A chiringuito is technically a snack bar but in Gran Canaria the word refers to any scruffy looking little restaurant. They serve everything from burgers to the freshest fish and often have the best value food in town.
Chiringuitos deliberately don't spend money on decor beyond the minimum (plastic tablecloths and flowers). The message is "we care about our food not our looks".
The best ones often have a corrugated iron roof, tatty chairs and tables and threadbare menus. And crowds of locals queuing out of the doorless doorway. Canarians love good value food and will spend a fortune on petrol to drive to it. Follow them!
Coastal chiringuitos serve all sorts of fish and squid along with papas con mojo and gofio escaldado (gofio mixed with fish soup and mint). Inland chiringuitos focus on fried pork, goat stew, rabbit and big chunks of cow.
Often with masculine words like Toro or Gaucho in the name, these large restaurants are a tourist resort staple with vast menus in multiple languages. However, their main purpose is to serve big chunks of rare cow along with potatoes baked in foil, grilled peppers and chips. Everything else on the menu is a starter or a garnish and the waiters (always male and wearing a red sash) will only take orders for them with a condescending sniff. Vegetarians may struggle for respect.
Desserts are flambeed, icecream comes in tureens, cocktails and beer in buckets. An apres-cow ron miel or three is obligatory.
Most Gran Canaria grill restaurants are good value and serve quality meat from Argentina and Uruguay (where it's all grass fed). Don't expect refined cuisine or experimental recipes (unless you count pineapple in the coleslaw) and you won't be disappointed.
Canarian restaurants only serve traditional Canarian food and local favourites. There are some in the resorts, but most are in local towns and rural spots. Distinguish between the real deal and tourist trap facimiles by the decor and menu. Genuine Canarian restaurants have Spanish menus, tatty signs and no flags or welcome signs. They don't have buses parked outside.
Most people order some potaje soup to start, followed by papas con mojo, pimientos de padron grilled peppers, a selection of cheese, calamares (fried rather than in batter), fried aubergines with honey, and more papas con mojo. All time-honoured Canarian food except for the aubergine, which has only recently become a traditional food.
Canarian restaurants are excellent value for money and often packed at the weekends.
Lex says: Arrive at any local restaurant at 13:00h and you'll get a table. Canarians can't imagine eating lunch so early in the day.
National cuisine restaurants
We once counted 25 national food restaurants during a twenty minute walk in Las Palmas and you'll find specialist restaurants from across the globe in the resorts as well. From the standard Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Indian restaurants to more exotic choices like Lebanese, Balinese and Korean, there must be 50 cuisines on offer in Gran Canaria.
Look out for places catering to visitors from countries like Sweden and Finland if you feel like a Scandinavian treat, or seek out the island's Iranian and Russian restaurants. If you go Italian, choose one with a wood fired oven ("horno de leña") for the best pizza.
Tapas can mean almost anything in the resorts but Gran Canaria has plenty of traditional and modern Spanish tapas restaurants. Even in the resorts, if you know where to look you'll find the perfect pinchito, montadito or salmorejo.
In Las Palmas, the streets behind Las Canteras beach, between Playa Chica and Olof Palme are a hotspot but Vegueta offers rich pickings as well, especially on tapas Thursdays when lots of places offer a tapa and beer or wine for two euros.
Posh Canarian restaurants specialise in expensive seafood, expensive steak, and in making their customers feel lucky to get in. The American concept of service is alien and waiters, dressed up to the nines, adopt the attitude of a disapproving tutor.
Expect no allowances for poor Spanish and a snooty glare if you order from the cheap end of the wine menu. To balance this out, the food is almost always excellent.
From the cave restaurant at the end of the Guayadeque Valley to the treetop and lagoon-side Samsara in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria's location restaurants all have one thing in common: A spectacular setting.
Most offer good food and wine to go with the views and the atmosphere: seafood by the shore, meat everywhere else. We'll be covering all the best Gran Canaria location restaurants soon.
For visitors who don't have a hotel buffet to attack every day, buffet restaurants are a good way of feeding the family for a fixed cost.
Most Gran Canaria buffet restaurants are Chinese and they've gone upmarket in recent years. The days of eating all you can for 6 euros have given way to the 12 euro buffets with chefs on standby to stirfry your choice of seafood, steak and fresh veggies.