These typically Asturian catering establishments, especially popular in Gijón, are usually located right in the heart of the countryside, though just outside the city limits, and are a fantastic option for families or groups of friends… with or without kids in tow!
A merendero is basically a countryside eatery serving drinks and simple, traditional fare with picnic tables and benches outside in a grassy area or field. The business for the proprietors originally lay in the drinks they sold; that is why you can’t bring your own. However, with the rise in the standard of living in Spain following the paucity of the post-war period when these establishments boomed, they now do a roaring trade in food, too.
Gijón boasts over twenty of these picnic restaurants where you can bring your own food and/or order whatever is on the menu, but where you have to buy the drinks on the premises. No bringing your own!
They also offer the added extra that you can safely let the kids have the run of the picnic area while you relax after a lazy lunchtime or afternoon picnic or do some sunbathing, weather permitting.
If you can’t be bothered to bring your own homemade delights, you can always order from a simple menu which almost always includes the following dishes, among others:
Spanish omelette (tortilla de patatas), i.e. egg and chips all in one!
Fried squid rings (calamares fritos)
Chorizo cooked in cider (chorizo a la sidra)
Fried eggs, chorizo and chips (plato de la abuela)
Cured ham and béchamel croquettes (croquetas de jamón)
Cured meats (embutidos)
And while you’re waiting, don’t forget to order some roasted peanuts in their husks (cacahuetes), duly washed down with natural cider (cooled in running water if the establishment takes pride in its products), which you’ll have to learn to pour at arm’s length like the locals!
Get out of town and enjoy a different gastro experience!