I recently made a trip to Barcelona. Here is what I ate, ordered from my best experiences to my least best.
Nou Celler, Princesa 16. On my way to the Picasso museum, I saw that this place had an excellent platter of Catalan chicken with prunes, pine nuts, and maybe dried tomatoes in its window. I went in and had some. Okay, maybe it had been sitting in the window for a while. Okay, maybe there was some grease involved. But it was great, clearly the best meal of the trip, and also the least expensive.
O'Nabo de Lugo, Pau Claris 169. I had an excellent, expensive-but-worth-it lunch here consisting of beans with jamon and salt-crusted sea bream. Both had clear, striking flavors. They bring the sea bream to the table in the form of a huge dune of salt that is somehow on fire, then you nod your head like you know what's going on and they take it in back to remove the very moist fish from it.
El Gran Cafe, Bxda de Sant Miquel 1. Fancy, very European corporate place, which tends to be open on Sundays and holidays when most other places are closed. I had the artichoke raviolis, which came in a cream sauce flavored with Catalan cured ham, and the roast lamb. The raviolis were good but not great, maybe because I stayed away from the cream sauce, but the lamb was full of rich lamb flavor, very good.
D'Or, Pelai, just west of Placa de Catalunya. This is a large, raucous tapas place that mostly serves things like French fries. I got the grilled pork on tomato-rubbed bread and the spicy meat skewers (which they call shishkebab). Both were very good. This is actually a pretty good place to hang out.
AB Viladomat Hotel, Viladomat 197. Spare, modern room, surprisingly good for a hotel restaurant. I had the pasta with pesto and the cod with an orange reduction. Both were interesting and unusual.
Citrus, Gracia 44. Big corporate place on the main avenue. I had a small plate of lamb and mashed potatoes, which was very good owing mainly to the excellent mashed potatoes, which were packed with butter and rosemary.
Butafumeiro, Gran de Gracia 81. Expensive place that signifies intensively. The hyperactive waiter did everything but wipe my nose for me. I got the white bean soup and a fish whose identity I cannot recall. Both were major productions. The soup comes in a large steel tureen and consists of white beans and hunks of sausages and fat in an orange broth. Oh, and like little scallops or something and I have no idea what else. I rather liked the beans and broth, but the rest of it added nothing but calories and euros. The fish turned out to come in a cream sauce and was itself mainly comprised of calories and euros.
Can Culleretes, Quintana 5. An old, busy restaurant that serves basic Catalan stuff. I had the Catalan spinach with raisins and pine nuts and the venison stew. Both were good but not great, but I would go back because I bet that some of the other Catalan dishes there are better.
Suquet de l'Almirall, Joan de Borbo 65. This is about the last restaurant in the long row in Barceloneta by the harbor. Seafood. High prices, small portions, unhappy waiters. I got the chicken croquettes, the lobster raviolis, and the turbot with vegetables. The croquettes were okay but not heated through. The raviolis were okay but had thin skins and a cat-food like quality to the filling. The turbot was literally three-and-a-half inches square with half a spear of asparagus. It was certainly well-prepared but not wildly excellent in flavor.
Agut d'Avignon, Trinitat 3 near d'Avinyo. A French-Catalan place. I got the Catalan spinach and some kind of pork stew in a brown sauce. The pork stew was very good, but various small factors detracted: the high prices, the strange crunchiness of the spinach, the odd flavor of the mineral water, and the gruff waiters.
7 Portes, Isobel II 14. Big old place with a simple menu translated into about 13 languages. I had the tomato-rubbed bread with anchovies and the roast lamb shoulder. Both were merely okay.
Cafes. The most famous of the Barcelona cafes, Cafe de l'Opera and Cafe Zurich, both on the Ramblas, are impossibly crowded with tourists. Better choices for hanging out, especially in the morning, are Taverna del Bisbe, on the cathedral square, and La Boulangerie, at Valencia 178 (I think) in the Eixample. Both are bigger and more modern than most of the others, and they let me hang out for hours without hassling me. There's also a good cafe at the Laie bookstore, Pau Claris 85, but I didn't get to hang out there. La Boulangerie is also the best bakery that I found in Barcelona, with a good variety of bread and other baked goods. It too is open on Sundays and holidays.
Barcelona is also famous for its covered marketplaces. Of the ones that I visited, the only one that I found to be really worthwhile is the main one, La Boqueria near the Ramblas. (Another famous one, Santa Caterina, has evidently been rebuilt and isn't open yet.) I actually found La Boqueria to be a little disappointing. At first it's a crowded riot of colors, which is kind of fun. But even though there are dozens of stalls, there isn't actually that much variety. Most have standard produce, and the two bakeries aren't that interesting. All that's really interesting are a large number of places serving Catalan cured meats of various sorts, and it soon transpires that these meats, while spectacular in a way, are very expensive and very unhealthy. I finally found one that wasn't loaded with fat and paid maybe 14 euros for 300 grams of it. It was good but not great.
The strangest thing that I found in Barcelona is a restaurant near the contemporary art museum called Food Ball. All of the food (chicken, vegetables, whatever) comes in the form of three-inch balls. It might have been art. I didn't try any of it.