Those of you who know me are probably not shocked to see that I didn’t post much about food this year. As someone who doesn’t really eat meat, living in a place where the cuisine is carne, carne, and that’s right, more carne, means I ended up cooking a lot for myself.
Anyway, I’m lucky to have crossed passed with my talented foodie and polyglot friend Kyle, who has undertaken the painstaking job of reviewing a smattering of Jaén’s eateries so that future auxiliares know where the good (and not so good) grub in town is at.
Since the list is quite extensive, I’ll leave you with his introduction, followed by a little teaser that will most definitely make you hungry to read the whole list. He’s got a way with words people, and for a Midwesterner he really lays on the sass!
In The Belly of the Lizard
by Kyle Labak
Our earliest records of the Lizard of Jaén (more formally, “El lagarto de la Malena”) date back to the 1600’s. These legends tell of a massive beast who terrorized the neighborhood of La Magdalena by devouring sheep—or, in another version, any poor soul who went to fetch water. Stories differ as to how it was slain. But considering that a caiman lizard’s hide hung for many years in the church of San Idelfonso, it may be more than mere legend.
The story serves as a beautiful frame for the city itself. After all, some 17th century sources describe Jaén itself as a lizard. Its long body dozes against the side of a mountain; its heart, the city center, thrives with life; the yawning tail of Bulevar Park seems to trail ever further down the city’s massive slope. The city’s old head may well be the Castle of Santa Catalina, while a more modern interpretation would posit the Cathedral or the Ayuntamiento (city hall).
So, if you’re looking for places to eat in the city, it depends where in the “lizard” you’re willing to travel to. To that end, I have divided this list (based on my foody adventures in Jaén) by nearest landmark. I hope this is an exhaustive, jaunty stroll through the gastronomical “belly of the beast.” (Ratings are given out of 5 stars, and take flavor, atmosphere, and price into account.)
The Head: Nearest the Cathedral
- 82: 82 is perhaps one of the best bang-for-buck restaurants in Jaén. It is advised to make reservations and go in a group. The menu boasts all the classics of Andalucía, but they are executed with new flair—their food will offer your palate an interesting and adventurous medley of flavors that’s difficult to find in Spain. Serving sizes are also pretty large; you’ll only need one entree for three people. If you pay around ten euro per person, you can hold a feast! Delicious, incredible food. It’s on the corner in a little alleyway called Arco del Consuelo. Recommendation: their house croquetas! 5/5 stars.