The pension we stay at in San Sebastian is Pension Iturriza in old town. The owner is the nicest guy and I highly recommend it. It's four blocks from the beach, there's a Michelin two-star restaurant right across the alleyway, all of the gastronomic societies are right there and so is one of the oldest churches in the area. It's an inexpensive place to stay and if you have a big enough group the owner has a two-bedroom apartment on the roof that's really nice. It's one of the only places with a rooftop deck facing the ocean.
Order the mini Kobe hamburger at A Fuego Negro. If you stay at the Pension Iturriza the owner there will tell you all the great places to eat at including this one. He knows all the ins and outs of the restaurants and chefs and will tell you who's cooking where and who's feuding with who. The secret of San Sebastian is the pinchos and everyone's got one dish that's better than the rest. These tapas spots put a bunch of food out that's pretty good but ordering off the menu, which is usually just a chalkboard, is always better. Those are the things that you want.
Bar Nestor's claim to fame is making the best tortilla in Spain and it's freaking phenomenal. They only make them twice a day and people line up for one to two hours to pay in advance and then get them once they're ready. Once they bust out the tortilla it's gone crazy fast. It's definitely worth going and waiting it out. They also make a really great steak FYI.
Go to Atari Gastroleku Sirimiri. This spot was our home base in San Sebastian. It's really comfortable, they make great cocktails and the food is tasty. I'd say the food is an 8 out of 10 so it's not the best but it is the most comfortable spot close to Pension Iturriza if you stay there. Love it.
About ten minutes outside of San Sebastian is Getaria where Restaurante Elkano is and it's totally worth the drive. If you've seen the Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown show all about that area he went to Elkano in that. Elkano and all of Getaria is famous for open grills. Everyone has wood-fired and charcoal grills outside -- they're cluttered on the roads and built into the sides of the buildings. At Elkano, which is pretty famous, they said we're going to wait to tell you what the fish is tonight because we're going down to get it at the beach right now. That's how fresh the fish is. Everything at Elkano is cooked on charcoal grills. There's a little bit of a modernist take on what they're doing but it's still all open-fire cooked. Go to Getaria and take time to walk the streets. Just up the hill from Getaria is where the txakoli vineyards start.
Get pinchos at La Cuchara de San Telmo.
Kale Kantoi Taberna is basically a really cool little coffee shop, southwest of San Sebastian that I love. They serve the best OJ on the planet. Really, get it.
Don't miss the Kebab de Costilla (pork rib) with a little bit of curry flavor at Borda Berri southeast of San Sebastian. This was one of my favorite dishes from the last trip.
Petritegi Sagardoa is a cider house southeast of San Sebastian that's a must. When you go to a cider house dinner you want to make your reservation for dinner and be warned that when you go in it can feel a little cold, a little weird. You get a glass and then you sit down. A couple of rules to know about these cider dinners is that they will not serve you the next course until you finish your plate so dinner can go very late if you're trying to stall them. Also, a big mistake that I made when I first went into the cider room, where they open the tanks, was that I went to go fill my glass up and they all looked at me like what the fuck are you doing? That's because you're only supposed to pour one taste at a time. The whole idea of these events is to aerate the cider tanks so you just keep going back for more -- sip after sip. If you want to look like a pro right away DO NOT fill your cider glass.