Ana Villarino. Journalist
The story behind Taberna del Espinaler dates back to the end of the 19th century, specifically in 1896, the year that Miquel Riera i Prat started serving glasses of wine to the locals in Vilassar de Mar (Barcelona).
However, the great-grandfather of the current owner realized the need to go one step further so, around the 1940s, Espinaler began serving canned foods and vermouth.
Today, Miquel Tapias is the fourth generation to lead the business, which started out as a small neighborhood tavern but which had grown into something of an empire.
Espinaler maintains the typical atmosphere of a tavern on the Mediterranean coast—cozy, rustic, and warm—but it has expanded over time and now includes three locales.
In addition to the initial tavern, there is now also a tavern-gourmet shop in Vilassar, and another in Badalona, also in Barcelona province. Both opened in 2000 and currently employ more than 60 people.
With revenues of nearly 9.5 million euros in 2013 and endless requests to franchise the business, what's the secret to its success?
Espinaler sauce, canned foods and a chalk menu
Those that have been all agree that the secret to its success (and its high revenues) is the sauce that gives the locale its name.
In the 1970s, Tapias' mother started to make a sauce to go with the cockles they usually served as a snack on Sundays. A few years later they started to sell their homemade sauce due to a boom in demand. It became wildly popular, first in Catalonia and then throughout Spain.
But it's not just the sauce, it's what the sauce is served with. One of the main components of the "Espinaler brand" is canned foods, from seafood (cockles, mussels, razor clams) to vegetables (asparagus).
It expanded its repertoire by starting off the 21st century with potato chips from Soria and vermouth from Reus. Today the Espinaler brand also includes a Llopart cava, and an olive project is in the works... And maybe soon we'll also see a craft beer from the company.
They are creating an export department with a view to focusing on China, Japan and the US, but at the end of the day, one thing is clear: what people like, aside from the quality products, is to go to a place where they feel at home. In fact, people feel so comfortable at Espinaler that it was named Best Specialized Gourmet Store in Spain in 2012.