Barcelona is the land of food. Traversing the Spanish city’s old, narrow streets in search of plant-based fare, Karen and I found it impossible not to notice the constant barrage of smells from every cafe and eatery, of which there seems to be an endless supply.
Many who come here seek out the tapas, or other famous dishes like tortilla española or paella. But that’s just the tip of the culinary iceberg. Think of a type of food and you can most likely find it in Barcelona.
And as for a good old-fashioned hamburger, that’s not hard to find, either. But vegan burgers? That’s a rare treat no matter what city you’re in, American or European.
Lucky for us, we found a hidden gem dedicated to the art of fat, sinfully juicy vegan burgers and other typical Spanish dishes offered with a thoughtful list of local brews. Welcome to Cat Bar Barcelona, where burger-loving vegans come to chow down in a dimly lit corner dive, letting them forget (for the moment, at least) that they’re in a city made for meat eaters.
Cat Bar is tucked away in the fashionable Born neighborhood of Barcelona, where we were teased by high-end boutiques and the usual temptations of countless sidewalk cafes.
Finding Cat Bar wasn’t easy, but nothing ever was in Barcelona. Blame it on those years living in the Windy City — Chicago’s efficient grid system really spoiled us and didn’t prepare us at all for this city’s twists and turns.
But looking on the bright side (as you should always do when you travel), getting lost in a city like this is kind of a treat. It gives you a little longer take in that undeniably magical feel, the one that brings out the urge to stay out longer, to drink a little more wine, to explore whatever might be around the corner. It’s that same feeling Chicago used to give me in the first months after I moved there back in 2008.
Inside Cat Bar’s rather cramped dining room, cats rule the roost. Feline-focused artwork and decor make it clear what side of the cat/dog rivalry they’re on. If you’re more of a dog person, you might find the list of Brew Dog beers on tap to be a subtle victory.
When it comes to Cat Bar’s burgers, they’re not playing around. My sandwich came stacked with a meaty patty grilled just right and topped with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions. A couple of thick tomato slices were wedged beneath the heavier components, and a small salad of arugula finished off the masterpiece. You know those commercials that show people struggling to take that first seductive bite of a huge hamburger? That’s just how it was.
And those of us who regularly eat veggie patties know they come in a lot of varieties, from a mushed together pile of frozen vegetables to the obligatory black bean burger, and occasionally the dried out soy creation. But this one had the juiciness that makes a burger worth eating, and a savory flavor that wasn’t masked by the sandwich’s toppings.
If you go to Cat Bar and don’t get the patatas bravas, you’ll be missing out big time. This tapas staple is one that vegans usually can’t indulge in, as it’s cheese-based, and the vegan version at Cat Bar gets pretty close to the taste of the original. The potatoes were served with the spicy cheese sauce on the side, making them easy to dip. When ours arrived at our table, the potatoes were still piping hot, but smelled downright sinful and were way too hard to resist. We burned the top of our mouths but found no way around it.
If what I’ve written isn’t enough to convince you that Cat Bar is vegan heaven, here are a few extras that should get your attention:
- Free Wifi
- More than 30 bottles of local beers, and nine craft beers on tap
- Wheat-free options
- All-day breakfasts
- Live music (occasionally)
- Staff accommodates broken Spanish