But first, a note on meal times for first-time visitors to Southern Spain:
Breakfast is served pretty well everywhere until about 11.30. It consists of of tostada (toasted rolls or thick slices of bread) with mermelada (jam, not marmalade), pâté (ometimes called fouagra, the phonetic version of foie gras), manteca colorao (lard spiced with paprika - tastes better than it sounds) or tomate (sieved tomato flesh). You are unlikely to get butter (mantequilla) unless you ask for it, and even then it might be margarine; try your tostada drenched in olive oil and then spread with grated tomato. Most places offer fresh orange juice too, sometimes straight from the tree.
Don't be alarmed if you see men drinking sherry or brandy for breakfast, or tea with whisky in it. This is known as an espuela (spur) and is quite normal.
Lunch is the main meal of the day in Spain. Most Spanish don't eat lunch till after 2 pm, so go at 1.30 to avoid the rush. Most places do a three-course menú del día, including a drink, for 7 or 8 euros. It is unlikely to be written down - the waiter will reel it off at great speed. If you want to see a printed menu, ask for la carta, but the menú del día probably won´t be on it.
Merienda is a drink and a cake or snack taken around 6 pm (later in summer) to tide you over till dinner.
Tapas, small hot or cold snacks, are available at any time and usually come with a hunk of bread and some picos (small dried breadsticks). The meatballs (albóndigas) at Dominguitos and the croquetas at Los Ponys are the best in town.
Dinner is eaten late, and is a lighter meal than lunch. Many restaurants don't open the kitchen till 9 p.m. It's often a better option to get tapas a plate of something to share (racíon or media ración), when you're hungry.
Beverages: Coffee is ordered according to the proportion of coffee and hot milk: solo (black), cortado (black with a dash of milk), con leche (half coffee, half milk) or manchado (hot milk with a dash of coffee). It will normally come in a small glass; ask for en tasa if you want a cup with a handle. If you want a slug of brandy in it, ask for a caraajillo de coñac. For decaff, ask for descafeinado de maquina.
Tea comprises a sachet on a thread dunked in hot water, served in a glass without milk and but lots of sugar. Té verde (green tea) is popular, as is poleo menta (mint tea). Hot chocolate (Cola Cao) is universally available.
Beer (ice cold lager) is available everywhere. It is served on draft or in a bottle. The standard serving for draft beer is a small glass, around 20 cl, for €1. If you want more, ask for una cerveza grande. Bottles come in various sizes: 20 or 25 cl (botellín), 33 cl (tercio), or 1 litre (litrona).
If you want a glass of red wine, ask for un Rioja rather than vino tinto. It might not come from the La Rioja region but it is a generic term for the good stuff, rather than the plonk they mix with lemonade. If you don't want it chilled, ask for natural. Verdejo is a pleasant dry white wine; ask for it by name, rather than vino blanco, or you might be given dry sherry. Expect to pay around €12-€15 for a bottle.
Gin tónic is extremely popular and very refreshing. You'll pay around €4 for an enormous measure, including a large can of Schweppes. Mojitos and other cocktails can be found in summer but are often disgustingly sweet.
Where to go in Alcalá
The distinction between bars and restaurants is blurred so I haven't attempted to separate them. All places will serve drinks without food, and most places serve breakfast and tapas. Those with an asterisk also do full meals.
Paseo de la Playa and thereabouts
Freiduría/Churrería "Entre Todos": Snack bar with fresh fried fish and seafood, churros and ice cream.
Bar Los Morenos: Busy local bar serving snacks and meals, with outdoor seating area under canvas.
5Mentario: Tiny bar with tables outside on the Playa, serving breakfast, drinks and snacks. The name (say it cinco mentario) is a pun on "Sin Comentario" - no comment.
Kiosko Luca - Tapas and drinks are served from a little white hut, while an adjacent little white hut contains the "servicios". Mojitos a speciality in summer months. Open all year round under canvas, with heating in winter.
*Restaurante Pizarro: Open every day of the year except the evenings of Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. Outdoor seating under canvas (heated in winter), plus a comedor (dining room) inside for more formal meals. Has been known to overcharge tourists, and if you want the menú del día at lunchtime you have to ask for it otherwise they may bring you the more expensive á la carte menu.
|Pizarros bar and restaurant|
|El Pájaro Loco|
|The "Chicken Bar"|
*La Cabaña: Popular bar with a glass-walled cabin out the front for smokers. Specialises in grilled meat. Three-course good value menu del día on weekdays.
Siglo XXI: Good place to sit outside when the Levante is blowing, because it faces west. Impressive range of gins and tonics. Occasional live music, no food.
Burguer Donald (I kid you not): Burger joint open in the evenings, in a side street next to the park.
Tabanco Flamenco: Flamenco-themed bar with occasional live music (late!), cocktails and capuchino but no food.
*Los Ponys: Cosy little bar near the Hotel San Jorge. Famous for its home-made croquettes, good quality seafood and charcoal-grilled Iberian pork.
|Bar Los Ponis|
Kiosco Caracena: Open Thursday to Sunday evenings during the summer months, serving charcoal-grilled meat and fish from 8 p.m.
Cafetería la Bahia: Small, friendly bar known locally as Las polacas because it's run by some Polish women. Just round the corner from the Playa towards the waterfall. Nice for morning coffee because you get a biscuit! Open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
|Cafetería la Bahia, a.k.a. the Polish bar|
Calle de San Antonio
*Restaurante El Campanero: Covered terrace at the front for drinks, large comfortable restaurant inside. Specialises in quality beef and other meats. Accepts credit cards (rare in Alcalá!) Home-made pizzas from their wood-burning oven available Thursday through Sunday from 8 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Tel. (+34) 956 42 06 40
|Restaurante El Campanero|
Plaza Alameda and Calle Real
*Bar Dominguito: Unpretentious, busy and noisy at 10 a.m. when all the Town Hall staff are in there having breakfast. Excellent fixed price lunch menu (2-3 pm), €8.50 for three courses and a drink. Tapas available at any time. Dining area at the back; tables outside on the Alameda in summer. Closed on Sundays.
Plaza Alta (Plaza San Jorge)
*Mesón Territorio Flamenco: The owner, Jorge, is an excellent flamenco guitarist and this is a good place to hear - or play - live music. Good food and range of local wines. CURRENTLY CLOSED WHILE THE PLAZA ALTA IS BEING REFURBISHED (JULY 2018)
|The flamenco bar|
Poligono La Palmosa (service area by the A381, Three km from town centre)
*Venta El Gamo: Restaurant and tapas bar with creatively-prepared local produce. Excellent value menú del día (three course lunch including drink for less than €10) on weekdays. Open daily from 6 am to 6 pm, tel. 695 83 45 65.
*Los Corzos: busy and popular restaurant attached to La Palmosa Hotel.
*Venta la Parada: cheap and cheerful transport cafe, specialising in local meat and game. Huge dining room.
|Venta La Parada|
Patriste (5 km from town centre along the CA4291 (signposted to the campsite)
*Camping los Gazules - campsite bar and restaurant, very good value, open to the public.
|Camping los Gazules restaurant|
Terraza El Jardín*, a bar/restaurant serving the outdoor swimming pool, open during school summer holidays. Hot food served every afternoon except Mondays, when the pool is closed, and in the evening from Thursday till Sunday.
|Terraza el Jardín la Piscina|