals for the night, we dressed super cute and drove over to Raleigh to visit Barcelona.
Barcelona is located in downtown Raleigh. But based on their website they also have other locations in the state as well as other locations around the country. This surprised me, but also excites me as I do not plan to stay in the Triangle much longer. Watch me write this all over my website and somehow end up staying here… But the Raleigh location is so cool. They have a corner spot on the first floor of a multi-use building, so one with shops on the bottom and apartments up top. The first time I went we sat outside, which was great except for I had a lot of sun on my face until the sun went down. On the patio there is a lot of greenery and it just looks lovely.
The inside is so interesting too. There are a lot of cool features including floating bar shelves, garage type doors, and different types of booths and tables. Again, both of the times I’ve now been I was trying to enjoy the company, so didn’t take such detailed mental notes. Of the parts of the restaurant I did see and notice, it was really fun, interesting, and unique.
Barcelona is a tapas style restaurant and wine bar. If you are not familiar with tapas, they are just shared plates. Also, if you are familiar with tapas you should check out Iliza Shlesinger’s Netflix special Freezing Hot, it’s sure to give you a laugh. Once we were seated I shared with the waiter that I was gluten-free and asked for a gluten-free menu. They did not have a separate menu, but the waiter took the menu and marked it up for me. I am honestly always so impressed when the staff are knowledgeable enough to do things like that, as after almost ten years gluten-free I’ve had my fair share of restaurant staff that aren’t that familiar with the menu. He marked the menu to show what naturally is gluten-free, what could be modified to be gluten-free, and what foods would be gluten-free but experience cross-contact. From there we chose a few dishes to share, and a few dishes for ourselves.
I ordered the chorizo with sweet and sour figs, and we shared the pear and arugula salad, confit piquillo peppers, and the romao cheese. She ordered a few foods that were not gluten-free, but we separated the food as soon as it came to the table and took the necessary precautions to keep me safe. Of the dishes I ate, the chorizo and the cheese were my favorite. Most of my experience with chorizo is with ground chorizo in tacos and other dishes, so it was fun to experience it prepared in a different way. What I think really made this dish so delicious was the sweet and sour fig sauce. I definitely think it was more sweet than sour, but it felt like it balanced out the chorizo very nicely. And I don’t remember how I would describe the cheese, I do know it had rosemary on the side of it, but I am not a cheese connoisseur. I did not enjoy the peppers. They were similar to a bell pepper, which I do usually enjoy, so I think it may have been more about the preparation of them. Since I’ve already gone through all the other dishes I guess I should talk about the pear and arugula salad. It was fresh, and tasty and I did enjoy it. It was a nice addition to our meal for sure. Along with our meal, I did a wine flight, because that’s something I enjoy at a wine bar and restaurant. They had a few options for wine flights, and the one I chose was called Bio-Curious. This wine flight consisted of three wines that were produced using biodynamic farming practices. Please don’t ask me what biodynamic farming practices are, I just saw the phrase on the menu. The wines in the wine flight weren’t my favorite, and I don’t drink enough wine to explain why. I don’t think I personally would order those again. I will say that I had a glass while we waited for our table, and I talked to the bartender and told them some of the characteristics I like in wine and the glass they gave me was really nice. So if you enjoy wine, maybe check out the full wine list and talk to the staff to find one you’ll really enjoy.
The best part of this experience, in my opinion at least, and other than hanging out with my friend before we both head out of North Carolina, was dessert. Most places I won’t buy dessert, either because they don’t have gluten-free options, or I’m too full. But I had noticed that the chocolate cake was not marked off on my menu, and I questioned that a bit, but also got super excited. My friend and I were talking about it when one of the managers from the restaurant happened to stop at our table to check that we were enjoying our meal. We explained that the server was nice enough to mark up our menu, but that we had a question about the chocolate cake and if it was actually gluten-free. The response was that it wasn’t and that was a mistake. The server ended up coming over and they had a discussion at the table and we said we would think about it. The other gluten-free dessert option was flan, and I’ve never had flan before, but the quick internet search reminded me of panna cotta, and I’ve had some less than stellar experiences with panna cotta before. Specifically very gel like panna cotta. Less than ten minutes later the manager comes back to our table with both gluten-free desserts on the house mentioning that they was wrong about the chocolate cake and the chef confirmed it was safe. And my intestines also confirmed it was safe after it was in my belly. I was so happy eating that chocolate cake. Chocolate cake is one of my favorite desserts and this one had a coffee creme anglaise and almond crumble which was chef’s kiss, so good. Like honestly, I don’t know that I want chocolate cake again without coffee creme and almond, it all just pairs so nicely. And because they so generously brought us both options, I did also eat the flan. It definitely goes into the good dessert category. It was creamy, and caramel-y, and delicious. So, if you go to Barcelona there will likely be safe dessert options and I would suggest saving some room and giving them a try.
To be honest, I don’t have much time left in the Triangle and I am trying real hard to get back to get some gluten-free chocolate cake before I say goodbye. I had a really great experience at Barcelona. There was a bit of a wait since we did not make a reservation, but we were able to grab a glass of wine from the bar and hang out until a table was ready. It was a beautiful evening and we sat outside and enjoyed a variety of really delicious foods. Like I mentioned before, tapas are fun because you can try multiple things from the menu. Sometimes when I have a number of gluten-free options its harder because then I have to actually make a choice, but with tapas you can order multiple options and share with the table, it’s great. Barcelona is a bit on the pricier side, so to me at least it seems like a more of a restaurant to celebrate, or go on a date, or friend date like we did, it’s not a restaurant I personally could afford to eat at regularly. But if you are in Raleigh, or the Triangle I think it is worth it, they took such good care with my dietary restrictions and served some great food.
Update: I convinced some of my family to get dessert before our dinner reservation on the day I had graduation. Our dinner reservation wasn’t until 8pm, so we headed to Raleigh early and I of course ordered the cake again. It pays off for restaurants to do right by their customers. Again, I really appreciated how generous and knowledgeable they were when I dined with them the first time. We also enjoyed some wine from the bar, I mean it is a wine bar… It was totally worth it, so delicious. I gave my family member a small sampling of my cake, and she enjoyed it as well.