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Costa de la Luz Restaurants

Cuisine: Italian
Price: Main courses 10-16 Euros
Achuri, a block behind the Palace of Congress in the historic district, is one of the best-loved restaurants in this old port city. The interior is in a typical Mediterranean port style, with white stucco walls adorned with paintings interspersed with windows letting in plenty of sunshine. The menu includes fresh anchovies in virgin olive oil with a green leaf salad, merluza al achuri (hake casserole with green asparagus sauce), and pardo al brandy (red snapper in brandy sauce). Another excellent dish is bacalao en rosa verde (salt cod in tomato-and-vegetable sauce). Desserts include lemon mousse or tocinillo de cielo (a hearty regional pudding).
Address: Calle Plocia 15, Cadiz
Phone: 95-625-36-13

Bar Zapata
Cuisine: Light Fare/Fast Food
Price Tapas and platters 1.40-9 Euros; glasses of wine 1.80-2.30 Euros.
This is a clean, convivial, and charming tapas bar without sit-down tables of any kind, and a long bar top where many local residents come for afternoon or evening meals. If you don't mind eating standing up, you can get some very flavorful food here at very reasonable prices. It is immediately adjacent to the Plaza Candelaria, which at dusk every night tends to be mobbed with Andalusian families enjoying the drop in temperature. Fresh ingredients are stored within glass-fronted refrigerated cases on the bar. Peppered veal cutlets served sizzling from a tiny kitchen that's visible to anyone at the bar are as good as anything we've had in Cadiz. Other terrific items include veal cutlets with Roquefort sauce, roast loin of Iberian pork, anchovies in olive oil, and fried or scrambled eggs served with fresh asparagus, filets of pork, or cured Iberian ham.
Location: Plaza de Candelaria s/n,City Cadiz
Phone: 95-626-09-91

El Aljibe
Cuisine: Spanish/Portuguese
Price: Main courses 9-15 Euros
A local favorite, this place simultaneously manages to be rustic in decor yet urban in its hipness. Pablo Grosso is beloved by local foodies, some of whom frequent the place at least once a week. Near the train station, this restaurant has interior balconies, wooden ornaments, and antique furnishings, a cozy ambience for its first-class cuisine. The restaurant itself was built at the dawn of the 19th century but has been restored many times since. The food gets better every time we visit. Highly recommended are the foie gras of duckling with pepper sauce, scallops au gratin with prawns, and the lamb ribs with honey sauce. A signature dish is the duck casserole with wine sauce. Desserts are delicious and made fresh daily.
Address: Calle Plocia 25, Cadiz
Phone: 95-626-66-56

El Faro
Cuisine: Seafood
Price: Main courses 17-19 Euros; fixed-price menu 30 Euros
Since its opening in 1964, this has been Old Town's best and most respected restaurant, featuring a busy tapas bar near the mudejar entrance. Since we first discovered it some time back, standards have improved so much that El Faro is justified in calling itself the best restaurant in the province, thanks to the devotion, skill, and talent of its owner, Gonzalo Cordoba. It is decorated with beautiful tilework and marble, making for a genuinely fine, fabulous, and formal restaurant. It enjoys links to the political and media-related communities of Cadiz. A collection of photos on the walls is a virtual who's who of Spanish entertainment, politics, and bullfighting. Tables are elaborately decorated and set with crisp napery, lots of cutlery, crystal, and flowers. The waitstaff is the best in Cadiz. Tempting specialties include fresh fish and shellfish based on the catch of the day. We prefer ours baked in a salt crust that seals in the aroma and juices. Begin perhaps with the seafood soup and follow with, say, the roulades of sole with fresh spinach, hake with green sauce, or an especially delectable monkfish with strips of Serrano ham. For dessert, try the homemade ice cream drenched with a sweet red Andalusian wine called Pedro Ximenez. At least until tomorrow, you'll say that this dessert is the best there is.
Address: Calle San Felix 15, Cadiz
Phone: 95-621-10-68

El Paraiso
Cuisine: Spanish/Portuguese
Price: Main courses 15-30 Euros
This restaurant lies on the road from Huelva to El Portil, serves some of the finest meals in the area, and is well worth the search if you have wheels. When you arrive, El Paraiso's setting and ramshackle appearance may turn you off. However, once you're inside, seated at one of the rustic tables in a dining room that looks like a straw hut, the food is superb.
The fish dishes are the best and freshest in the area, especially lubina a la sal, sea bass cooked in a salt crust (removed before serving) to seal in the juices. Sea bass is also served with a bay-leaf-flavored sauce. Several rice dishes are popular with local foodies, including our favorite, fresh crab with vegetables grown in the province. The catch of the day can be ordered grilled (a la brasa) or with garlic (al ajillo). The meat eater will enjoy the juicy steaks, and the reliable dessert menu features a series of homemade sweets, including the chef's special pine-nut-and-chocolate cheesecake.
Location Carretera de Huelva/El Portil, Punta Umbria, City Huelva
Phone: 95-931-27-56

El Ventorillo del Chato
Cuisine: Spanish/Portuguese
Price: Main courses 11-25 Euros; tasting menu 33-60 Euros (not offered Aug).
El Chato ("pug nose") is the nickname of the original founder of this inn launched in 1780 on the isthmus linking the port city to the mainland. Culturally evocative, it is loaded with history. While technically under house arrest, the Spanish king, Fernando VII, came here for food, drink, and sex with the local prostitutes. It is a low-slung, whitewashed, and boxy-looking building that's perched incongruously beside the roaring highway (CA-33) stretching from New Cadiz toward the suburb of San Fernando. The back is only a few steps from the low dunes and scrub grasses of an isolated extreme end of the Playa Victoria. Inside you'll find a thick-walled shelter of enormous charm, with a wood-burning stove, flowers, and a collection of 19th-century antiques. There are two floors, including the basement, where flamenco shows are sometimes performed on the original tablao (special flamenco dance floor). The food is excellent. Try the arroz del senorito (a paella of shellfish that has been taken from the shells and cleaned before cooking), arroz negro con chocos (squid with rice colored by its own ink), or dorada en berenjena confitada al vino tinto (gilthead sea bream with eggplant cooked with red-wine sauce). Desserts are tempting, especially ice cream with three types of chocolate, or homemade cake with orange sauce.
Location: Carretera de Cadiz a San Fernando, Km 2, City Cadiz
Phone: 95-625-00-25

La Leyenda
Cuisine: Continental
Price: Main courses 8.50-13 Euros
Permeated with a sense of 1960s chic, this moderno restaurant is judged by many Spanish-language restaurant critics as an upscale, haute-bourgeois dining enclave. It's more fussily gastronomic, with more meticulous and formal service rituals, than what you'll find in many of the nearby taverns. We very much like the bar that prefaces the restaurant. To fully appreciate La Leyenda, it's best to reserve a table and to show up between 8:30 and 10pm to avoid the service-related languor that descends upon the place just before closing. The cuisine is innovative, meticulously prepared, and based on market-fresh ingredients. Menu items include a zarzuela of fish and shellfish (available only at lunchtime); breast of chicken with cheese and cream sauce; breast of duckling with sauce made from an Andalusian sweet red dessert wine (Pedro Ximenez); veal with bacon, dates, and Modena (balsamic) vinegar; and a degustacion of meats, grilled and served house-style.
Address: Paseo Maritimo 20, Cadiz
Phone: 95-626-21-85

La Marea Mesa
Cuisine: Seafood
Price: Half raciones 3.50-6 Euros; raciones 3.10-11 Euros; some shellfish raciones 31 Euros.
Come here for beer, cheap seafood, tapas, and lots of bustle and local color, but expect a slightly cynical, overworked staff. La Marea Mesa defines itself as a beer hall (cerveceria) with a busy kitchen; indeed, the venue is unpretentious and fast-paced, with good, abundant food. The decor is modern, with touches of varnished pine, bright lighting, and lots of bubbling aquariums. It gets busier as the evening progresses (it's jammed after 10:30pm). Although there are scads of outdoor tables under a tent facing the beach, you'll get a closer view of the culinary and social rituals here if you place yourself at the back of the stand-up bar. In summer, the clientele tends to be beer-soaked and sometimes sunburned holidaymakers from other parts of Spain and Europe. The menu lists at least eight different preparations of rice, including versions with crayfish, with capers and rondelles of octopus, with salsa verde, and with cod, plus a salad of fried shrimp, braised codfish, and revueltos (scrambled eggs) with shellfish and fresh asparagus.
Address: Paseo Maritimo 1, Cadiz
Phone: 95-628-03-47

Las Meigas
Address: Av. Guatemala 44, Huelva
Phone: 95-927-19-58
Cuisine: Spanish/Portuguese
Price: Main courses 13-17 Euros
This modern restaurant combines two of Spain's best northern cuisines in a far-southern setting - a real change of pace from typical Andalusian fare. In front of Plaza America, it is decorated in a typical rustic-tavern style, with wooden furniture, candles, and glass. In a town not noted for first-class restaurants, Las Meigas's fine food and total lack of pretension stand out. Regardless of the cost of ingredients, the chef is determined to price all the dishes the same, even scampi, which is usually paralyzingly expensive in Andalusia. On a recent visit, we enjoyed fried sea bass flavored with lots of garlic and parsley, and scampi with local ham and a white sauce. One regional dish on the menu is a platter of small squids flavored with their own tinta (ink) and cooked with rice. A Basque classic is the hake (merluza) with potatoes, garlic, pepper, and olive oil. Desserts are made fresh daily.

Restaurant Arana
Address: Paseo Maritimo 1, Cadiz
Phone: 95-620-50-90
Cuisine: Spanish/Portuguese
Price: Tapas 1.20-3.50 Euros; main courses 8-18 Euros; set-price menu 14 Euros. Unlike the more rustic and woodsy-looking restaurants that surround it on both sides, Arana is positioned directly in front of the beach, midway between Tryp La Caleta and the Hotel Playa Victoria. This is a high-style, post-movida restaurant with sea-fronting tables that sit under a high-tech tent. The rather formal indoor dining venue is accented with polished granite and high-grade plastics. Menu items include broad beans with ham, platters of cured Iberian meats, diced tuna with roasted peppers, braised oxtail, sirloin steak with Roquefort sauce, minted loin of codfish, breast of duck, and a fine version of local anchovies marinated in (what else?) local olive oil. The cookery is precise and reflects the region's high culinary standards.