The Costa del Sol offers a wide variety of places to eat out and there’s something to suit all budgets and tastes: from 6€ for a menu del día (full meal consisting of a few menu choices) in a local bar to a gourmet meal costing more than 100€ a head in a top restaurant. Eating out is a popular pastime on the coast, both with locals and foreigners, mainly because it’s a relatively cheap option – a family can eat out for as little as 40€ in a restaurant. Weekends and public holidays are generally very busy, and Sundays are particularly busy from 2pm and later. Unless you arrive early you should book in advance. The Spanish generally eat late: lunch about 2 or 3pm and dinner at 10pm.
There’s a huge choice of eateries on the Costa del Sol and below is a summary. The best way to find a good meal is to ask friends for recommendations or try out local restaurants. The quality of food is generally good at most places.
Some people claim there are more bars in Spain than people… this may be an exaggeration, but certainly there are bars everywhere. Most offer breakfast and lunch, the latter usually a menú del día consisting of two home-cooked courses plus bread, a drink and dessert or fruit, which costs upwards of 6€ depending on the food and venue. Some bars offer tapas (appetizer-size portions of typical dishes) in the evening. Most bars are cheap and cheerful, and the best are usually packed during opening hours and if you want lunch, you should arrive before 2pm to get a table. The best bars offer good food and value for the money. To find the best, look around a town centre at lunchtime and see which ones are full. There are also many bars run by foreigners where you can get the ubiquitous all-day English breakfast, snacks and other meals.
The restaurants are obviously more up-market and expensive than bars, although the food isn’t always better quality! Food tends to cost from 3€ for a starter, from 5€ for a main course and from 3€ for a dessert, although many have special offers for two-course lunches or fixed menus. All have wine lists, but the majority include Spanish wine only or a very limited choice of foreign wine. Some restaurants specialise in fish dishes, or a Spanish regional gastronomy such as Basque, Catalan or Galician.
Chiringuitos are an essential part of Costa del Sol living and are found on most beaches in the area. These peculiar restaurants are characterised by how they smoke sardines in aromatic outdoor pits. Many specialise in fish dishes, and paella and sardines are favourites. Beach restaurants are popular and get very crowded weekends and in July and August. Prices have gone up in recent years at beach restaurants where it’s generally no longer cheap to eat, but most are in pleasant locations and have seaside terraces.
You can find ventas in the country, usually outside a main town and often in the middle of nowhere. They offer country food, usually home-cooked and often of excellent quality, at reasonable prices in rustic surroundings. Most have tables both indoor and out, and are particularly busy with large parties of locals celebrating first communions or christenings. Some ventas also do wedding banquets.
For those in a hurry, taka-away options on the Costa del Sol are growing and include hamburgers (Burger King / McDonald’s); Chinese and Indian restaurants; fish and chips; take-away jacket potatoes (available with no frills or stacked with toppings); pizza restaurants; sandwiches and baguettes (Pans & Company); and the widely available tapas found at most bars.
The Costa del Sol is famous for its seafood dishes and in particular, fried fish (known as pescaito frito) in the form of squid rings, sardines and anchovies. Anchovies from Rincón de la Victoria waters are particularly prized for their taste and smaller size. Many fish restaurants offer a large platter of different types of fried fish called a fritura malagueña. Larger fish are also available and fish baked encased in sea salt crystals is a local delicacy.
Inland, fish is also on offer, although meat dishes tend to predominate. Local beef and pork are excellent and some restaurants also offer game such as venison, wild boar and partridge. Malaga sauce, creamy and made with Malaga wine and raisins, accompanies some pork dishes. Pork products such as chorizo and black pudding are popular fried and served with chips, fried eggs and fried green peppers – a dish commonly known as Plato de Los Montes.
Locally grown vegetables and fruits – particularly avocados and other salad veggies – form part of many restaurant menus. Malaga salad is made with potatoes, oranges and cod dressed in olive oil. Fried aubergines with wild honey are another local delicacy.
Local desserts include almond pastries, ice cream with Malaga wine and raisins, custard-apple mousse and cheese cake.
Cuisine from just about every nationality is represented on the Costa del Sol where there are Chinese, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Moroccan and Thai restaurants in most large localities. Other nationalities such as Colombian, French, Greek, Indonesian and Russian are also represented, although you may have to travel further to sample the food.
Eating with Children
Children are generally welcome at most restaurants and bars along the coast, although it’s probably best to avoid posh restaurants if there are children in your party. Many restaurants have children’s menus or you can order half-portions of a main course. Most restaurants provide colouring pencils and paper for children, and a few have outdoor swings or climbing frames.