Postcard from Cadiz, Spain: Port city grants chefs license to play

The peninsula restricts available square footage immensely, so some of our favorite spots for eating out in Cadiz were tiny. We actually resorted to reservations so we were not continually shoved out of the local favorites into the tourist zone.

With the grilled pulpo above as Exhibit A, La Candela Tapas Bar became our favorite spot. The housemade croquetas of the day always were great, but, aside from that traditional preparation, the kitchen liberated itself to play. Presentation of dishes always surprised, from the unusual duck “ravioli” to a green tea tiramisu in an espresso pot. The shrimp and mango ceviche was refreshing, and the loaded-up board of roasted vegetables was particularly welcome.

We never go long without pizza and had not found any to our liking in Sevilla. But coNfusione Pizza & Bar offered the Italian accent we had been craving in a spot even smaller than La Candela. Again, there seemed a port-city freedom at play in the kitchen. Freshly caught red tuna flavorfully found its way into lasagna, and salmon reclined seductively atop a house squid-ink bread.

Fortunately, the tables at Sonambulo occupied a larger patch of real estate on Plaza de Candelaria, so we were able to get seated there without reservations. The fried asparagus are not to be skipped, and the salads, including an heirloom tomato one with anchovies, were varied. The wild mushroom tost was ideal for sharing.

The Mister satisfied his once-a-month desire for a hamburger at Ultramar & Nos. Fresh red tuna found its way into a sashimi-type dish for me.

Balandro Restaurante has a tapas side that was packed with locals standing six-deep at its bar, so we settled into the restaurant side. Tortillitas de camarones, mussels with spinach and lasagna with lobster sauce all were flavorful, but the restaurant side seemed a bit stuffy even though it offered a view of the water.

Reservationless at the popular spot we wanted to try, one day we found ourselves with no choice but a restaurant row targeted by hoards disgorged from cruise ships. Pleasantly surprised amidst the sea of tourists, we found the seafood arroz caldoso at Bar La Dorado quite tasty.

Our overall recommendation for Cadiz, however, is to call in a reservation.

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