Bar Pilar, recently re-named La Pilareta, is a landmark on the Valencian tapas landscape. The food is nothing fancy, it’s basic, inexpensive and authentic, and that’s the point. La Pilareta is coming up on its 100th birthday and the interior hasn’t changed in about that long. The tile-covered walls, ornate woodwork and long zinc bar add to the historic atmosphere, and the decades-old tapas recipes don’t hurt either. The specialty of the house is clóchinas al vapor, a small type of mussel native to the region and in season from mid May to late August, steamed and served in a juicy broth. Other popular tapas at La Pilareta include sepia a la plancha (grilled cuttlefish), patatas bravas, ensalada rusa (a potato and mayo salad) and boquerones fritos (fried white anchovies).
If you go for tapas during peak hours, you’ll be hard pressed to find a seat, but if you get there a little early, the Valencianos won’t have descended upon La Pilareta yet and you’ll have plenty of space for a relaxing meal before things liven up. Located in the Barrio del Carmen, a neighborhood full of bars and night clubs, La Pilareta is a great, although crowded, place to enjoy the evening without fighting your way through the local party scene but still getting a feel for the Valencian bar culture.