Brunch of the Week: Rice and Shine at Barcelona

Barcelona's Bloody Mary bar is a beauty.EXPAND
Barcelona's Bloody Mary bar is a beauty.
Bridget Wood
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Barcelona Wine Bar in RiNo takes what could be intimidating and unfamiliar — traditional Spanish cuisine and European wine — and makes it approachable and fun. The eatery combines the best aspects of a tapas bar — small plates and bottles of wine as far as the eye can see — for a lively experience that also includes big platters of paella, cheese boards and even brunch!

Barcelona gets your morning going with a big list of brunch drinks. Wine cocktails include red or white sangria and the Guns and Rosé, which manager Jeff Silvestri classifies as a "real patio pounder." It’s a dangerous combination of rosé, vodka, peach nectar and grapefruit bitters, a crisp, refreshing beverage to enjoy on the polished side patio. Barcelona's Bloody Mary bar is one of the biggest and most extensive I've seen in town, with all of the garnishes on toothpicks and ready to plop into your drink. Wine is also a great choice here, especially since the bar offers half-priced bottles all day on Sundays.

Morning cocktails and wine with bread at Barcelona.EXPAND
Morning cocktails and wine with bread at Barcelona.
Bridget Wood
A Spanish tortilla (right) is nothing like a Mexican tortilla.EXPAND
A Spanish tortilla (right) is nothing like a Mexican tortilla.
Bridget Wood

Start brunch with tapas that aren’t typical of American brunch spreads, but they are a necessity for your weekend pleasure. The queso a la plancha is a seared wedge of drunken goat cheese with a side of strawberry mostarda. The crispy cheese and strawberry preserve make a salty-sweet pairing that also goes well with other bites, such as a plate of sliced Spanish chorizo served with sweet-and-sour figs drenched in balsamic glaze.

The potato tortilla has nothing to do with Mexican-style tortillas, but instead comes as a thick, pie-like slice that's a beautiful combination of quiche and potatoes au gratin, where the potatoes are sliced thin and baked into an egg-based tart. Order it with the jamón mangalica, cured ham from Hungarian pigs. The product is similar to prosciutto — rich and salty, but a great addition to a simple dish like the potato tortilla.

The steak-and-egg brunch tapa is more typically breakfasty, while still maintaining Spanish style with a topping of green chimichurri. Also familiar in form, if not in name, is the torrija, just like French toast topped with strawberries. The fluffy fried bread is crunchier than most, but the interior is as sweet and custardy as expected.

Paella is a must at this Spanish restaurant.EXPAND
Paella is a must at this Spanish restaurant.
Bridget Wood

Sous-chef Riley McCracken also encourages brunch guests to dig into Barcelona's paella. “It’s a really customizable dish with so many options, from seafood to meats and veggies,” he explains, noting that he can make paella for up to twenty people at once.

The paella options rotate daily as well, but there's almost always a seafood option. The paella salvaje was the special when I visited, made with lamb sausage, chicken and chorizo. Chef McCracken also adds chickpeas to make the dish his own and tops it with more of that Hungarian pig to tie the meal together. Time to rice and shine for brunch at Barcelona!

Barcelona is located at 2900 Larimer Street in RiNo and serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call 303-816-3300 or visit the restaurant's website. Hot tip: For a special treat, try the whipped truffle cheese. It’s usually on the menu in some form and paired with whatever is seasonably available. The dish sells out almost immediately every day, but be sure to ask just in case.

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