Basque traditional food at its finest
Sidrerías - or Sagardotegi in Basque - are a very interesting tradition within the Basque Country. They stem from older days, when people would travel to the baserri - the traditional farm house - which produced cider in order to purchase it. Whether because the hosts would offer food after a long journey - we are talking about a time before cars - or people would bring their own food, at some point the ideas of visiting these baserris and eating became intertwined.
Nowadays, the Basque countryside is dotted with these Sidrerías that offer a very specific menu that reflects traditional Basque food: fish, beef, and vegetables.
Traditional menu at the Sidrerías
Codfish is usually at the start of a Sidrería meal: first in an omelette, then fried with Gipuzkoan green peppers. Then comes the txuleta: a thick steak cut with a bone. Traditionally made over a grill to the point where the outside is roasted but the inside is still pink.
Now, the food itself is only half of it. How you eat, and how you drink, are the other part of the Sidrería experience. The traditional Sidrería has tall tables where you eat while standing. This might seem strange, but it will make sense as soon as we speak of drinking! However, if you remain unconvinced, you are bound to find tables for sitting down as well.
While your group is gathered around the traditional food, you will notice something. Usually, the food is not divided into servings before bringing it to the table: a tray is brought over with a few people’s worth of food and then you divide it yourself. For example, the big txuleta steak is brought over - sometimes already cut, sometimes with fork and knife - and the people at the table cut it into small portions that then you hold over a piece of bread and eat in one or two bites.
And now, to the drinking! Sidrerías will, of course, offer all types of drinks if you’re not interested in the locally made cider, but the real heart of the experience resides in the txotx. This is a call you will hear during your stay in the Sidrería, and it will be the master brewer calling for customers to approach one of the massive barrels stored within the premises. There, they will open the tap and people line up to fill their glasses on the stream of sider that is shoot out of it. We recommend you watch a couple of people do it before you try, because it is an art in itself. But fear not, locals always are more than happy to lend a hand to a foreigner who needs it. It is, in fact, a perfect occasion to spark a conversation and make new friends!
Finally, we must say that you are not forced to travel to the nearby countryside to experience a Sidrería. If for whatever reason you would rather stay in the city of San Sebastian, plenty of places offer a true Sidrería experience without leaving town.