When Jon and I arrived in Barcelona, we arrived hungry. Because it still was too early in the day for a real meal, when we read this April 2009 New York Times description of Cafe Viena as serving “a perfect snack,” we thought we’d give the place a try.
So we asked our B&B owner (a super-in-the-know Barcelona native) where we could find this place, and it was like we’d asked him where we could find a McDonald’s.
His answer (in a brief summary) was: It’s a chain. Go there only if you want to eat total junk. It’s on Las Ramblas. Enough said.
The thing is, after years of following Mark Bittman’s recipes and enjoying his European travel articles, we couldn’t believe the guy would be so wrong. And we eventually found ourselves on Las Ramblas anyway, passing by Cafe Viena. So we popped in.
First indicators were not good. The place is wedged in between a lot of busy high-street shops. And hanging next to the front door is this cheesy reproduction of Bittman’s original shout out in October 2006:
But you know what, the jamon flauta (ham on a baguette) turned out to be pretty tasty. My crappy photo below doesn’t do it justice. There was a crispy baguette and slices of fatty, salty, melt-in-your-mouth jamon. Simple and good.
I admire and support Adria’s idea that fast food doesn’t have to use cheap ingredients. (Allegedly, the ingredients in Fast Good come from the same purveyors Adria uses at El Bulli).
But food snobs beware: Cafe Viena did a much better job than Fast Good when it came to fast jamon sandwiches. The bread on the Fast Good version was burned. All I could taste was charcoal. And the thing cost almost 8 euros (i.e., it was more expensive than our Cafe Viena friend).
I’ll give style points to Fast Good. But for a fast, cheap meal, Cafe Viena works. It’s not the “best sandwich” of my life, but Jon and I enjoyed it immensely.
Fast Good, Carrer de Balmes, 127; +34 93 452 23 74; Eixample district; closest metro station: Diagonal
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