I once read on a language learning thread that chiringuito is one of those words that simply cannot be translated from Spanish to English. “Beach bar” is as close as I can come, but those words don’t do justice to the laid-back, sometimes-dodgy, always-fun feel of a Spanish chiringuito. Language fails us sometimes: English certain fails when it comes to describing this Spanish summer tradition.
A chiringuito is, indeed, a beach bar. Some are more upscale, others are more laid-back; all are little pre-constructed shacks that make their way to Spanish beaches around May and disappear late September, leaving the beaches looking (at least to the locals) like they’re missing a little something during the colder months. I won’t lie: they leave a little hole in my heart as well.
We frequented a chiringuito called “Dreams” in Ocata, a beach town outside of Barcelona, for the summers of 2013 and 2014. When we moved outside of the city to another beach town, we learned the hard way that not all chiringuitos are made equal: the quality of food served at each establishment varies greatly. While Dreams in Ocata served some of the best paella we have ever tasted, delicious fried boquerones (breaded and fried anchovies), and perfectly grilled squid, others serve bravas that tasted a lot like the pre-cut, freezer-burned potatoes I once tried to make when I was young.
But all chiringuitos have two things in common: a drink menu, and a view. Regardless of size or atmosphere or culinary mishaps or culinary triumphs, each serves up ice cold Moritz or Estrella and the beloved cocktail of Spain: the mojito. Sipping on a beverage while watching the strange mix of Spanish beach-goers (the naked kids alongside the topless moms alongside the elderly couple camping out underneath an umbrella next to the teens playing paddle-ball) is an experience you won’t soon forget during a trip to Spain. Or, if you happen to live here, it’s something you look forward to, year after year.