Bar Raval is similar to its sibling restaurant Bar Isabel with a perpetually changing menu of Spanish tapas, but with a casual atmosphere that involves mostly standing room and a bar laden with pintxos.
It’s another project of Grant van Gameren, who also has Eastern European pub Tennessee Tavern and mezcal-heavy bars El Rey and Pretty Ugly. Unlike these other places, though, Raval is open early til late for coffee and pastries up to cocktails and conservas.
The smallish space is enrobed in swooping wooden curves that recall Gaudi or Dali, bottles lined up along the edges. Mirrors hide in corners behind narrow ledges, making the bar feel like it’s made up of a collection of intimate hidden nooks and crannies.
A heated, covered patio space, like much of the bar, is scattered with a few barrels for tables which you stand around.
House baked goods often include a mix of sweet and savoury items presented on boards at the bar during the day. This is inspired by a menuless style of eating popular in Spain where diners simply take a look at the options and point to what they want.
These boards are usually taken away around 4 or whenever they’re cleared out.
House cold-smoked mussels ($13) are an off-the-cuff dish new the day of my visit. They’re delightful with a semi-viscous sauce that incorporates Anaheim chilis and fennel for a complex accompaniment with some nice heat.
Squash and romesco ($12) are an incredibly harmonious pairing. The texture of the perfectly cooked squash and pumpkin seeds goes so well with the nutty, herby romesco.
A mushroom tower ($19) is a whimsical snack of skewered mushrooms stacked on thick slices of crusty bread topped with shrimp.
Serrano ($18) and Iberico Bellota ($24) jamon along with other options like manchego ($9), olives ($6) and bread ($3) provide simple and humble but elegant tapas options.
Ms. Primo ($15) is just one of the eccentrically named, exhaustively described cocktails in what isn’t so much a menu but a gallery complete with little pictures of glassware. It’s a seductive and refreshing blend of Tio Pepe, chartreuse, cava, Ketel One, cucumber, lime, melon and mint.
The Doctor’s Order ($15), besides being fun to ask for, is a fun, boozy drink of Four Roses, Byrrh, Tawny port, lemon, Deathwish syrup, Angostura and Peychaud’s topped with a nice classic foam.
The Good Life ($15) is also aptly named, being the booziest of these three cocktails. It combines La Guita Manzanilla, Raval Seville Curacao, Cocchi Vermouth Amaro, Raval Akvavit and absinthe garnished with lemon zest and an olive for a drink that’s clean yet complex.
This breezy but cozy hangout is a local haunt and tourist destination alike.