Where to Eat in Rioja: Amazing Basque Food at Restaurante Hector Oribe

a sign on a brick wall

If you’re visiting the Rioja region of Spain, don’t miss a chance to dine at Restaurante Hector Oribe which offers incredible, affordable Basque food.a sign on a brick wall

My most recent trip to Spain with my Dad was amazing, but it came at a busy time for me and the latter half of our week long trip was largely unplanned when we arrived. Which meant I only found out about Hector Oribe a day before we’d be near Páganos and was frantically trying to make a reservation…via Facebook.

I explained my phone wasn’t working and had sent an email, but was trying Facebook Messaging just in case that was faster. Fortunately they had availability for a midweek lunch and though they typically don’t accept reservations via Facebook, they made an exception in our case.

The restaurant is only open from 1:15-3:30 for lunch and is situated in the tiny town of Páganos. We arrived early and killed some time wandering the picturesque (and few) streets.a tree in a courtyard

a courtyard with stone buildings and a bench

At 1:16 we entered. A very unassuming interior with simple, tasteful decor and really neat table decorations made from corks. There were already a few couples there and a larger group came in later, but for the most part it was quiet.a building with a door and a barrel

a room with tables and chairs

a table set for two with white tablecloths and plates

Like many good restaurants in Spain, the local wine lists are excellent and affordable. We grabbed a bottle of Luis Canas Crianza for something like €13.

The food prices was also quite reasonable, especially for a Michelin star restaurant. There was a tasting menu for €40, but we decided we didn’t need dessert and would rather choose our own courses. The meal started with the usual olives and fresh baked bread.a bowl of green olives

a piece of bread on a plate

a plate of food on a table
Lobster with roasted artichokes
a plate with food on it
The plate looked rather like finger painting when we were done
a plate of food on a table
Homemade ravioli stuffed with octopus
a plate of food with sauce and potatoes
Beef sirloin

Normally we share the same food preferences, but my dad and I disagreed on ordering the oxtail. It had been mentioned in multiple reviews, so I figured we needed to try it. When it came he admitted he was entirely wrong — it was the mushy oil stew you picture from books (I’d never had it before). It was some of the most flavorful tender beef I’ve ever had in my life. 5 out of 5. a plate of food with sauce

We were so enamoured with the food that by the end of the meal we felt like we needed to try dessert which was also quite good.

a dessert on a plate

Definitely worth planning ahead to eat here if you’ll be in the area!

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