Pintxos are small finger foods served at bars and taverns throughout the Basque Country. They are quintessential Basque and form the backbone of the local food culture.
While similar to tapas, pintxos are generally smaller, come served on a small slice of bread and have a toothpick piercing them through the middle. The name pintxo comes from the Spanish verb “pinchar” meaning to poke or stab which is exactly what the toothpick does.
It is typical to go into a bar in the Basque Country and find the entire counter lined with plates of various pintxos. They range from traditional pintxos of tortilla de patatas (potato and onion omelette) to mini haute cuisine experiments such as a grilled foie gras with a cream of white beans and a fruity sauce.
It can be difficult sometimes not to sample every pintxo in a given bar. But you should try to resist because around the corner is another bar with more amazing pintxos. Locals will usually eat one or two pintxos with a glass of txakoli, red wine from la Rioja or zurito (small beer) before moving on to the next bar. Instead of a bar crawl, this is a pintxo crawl.
The pintxo crawl is a serious sport in the Basque Country. And it is very competitive. The bars and taverns fight over coveted trophies that are given out annually for the best pintxos in their respective village or city. The bars are constantly trying to one-up the competition and in doing so, come up with avant-garde specialties to satisfy the demanding public.