Eating in and out in Galicia
Buying food is easy throughout Spain, and even the smallest Galician town will have a mini market and most medium sized towns have three or four good sized supermarkets selling most of the meat, fruit and vegetables you would expect to find at home. If you don't speak any Spanish, the universal language of pointing at the item you want will always work and most tellers will count your change out for you.
Expect a difference in the way some foods taste, The agriculture of northern Spain is less mechanized than in Britain/America (I believe it is also subsidized) and consequently fertilizers and manufactured animal feeds are not used. If you want to experience the difference eat a peach or a chicken breast - chicken is yellow here (its corn fed) the way I remember it as a kid. The analogy that everything tastes like chicken is not true in Galicia.
Eating out can be quite expensive in the big Galician cities like Santiago de Compostela which have significant foreign tourism, elsewhere it is generally cheap, but sometimes limited. Most Spaniards place significant focus on a family meal at home, so restaurants are not as plentiful as they are in the UK and USA. Furthermore, the main meal of the day is typically a late lunch rather than a dinner.
Eating out in Galicia: Formal or informal
- Pizza restaurants seem to be popular in Galicia and are usually of a high standard. They normally take the form of what we would call a bistro and frequently serve traditional food as well. They are common in most towns and cities. A three course meal for two, with drinks and coffee, typically costs around 25 euros. Incidentally, Galicians nearly always dress up to go out for a meal or drink, so don't worry about been over dressed if you are "smart casual".
- Bars and Tapas bars are everywhere in Galicia and serve snacks throughout the day and night. Tapas is not just a taster, but a type of food, and can be served in ration sized portions. If you want to try tapas the most popular are, calamares (deep fried squid in batter) the smaller the better, pulpo (octopus), which should not be chewy if cooked quickly and correctly, pimientos de Padron (fried chili peppers from Padron), very popular in Galicia and lomo (thin wafers of pork fried in a garlic olive oil) which I would recommend. The list is however endless and some small bars may have as many as 50 different varieties of tapas. These bars also serve excellent sandwiches called bocadillos (a filling in a roll or crispy bread).
- Restaurants (in the formal sense) are not so common outside the main cities and normally provide a typical international menu. In most cases there is a focus on the Galician specialty of seafood and shellfish. But beware, prices can be high.
Galicia's drinking culture
Drinks of all kinds are very cheap and the price of a large coffee (un café grande/doble), glass of wine (un vino), or lager (una cerveza) is typically just over a euro - a coke will cost more.
You will also notice that bars and restaurants only really fill up after 10.30pm to 11.00pm and remain open until the last customer leaves. Galician drinkers are always well behaved and we have never seen anyone drunk or acting inappropriately (up to 2005).
If you want a "binge (on alcohol) and burn" holiday, don't waste your time visiting Galicia. Although Galicia's licensing laws are liberal, their treatment of rowdy and drunken behavior is not. The police presence, in even the smallest town, is high and since Galician police have very little experience of dealing with the type of drinking behavior that the British are infamous for in the Costa's, their reaction will be swift.