Interview

“I think patrons in San Sebastian are in need for affection, and we try to bring a smile to everyone”.

It is a common refrain that the neighborhood of Txintxerpe should be the fifth Galician province, due to the many people living there from Galician origins. Pulling this thread, Igara may become the ninth Andalusian province. At least, you could figure it if you arrive to number 19 Igara Bidea Street. No, there is not a teleporter there. It is the Arrikitaun tavern. It is the dream of an Andalusian couple who had already been living for years in San Sebastián: Angel de la Chica and Mayca Madroñal. He, sevillian and supporter of Sevilla FC, takes care of the bar counter. She, also sevillian but supporter of Betis -both teams are everlasting rivals-, takes care of cooking. A disdainful cliché is that andalusians are lazy: tell them if you dare, because they work fulltime to make their business thrive. Now they are having off day on Mondays to rest a bit, but this week they will devote the day to talk with pintxos.es. Angel answers us as nicely as he is when he is pouring “rebujitos” (Sherry mixed with a soft drink) at the bar.

Let’s talk about cliches, Angel. What happened before: the Arrikitaun or “Ocho apellidos vascos” (a popular spanish comedy that plays around the Andalusian and Basque clichés).
We were first, the movie came later. We’ve been there for a couple of years. In fact, some tv broadcasters came here to report, after the movie premiere.
How did you come up with the idea of a Basque-Andalusian corner in San Sebastián?
I’ve been living here for 20 years, and my wife and daughters for 19. We did no do catering work, but my wife always wanted to set up a little Andalusian space, because there wasn’t one. That idea was always around, be we couldn’t develop it due to our daily works. But in 2012 we were fired and received a redundancy fee. We got in the business with that small money. We ran throughout the city, district by district, kicking the street searching for the ideal place. Rental charges and terms are the main problem…we found this one, it was closed, it took a lot to find the owner, but eventually we got it. I used to say that this place is like Galicia: it’s the world’s end. You go to Galicia and come back, it’s not on the way to anywhere, and beyond the Arrikitaun there is only an industrial estate, and a brothel.
You are in Igara, mainly a business and office area: Why did you choose this location?
Price was key. There was a real difference respect to other normal areas, and I am no talking about Center or Gros district, 50 or 60 percent less.
Sure the interior designer was andalusian.
We were the designers, both in the bar and in the small room next to it, which is a dining area, but also is the headquarters for the House of Andalusia in San Sebastian, members only.

How about the first weeks?
We opened on May 31, 2012, with a small opening for friends, acquaintances and neighbors. A simple lunch. Next day, June 1, we opened to the general public. I call that day Black Friday, because everyone came to us: not solely a lot of people, the whole world was here. We weren’t ready: my wife was in the kitchen, I was at the bar, an a friend of us came to help us. We had such a flood of people that, along with our lack of experience, it became a disaster. Thereafter, the weather was great that summer, and every day was the same. We brought our family from Sevilla to work with us, our friends, we also hired people to start building a small team… in order to understand how that summer was, in two months I lost 22 kgs, and my wife dropped to 45 kgs. And not only because of the physical effort: also due to stress. They were calling us from the local newspaper to offer ads, and we were: “No! Don’t tell anyone!” (laughs). We learned the hard way.
Is it difficult to deal with product suppliers? Considering that your gastronomic offer is supplied almost hundred percent from Andalusian sources!
It’s complex and expensive, because it comes almost from Andalusia, one thousand kilometers away. Of course, it travels frozen, due to that we can’t get fresh fish from the south on a daily basis, and shipment drives up the price. We often place large orders, and we have two warehouses with freezer cabinets.
What is the difference between Arrikitaun and the existing andalusian tavern franchises?
Thinking about franchises in general, no only the andalusian ones, makes my hair stand on, they transmit coldness and impersonality. The Arrikitaun is just the opposite: Arrikitaun is a family business. We address people by their name, they do it too, we make jokes…I think patrons in San Sebastian are in need for affection, and we try to bring a smile to everyone.

What do Andalusian tapas bring to the gastronomic offer in Donostia?
We have asked ourselves many times: Why have we succeeded here? I consider myself a winner with the Arrikitaun. But being a victor doesn’t mean I’m rich, eh! We work for hours. We have always said that San Sebastian has very good food venues, but at the same time a wide percentage of them has a similar offer. You can see an extraordinary pintxos counter in this bar, and when you go to the bar next door, you come across a very similar counter. And same thing in the next one. What should, IMO, neighborhood taverns do? Damn, stand out for something! For instance, for a particular pintxo. Make yourself be known for a pintxo. Then you’ll get patrons not only in your neighborhood, they will also come from other quarters to taste that one. That is my theory. We do no live out from our neighbourhood: we have some regulars taking their daily sip, but most of our patrons come by car and go by car. Stand out, even if it’s for a sole pintxo. Get on moving in social, make flyers, put and ad in the radio, it’s it hardly costs anything today…that has been at the heart of our success in Arrikitaun, a different offer, with three keys which lays upon the foundation of success: quality, price and service.
You have told me about distinguishing oneself with a particular pintxo. The 11 Michelin-starred Chefs in Gipuzkoa have chosen your “montadido de pringá” for our List: the 99 best pintxos in San Sebastián. What does this recognition mean to you?
We are proud. We have many clients who go to Seville, and we give them an “anti-guiri” route to find best food spots in the city. And on return they tell us that they have tried many “pringás” there, and that ours is the best one. That there are many taverns in Sevilla, but also many poor taverns.
What’s the secret of your “pringá”?
First, good product. And then, lots of work and love. In essence, “pringá” is made from the crushed toppings of a stew. In Seville, they crush them in a blender; here we do it by hand. My wife takes an entire morning cooking the “pringá”, and she’s got pins and needles in her wrist and toes. But the problem here is that self-employment seems to be free of charge. If I had to pay a worker to do the job, this “montadito” should cost not 2 euros, but 3,50 or 4 euros.

What other dishes from your menu would you highlight?
Well, from our menu, I would highlight a dish that is in everyone’s lips: the “carne mechá”. Lots of worried patrons are coming saying: “hey, I ate carne mechá here the other day”, and I say to them: “don’t worry, no problem at all”. I have breakfasted a montadito today. It’s a meal that also takes a whole morning to cook, and then two more hour to cool down, because it is served cold. We make it in-house. In Seville, they cook it with pork loin, but we use upper loin pieces, because is more juicy. We cook it with sherry, spices…and then we fillet it. We serve it with mojo icon and a little lemon. The issue with that meat has been generated by a single company, and in Seville it happens that, in order not to be cooking the whole morning, they buy the “mechá” already cooked. In our case, there is total security, because we cook it there.
You are also the headquarters for the Home of Andalusia in San Sebastián. What programes do you usually do?
This year we held an April fair. It was in May, we installed a 600 square meter tent in the playground in front of the bar. It was a great success, even though the weather was awful. We filled up the room on both Friday and Saturday, 500 people.


Do you feel the ambassadors of Andalusia in Donostia?
Absolutely.. And we take great pride, because we love our land.
Basque people has the custom of going to the Euskal Etxeas every time they are outside Euskadi: Is it the same with the Andalusians here?
Of course, especially in summer. People come to the camping nearby, or to rural houses. They ask St Google, who knows everything, and he brings them here. And also the Andalusians who live here, even if we are very few, because we mainly moved towards Catalonia during migration movements of the 60s and 70s. Few Andalusians live here, but we all know each other.
And how does the future look?
Well, we have a project in mind, really powerful, but we can not add anything yet. You have to look forward to hearing news about Arrikitaun, soon.
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