But first, a note on mealtimes for first-time visitors to Southern Spain:
Breakfast is served pretty well everywhere until about midday. It consists of of tostada (toasted rolls or thick slices of bread) with mermelada (jam), pâté (ometimes called fouagra, the phonetic version of foie gras), manteca colorao (spiced lard - tastes better than it sounds) or tomate (sieved tomato flesh). You are unlikely to get butter (mantequilla) unless you ask for it, and even then it might be margarine; try your tostada drenched in olive oil and then spread with grated tomato.
Coffee comes in four ways: solo (black), cortado (black with a dash of milk), con leche (half coffee, half milk) and manchado (hot milk with a dash of coffee). It will normally come in a small glass; ask for en tasa if you want a cup with a handle. If you want a slug of brandy in it, ask for a carajillo. If you are lucky your orange juice will come straight from the tree. Tea is a waste of time.
Don't be alarmed if you see men drinking sherry or brandy for breakfast, or tea with whisky in it. This is known as an espuela and is quite normal; they are not necessarily alcoholics.
Lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain. Most Spaniards don't eat lunch till after 2 pm, so go at 1.30 to avoid the rush. Most places do a three-course menú del día, including a drink, for 7 or 8 euros. It is unlikely to be written down - the waiter will reel it off at great speed. If you want to see a printed menu, ask for la carta, but the menú del día probably won´t be on it.
Merienda is a drink and a cake or snack taken around 6 pm to tide you over till dinner.
Tapas, small hot or cold snacks, are available at any time and usually come with a hunk of bread. The meatballs (albóndigas) at Dominguitos are the best in town.
Dinner is eaten late, and is a lighter meal than lunch. Most restaurants don´t start serving dinner till 9. If you want a glass of red wine, ask for un Rioja rather than vino tinto. It might not come from the La Rioja region but it is a generic term for the good stuff, rather than the plonk they mix with lemonade. If you don't want it chilled, ask for natural.
Where to go in Alcalá
The distinction between bars and restaurants is blurred so I haven't attempted to separate them. All places will serve drinks without food, and most places serve breakfast and tapas. Those with an asterisk also do full meals.
Paseo de la Playa and thereabouts
Freiduría/Churrería "Entre Todos": Snack bar with fresh fried fish and seafood, churros and ice cream.
Bar Los Morenos: Small local bar serving snacks, with outdoor seating area under canvas.
*Restaurante La Auténtica: CLOSED as of August 2016. Relocating to VENTA EL GAMO on the Palmosa industrial state from 1 Sept.
5Mentario: Tiny bar with tables outside on the Playa, serving breakfast, drinks and snacks. The name (say it cinco mentario) is a pun on "Sin Comentario" - no comment.
Kiosko Luca - Tapas and drinks are served from a little white hut, while an adjacent little white hut contains the "servicios". Mojitos a speciality in summer months. Now open all year round under canvas, with heating in winter.
*Restaurante Pizarro: Open every day of the year except the evenings of Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Outdoor seating under canvas (heated in winter), plus a comedor (dining room) inside for more formal meals. Has been known to overcharge tourists, and if you want the menú del día at lunchtime you have to ask for it otherwise they may bring you the more expensive á la carte menu.
|Pizarros bar and restaurant|
|El Pájaro Loco|
*La Cabaña: Popular bar with a glass-walled cabin out the front for smokers. Specialises in grilled meat.
Siglo XXI: Good place to sit outside when the Levante is blowing, because it faces west. Recently refurbished and now does fancy ice creams and many different kinds of gin and tonic. New photo needed!
Pizza Palermo: pizzas, snacks and burgers, fully licensed, open from 8 pm Wednesdays to Sundays. Under the same management as 5mentario.
Burguer Donald (I kid you not): Burger joint open in the evenings, located next to Pizza Palermo.
As de Copas: If you like your music loud, this is the place for you. The name means Ace of Clubs, but Copas also means drinks. One of the few west-facing bars where you can sit outside and enjoy the afternoon sun in winter.
|As de Copas|
Los Ponis: Cosy little bar near the Hotel San Jorge. Famous for its home-made croquettes. Full portions only, no tapas.
|Bar Los Ponis|
Bar las Polacas: So-called because it is run by two Polish sisters. There is no name outside, but it's just round the corner from the Playa towards the waterfall. San Miguel beer on draft, but sadly no Polish vodka.
|The Polish bar|
Calle de San Antonio
*Restaurante El Campanero: Covered terrace at the front for drinks, large comfortable restaurant inside. Home-made pizzas from their wood-burning oven available on Sunday evenings (Thurs-Sun in summer) Reopened October 2013 after extensive refurbishment - see separate blog entry, Restaurante Campanero is back in business.
|Restaurante El Campanero|
Plaza Alameda and Calle Real
*Dominguitos: Unpretentious, busy and noisy in the mornings when all the Town Hall staff are in there having breakfast; excellent lunchtime menu and tapas at any time. Dining area at the back; tables outside on the Alameda in summer. Closed on Sundays.
Bar Cafe Nuevo: recently renovated (July 2016), they have kept the beautiful old wooden bar counter and floor tiles. Formerly known as "The bar with no name", there is still no name outside - look for two large arched wooden doors. It's on the Alameda opposite the Farmacia.
Peña Madridista: formerly Rosa y Perez, on C/ Real, now Real Madrid fan-club bar but everyone is welcome, even Barcelona supporters. Good range of tapas.
|Peña Madridista when it was still Rosa y Perez|
Plaza Alta (San Jorge)
*Mesón Territorio Flamenco: The owner, Jorge, is an excellent flamenco guitarist and this is a good place to hear - or play - live music. Good food and range of local wines. Closed Mondays.
Poligono La Palmosa (service area by the A381, Three km from town centre)
*Venta El Gamo: Restaurant and tapas bar with creatively-prepared local produce. Highly recommended for lunch. Open daily from 6 am to 6 pm, tel. 695 83 45 65.
*Los Corzos: busy and popular restaurant attached to La Palmosa Hotel.
*Venta la Parada: cheap and cheerful transport cafe, specialising in local meat and game. Huge dining room.
|Venta La Parada|
Patriste (5 km from town centre along the CA4291 (signposted to the campsite)
*Camping los Gazules - campsite bar and restaurant, very good value, open to the public.
|Camping los Gazules restaurant|