The above photo is not one of the streets in Barcelona to find hookers, but is Carrer Comercial, along the back side of Mercat del Born home to “bargain” seafood restaurant, La Paradeta. It’s incredibly popular with tourists in Barcelona as there is a constant parroting effect online that it serves incredibly fresh and incredibly cheap seafood. The cheap part is up for debate as there is no such thing as truly cheap food in Barcelona given that rents are high and if it seems affordable, then the restaurant is cutting corners. Hell, even if it’s a two star, pricey restaurant, they can still be questionable so just imagine how it is for the cheap places.
For those of us who live near this restaurant, it’s an unpleasant experience. The entire street is filled with people waiting up to two hours to get in while drinking and smoking in line. Their taxis (there goes your savings) congest the street, their customers yell, drink, and party in the street (as shown above), and of course there’s often vomit from people who can’t handle their “incredibly cheap”, “high quality” seafood. But, beyond all of this, when dealing with this restaurant on a daily basis, you know that their space is abominable (looks like a run down school cafeteria), it’s loud, it’s unpleasant, and most important, the seafood is not fresh. All the neighbors see it come rolling in, frozen each morning from who knows where. And, then there’s the exhaust chimney from their stove which constantly barfs out that telltale horrid “fishy” smell you find when the water dwelling creatures you’re eating are not fresh.
Of course, looking at a site like TripAdvisor, you wouldn’t ever have any idea about this as the English language reviews by and large give it five out of five stars. Yes, there are one or two that come along and state in no uncertain terms that the they realize the food is not fresh and the ambiance horrid, giving it one or two stars at most. But, it needs to be noted that any negative reviews in English are from the British, not from Americans. And here’s the problem with English language reviews of just about anything: they’re generally from Americans and they’re overwhelmingly positive. This can often leave you scratching your head because if you read their review, it may seem like a two or a three, but then they’ll give it a five overall. It’s like this on TripAdvisor, on Yelp, and just about anywhere else.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at the reviews of La Paradeta on TripAdvisor. No, I will not link to the site as I hate all of these online review sites. Now, instead of looking at the English review, look only at the Italian reviews. Yes, you will find that many of them give the place a five out of five. This is because there are two types of Italians. There are the trashy, worthless Italians who are like trashy, worthless people anywhere and have no taste. Then there are the knowledgeable, gastronomically educated Italians that I love. It’s easy to run these two types of reviews through Google Translate and find that the five star ones were probably drunk while eating and anything with a four or less really thought about the restaurant and found it as it truly is: squalid and not fresh.
I bring all of this up as not just as I generally despite La Paradeta and wish that it would implode upon itself, but because these days, if you want real reviews of gastronomy and hospitality online, you need to breeze right past the English language reviews and look at the Italian as well as French reviews. They aren’t scared to state their opinion. This is because they come from cultures with fantastic gastronomy and they’re educated about it. They don’t have to put, “Totally super! I’d eat there again in heartbeat!” when in reality, the person was served the equivalent of a three day old shoe.