Sticking into the Atlantic like a beckoning soup spoon, the ancient Spanish port city of Cadiz is filled with friendly, inexpensive restaurants offering dishes made with wonderful local seafood and produce. A standby for me is Balandro (Alameda de Apodaca 22; 34/956/220-992; restaurantebalandro.com), a charming restaurant and tapas bar that's popular with students from the nearby university; overlooking the ocean, Balandro offers a great selection of fresh fish dishes, including succulent fishballs with clams and grilled cuttlefish with seafood-and-squid-ink sauce. Don't be put of by the slightly rough-and-tumble atmosphere of Cerveceria Marisqueria Aurelio (Calle Zorrilla 1; 34/956/221-031); this tapas bar pours a terrific variety of man-zanillas (a pale, dry sherry), which go nicely with the deep-fried whiting the locals love. Nearby, the ever popular El Aljibe (Calle Plocia 25; 34/956/266-656; grupogrosso. com) serves a menu of equally fine tapas, including pimientos stuffed with shrimp or creamy tetilla cheese, and delicate crepes filled with langoustines and cockles in bechamel sauce. Take the ferry across the bay to El Arriate (Calle de los Moros 4, Puerto de Santa Maria; 34/956/852-833; restauranteelarriate.com), an excellent restaurant in an old wine warehouse on the edge of the port in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Here, chef David Mendez, though a dedicated locavore, draws inspiration from Asian cooking; dishes like the unctuous and slightly smoky salmorejo soup garnished with air-dried tuna and smoked mackerel, or grilled hake with sesame seeds on a bed of seaweed, show off his considerable talent. Long considered the best restaurant in town, El Faro (Calle San Felix 15; 34/956/211-068; elfarodecadiz.com) has an old-fashioned formality and a menu of impeccably prepared local specialties like tortillitas de camarones (shrimp fritters), sea anemone beignets, and snapper baked in salt. Cadiz abounds with humble fried-fish shops; Freiduria Las Flores (Plaza de Topete 4; 34/956/226-112) is one of the best. Order a surtido (mixed seafood fry) if you're unfamiliar with the local catch of the day. In a seafood-loving city, Meson Cumbres Mayores (Calle Zorrilla 4; 34/956/213-270; mesoncumbresmayores.com), housed in an old brewery, is a redoubt for carnivores; try the silky, garnet-colored jamon from Huelva and the berza, a rich, cold-weather stew made with chickpeas, jamon, and morcilla (blood sausage).
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