When you’re a visitor in a foreign country, it’s hard enough not speaking the language or being able to read the street signs, and it’s even harder when you’re vacationing with a child who’s a notoriously picky eater. Though many restaurants in Spain cater to Americans and list menu items and ingredients in English, others do not-and you don’t want to have to find a McDonald’s every time your child is hungry. Luckily, lots of traditional dishes on the Spanish menu are universally popular enough to be found throughout the country, and it’s easy to choose simple foods to please your child’s palate. Even better, since Spain is the land of tapas, servings are small in size and prepared for one or two people-you won’t have wasted the price of an entire meal on food that goes to waste.
The tortilla española-or Spanish omelet-is a simple omelet made with fried potatoes and onions and is ubiquitous on Spanish menus. Though its flavors are far from complex, it’s a warm, delicious dish made with familiar ingredients.
Pan con tomate-bread with tomatoes-is another choice that should be popular with children. Warm, crusty bread is sliced thickly, spread with crushed tomatoes, and then drizzled with olive oil and salt. Its mild taste and crunchy texture may make it one of your favorites, too!
Spain is rich in seafood dishes, but if your child doesn’t eat fish, they can get ample protein with chorizo or Iberian ham-both Spanish specialties and both familiar enough that a child won’t balk at eating them. Order this with a side of patatas bravas-fried potatoes that can be covered in sauce or left plain.
To make sure your child gets his greens, look for menu items such as escalivada (grilled eggplant and tomato), ensalada rusa (potatoes, carrots, peas, and egg, usually held together with mayonnaise), or champiñones al ajillo (grilled mushrooms). At some restaurants the tortilla espanola may come with a small side of salad, usually with a simple vinaigrette drizzled over it.
A more adventurous child might enjoy the country’s famous paella-it can be ordered with chicken, seafood, beef, or even rabbit and is a mixture of saffron rice and vegetables such as peas, beans, tomatoes, artichokes, or peppers.
You can even ask for something as simple as a tabla de quesos-an assortment of cheeses-and crackers.
Of course, dessert is one food you won’t have to convince your child to try! Order some crema catalina, Spain’s version of crème brûlée, horchata, a thick, milky drink that tastes of vanilla and almonds, or churros, crispy sweet pastry served with thick hot chocolate.
While the Spanish look down upon fast food restaurants, you do have a few choices, there, as well-chains like Café y Te and Pans and Company have cheap options that still allow you to try a bland version of the culture’s famous cuisine that should appeal to your child’s tastebuds. In big cities like Barcelona and Madrid, there are also countless little pizzerias and shops that sell bocadillos-baguette sandwiches with crispy bread and fresh vegetables and deli meat.
As you can see, you don’t have to give up your culinary adventure in Spain-with this guide, you should be able to find foods for your hard-to-please child even in the most hole-in-the-wall restaurants. ¡Muy sabrosa!