If you're thinking street food in the Spanish city of Valencia is anything comparable with street food in Thailand, America or even the UK, it's time to think again. Comida de calle, which is street food in Spanish, has a totally different significance in Spain than it does in other countries. Comida de calle means to eat outside the home, not from a stall or kiosk on the side of the road as it does in other places.
The closest you'll come to Valencian street food is a man on a street corner during autumn and winter roasting horse chestnuts on a brazier unless there's a special event going on like a food truck festival. What you will find that's akin to the type of comida de calle you're looking for are pop-up takeaways and tapas bars in the city's markets that serve up delicious small portions of a variety of food that you can stand at a tall table to eat rather than walking down the street with it in your hand. To make the most of all there is on offer in this Spanish city, you really do need to know how to get around Valencia on public transport, but that's not complicated either. And to make things easier on yourself, don't forget to drop off your unneeded bags at a Valencia luggage storage location so you can enjoy all the delicious treats the streets have to offer.
Where to find Valencian street food
Once you realize that Valencian street food is any food eaten away from where you live or purchased to take home and eat, to coin a phrase, the city will be your oyster and you may well find one or two of those around somewhere, but definitely not in a paella. You won't find any fried insects either or unrecognizable proteins that will make you think twice about eating them.
What you will find are well-prepared classical tapas dishes, often with an elevated twist, traditional Spanish food being sold by weight in take-away food stores called asaderos, and interesting pop-ups in the local markets. That doesn't mean that Valencia street food is any less exciting than that of any country on the Asian, African, or American continents, it's not. It's just different and a sheer pleasure to eat.
The Mercado Central or Valencia Central Market, which is only 10 minutes from Valencia train station, is a great place to start your Valencia street food experience. Here, as well as Spanish tapas bars, cheese, olive, and cured ham stalls, you'll find pop-ups with a more international flavor. Below are some places offering comida de calle in the Mercato Central of Valencia you won’t want to miss.
Infragranti Con Los Manos en La Masa – The name of this Italian-themed pop-up translates to Caught With The Hands In The Dough. Go to them and you'll be able to get pre-prepared pasta dishes made from their fresh pasta, mini pizzas to munch on while walking around the market, or superior Italian-style desserts to take home.
Fartons Polo – Trying a cold glass of horchata when you're in Valencia is a must-do. It's a local drink that's made from fermented tiger nuts and really doesn't taste the same anywhere else outside of the Valencian region of Spain. If you want something a little stronger than this earthy-tasty, non-alcoholic drink then try cerveza de chufa instead. It's a locally brewed beer made from tiger nuts.
Pucherito Verde – When you're starting to feel health-conscious after eating too many paella-induced carbs or have been tasting too much tinto tempranillo, stop by the Pucherito Verde and it'll help you detox. The Pucherito Verde is a pop-up in the Mercato Central where you can choose the ingredients to make a personalized salad, a piece of fruit, and a healthy drink for just a few euros.
Tortillas La Moderna – There's one dish in Spanish cuisine that's unavoidable either for breakfast or for lunch as well as anything in between and that's Tortilla Espanol. This simple dish of fried potatoes with onions and eggs is an everyday staple that's both filling and nutritious. When you want food to-go, get a bocadillo de tortilla which is a huge slice of this traditional omelette sandwiched in a freshly baked, crusty bread roll or eat at Tortillas La Moderna's high bar tables on a pinch, which is an omelette with bread on the side. Tortillas La Moderna also make great guisos which are a type of stew which they serve as tapas or in larger rations to take away.
Mercat de Colon
One of the best places to head for to eat comida de calle in Valencia is the Mercat de Colon. In recent years this covered market which is open six days a week has become renowned for its gourmet food offerings. Most places, but not all, in the market are open from eight-thirty in the morning until nine in the evening. Those that pull down the shutters in the middle of the afternoon are just following the age-old Spanish practice of taking a well-earned siesta.
Ma Khin Cafe – If you're looking for Thai-style street food then the Ma Khin Cafe in the Colon Market is where you need to be. Forget standing in front of a sizzling wok while a street vendor fries you a couple of grasshoppers or a crunchy cockroach; this place is all class. If possible go with friends as the tasting menu here, while definitely not on par with a backpacker's budget, is exceptional. The more economical option at Ma Khin Cafe is the three-course lunchtime menu and if you want an Asian-Spanish fusion dish go for the noodles with Iberian Pork and roasted red peppers.
Momiji – Momiji is a Japanese restaurant in the Central Market in Valencia that buys all the ingredients for their dishes from within the market itself. While they may not go very far to do their marketing, they do go all out to make the best sushi and other Japanese dishes they can. The chef is Spanish with a Japanese heart and goes all out to keep the restaurant totally authentic right down to the anime characters on the menu.
Asaderos are typical Spanish takeaways in Valencia that cook up a whole range of food that's then sold by weight. Think of a takeaway buffet and you'll be thinking more or less on the right lines. Asadero basically means to roast, so most of these types of food store will usually have rack after rack of chickens roasting on spits somewhere on the premises. There'll also be things like breaded meat or chicken fillet, and croquettes that are cooked to order. Apart from roast chicken and food cooked to order, there's always a wide selection of traditional Spanish meat and fish dishes cooked in sauce as well as various types of vegetables and salads.
Asaderos generally only open during the lunchtime rush hours as they're typically used by busy working people who don't have time to cook during their siesta time off. Think of an asadero as an option for the best brunch in Valencia if you're a late riser. But there will be queues to contend with from the moment they open, so have a coffee first. Once whatever has been cooked has been sold, that's it until the following day. If you're hoping to have an economical dinner then you need to buy the food at lunchtime so you can either reheat it later or eat it cold.
Asadero Brazil – The Asadero Brazil is located on Valencia's Brazil Street and opens for just three and a half hours a day, but seven days a week, from midday to four in the afternoon. One of the main takeaway dishes sold at the Asadero Brazil is paella Valenciana which is made from rice and seafood or mixed meat and seafood. The Asadero Brazil on occasion also prepares a superb vegetarian paella with roasted red peppers so it's always worth stopping by to see if it's on the menu of the day.
El Pollastre de Serrano – El Pollastre de Serrano is a specialist roast chicken and grilled meat shop on Carrer de Guadalaviar. From here you can pick up a roast chicken, or ribs accompanied with a special type of potato made in asaderos or with a creamy potato salad for less money than you can imagine.
El Rey del Pollo – El Rey del Pollo is a type of Spanish fast food shop which, as well as selling the ever-popular roast chickens, has a variety of cut-price two course menus, pizzas, and bocadillos which are crusty bread rolls with various fillings.
Tapas bars are the life-blood of the food scene in Valencia and you'll find they literally come in all shapes and sizes and offer varying qualities of food. Believe it, it's not always the smartest and fanciest tapas bar that serves the best food. If you see a tapas bar full of locals, it's a good one. If it's full of tourists, skip it. There are three different sizes of dishes served in tapas bars which it’s good to know about before you go in one. They are a tapa which is the smallest portion, a half ration which is around twice the size, or a ration which is usually big enough to share as long as it's a dish that comes with bread.
Arandino's Tapas – Arandino's Tapas is located in a quiet square in Valencia called Plaza de l'Angel and frequented by locals as well as savvy visitors. It has indoor and outdoor seating where they serve a variety of traditional tapas dishes like croquettes, garlic prawns, deep-fried padron peppers, and calamares.
La Taberna – La Taberna is one of the larger and more traditional Valencian restaurants with all the typical furnishings like tables made from barrels and a display cabinet of cold food. La Taberna specializes in Valencian rice dishes such as authentic Valencian paella, meats from the grill, broken eggs which are eggs baked on a bed of potato and chorizo topped with serrano ham, and seafood tapas like squid tips in ink sauce.
Tapeando – Tapeando, near the central market, is one of the best restaurants to try elevated tapas which are as modern as the premises' décor. Their upmarket tapas are based on Mediterranean cuisine and includes dishes like tataki tuna, pimped-up Russian potato salad, a variety of rice dishes, and posh prawn cocktails. They also serve more basic tapas like patatas bravas and bread filled with melted cheese.
Valencia is one Spanish city that likes to honor its regional foods with massive festivals throughout the year. Not all of the food festivals are held in the center of Valencia, but many, including ones celebrating olives and olive oil, Valencian rice, and paella, are.
Fiesta de Arroz and Paella – The Rice and Paella Festival in Valencia is held once a year during the first fortnight of September. It's a massive cooking event where chefs from all over Spain set up their paelleras, the big metal pans, on gas burners along the city's Paseo de la Estacion and compete to make the best traditional Valencian paella ever. The best bit, apart from the fantastic aromas wafting around, is the spectators get to eat the end results. If you're visiting Valencia when the festival is on, lucky you, you'll get to taste the best paella ever.
Fiesta del Aceite de Oliva – The Olive Oil Fiesta is one of Valencia's main food festivals and takes place annually at the beginning of June in the Parque de la Floresta. Stalls take over the pathways in the park offering all manner of products made from or containing olive oil. There are pop-up food stalls too where you can find something to nibble to take away the taste of the oil you've sampled.
Contravan Street Food Festival – The Contravan Street Food Festival is held in the city's Jardines de Viveros usually at the beginning of May. Trucks, vans, and horse boxes with kitchens run by well-known and new restaurants alike take over the park to offer passersby a taste of local gastronomy as well as their own innovative dishes. There's every type of food imaginable from Michelin-starred dishes to humble burgers.
Now you know all about what is and about the street food scene in Valencia, what the locals eat, where and why. Now when you're visiting Valencia not only will you be able to have an authentic experience, you won't be wondering whether the food is good or not. You'll find it all totally delicious, especially when it's made from local produce, whether you go to a tapas bar in one of the local markets or have a take away from an asadero.