PC #62 – The Story of my Steak

This is the story of my steak.

All I wanted was a steak.

I’d just walked into Arzua, and this would be my last night on the Camino, because tomorrow I intended to walk 39km into Santiago.

So I wanted a big fat juicy steak. Not the kind of thin measly slice of meat they gave you in the pilgrim dinners. I wanted it grilled, and thick, and oozing with blood.

I wanted a Fred Flintstone steak.

So I asked at the front desk of the hotel I was staying in. Yes, for my last night on the Camino, I’d got myself a private room in a hotel. The people on the front desk told me of a place out of town – they did steaks. It was an asador. I knew enough Spanish to know that an asador was a restaurant that specialised in grills.

So sending me to an asador was a good start.

They gave me a map, and off I set. It was mid afternoon, and I hoped this place was still open for lunch. I followed the directions that were drawn on the map, and after about 2kms I thought the people in the hotel must have made a mistake.

I was walking out of town, and it looked like I was on the very outskirts. There were hardly any buildings around. Plus I was sore from the day’s walk. I didn’t want to add any more to my day’s mileage count.

But I kept walking, and in the far distance I saw a cluster of buildings. As I got closer, I saw that one was the asador. It didn’t look much though from the outside. You could have walked right past it and not known it was a restaurant.

By this stage it was nearly 4pm – and I didn’t want to have to come all the way back for dinner if they were closed for lunch. But they were still open. There were a couple of locals inside, at the bar.

The restaurant looked promising. It was dark, for a start, and there was a huge wood fireplace up against the wall, where they did all their cooking. There were hams hanging above the bar, and pictures of cows and bulls on the walls.

This was a good sign too.

The restaurateur came up and said they were closed, but I said all I wanted was a steak. Just a quick steak. He hesitated, and saw that I was a pilgrim, and he nodded. Okay, he said, what sort of steak do you want?

The only Spanish I knew for steak was Chuleton de Buey. Which I found out later means big fat enormous bloody steak. or thereabouts.

The restaurateur nodded, then he went away and came back with a raw chunk of meat that looked like it had just been carved off the side of a monster cow. It almost required two men to carry it. Or a wheelbarrow. He produced a set of scales and on the table in front of me, he weighed it. 2.8kgs.

I was hungry, but not that hungry. I couldn’t eat a chunk of meat that size.

So I shook my head and said smaller. He took it away, straining under the effort, and I heard some sharpening of knives out the back, then he came back a short time later with the chunk of meat cut down to a more edible size. Again he weighed it, and the weight was now 1.6kgs.

It was still huge, but by this stage I was starving, so I nodded and said Sure, that’ll do, thanks. 

So I watched as he slung this big piece of Chuleton de Buey onto the open grill over the wood fireplace. I could smell the meat cooking, and it made my mouth water.

The men at the bar looked over at me, said something amongst themselves to cause them all to laugh, and then they left. I was the only person in the restaurant.

I ordered a bottle of wine and began to quench my thirst while I waited for the meat to cook. It didn’t take long though because the restauranteur soon took the meat off the grill and brought it over to my table on a plate.

It was so large it spilled over the sides of the plate. It really was a Fred Flintstone steak.

He then produced a gas fired cooker which he placed on the table in front of me, and a cooking pan, and told me I had to cook it myself according to how I liked it. He cut the meat into thick slices, and left me to it.

So, I sat in this huge dark empty restaurant, and I cooked myself the biggest most delicious steak I have ever had in my entire existence.

I’ve had some great steaks in my life – in Chicago, in New Orleans, In Tokyo, and in Finland. Although that steak in Finland was reindeer. The Chicago steak had been the all-time champeen of the world, but this Chuleton de Buey knocked it out of the park.

It took me about an hour and a half to finish it off. And at the end of it, the restauranteur brought over a bottle of home-made grappa, poured me a glass which he said was “on the house,” and walked off to prepare the restaurant for the evening dinner arrivals.

He made the mistake of leaving the home-made grappa bottle on the table.

I don’t remember finishing it. I just remember marvelling at how quickly high alcoholic liquor evaporates.

The bill finally came, and it was €68.

Why did I think it might have been €18 – €20 tops? It wasn’t. It was €68. That’s why those guys at the bar had been laughing.

Luckily he didn’t charge for the grappa. That was on the house.

I stumbled back to the hotel, the bottle of home-made grappa warming my blood, and making it very difficult to cross roads safely.

And the following morning, thanks to the grappa I didn’t need any Ibuprofen for my knee. And thanks to the steak, I didn’t need to eat for a week.


Steak 1

Steak 2

Steak 3

21 thoughts on “PC #62 – The Story of my Steak

  1. ;o)

    He still overcharged you, but CRIPES in your position if I wouldn’t have been happy to spend every penny and leave him a tip as well !!!

    I wouldn’t have let him cut it up into pieces though.

    Chuleton de Buey is (French) Côte de Boeuf — literally, a Beef Chop.

    Best one *I* ever had was in a little trattoria in Florence, weighing in at just over a kilo.

    A bad one can be tough and overly fatty ; but MY a good one is delicious !!!


    • Hey Julian,

      I figured at the time that it was similar in price – € – $ – as the steak I had in one of Chicago’s great steak houses. That from memory was about $65 with fries, then tip.

      I got a bit of a shock with the Chuleton, but my goodness it was sensational. And the grappa – hmmm – it was mighty fine.



  2. Bill, that is one serious steak! Shared the story with my husband as we sat down to dine on lamb chops tonight. Both chuckled and retold some dining stories. He is a serious meat eater and loved the story.[ and the pictures] Cost is all relative. After all – that beast was sufficient for a week!!
    Buen provecho.


  3. That sounds very delicious, Bill! I love steak. Don’t eat it very often as its even a little rich for my purse here and I try to limit the red meat in take. Well except for bacon but then bacon is in a class all by its self.


  4. Dear Bill, from another avid steak eater, that was a wonderful story. Many years ago when I lived in Melbourne there was a restaurant (possibly called Vlados) in Richmond Rd where the proprietor would size up the customer, serve a steak a size he thought you could not quite eat, then watch you struggle to do so – and if you actually did, it’d be on the house. It was an experience not to be missed but not one you wanted to repeat too often!!!


  5. Loved the story! You are lucky, Spain is not particularly known for it’s big meat, right? When we were in Barcelona a few years ago, that is all I wanted, a big steak and salad for dinner one night. The concierge suggested an “American” style restaurant, but we still ended up getting the “steak” strips that were cooked until they were very tough. Your steak looked amazing!


    • Julie – there are some spectacular meat / steak places in the Basque country, particularly in the hills behind San Sebastian.

      In Cataluna though, it might be more seafood…


  6. Hello Bill, wow that is quite a meal! And I love the Fred Flintstone reference. There is a TV show here on the Food Network called Man vs Food, honestly, I think you could be a contender. I appreciate everyone’s input on the variety of meals they’ve described on the Camino. My daughter, who will be accompanying me, has a life threatening allergy to nuts. Most meals that everyone has mentioned do not seem to be prepared with nuts, so that is a relief, although we will be vigilant around the desserts.
    Bill, your last few posts seem to have covered just about all the 5 senses on the Camino: the sights(through your beautiful photos), the sounds(the call of the Cuckoo), the feel(as in pain), and the taste(that steak!). What about an olfactory post now?
    I have a very sensitive nose and quite frankly am quite nervous about encountering rather disturbing odours in the albergues. I have read elsewhere that they can be overpowering. I am even considering packing a small jar of Vick’s vaporub to dab by nostrils to masks the smell. Really, how bad is it?
    At the same time I do look forward to experiencing some of the more pleasant aromas on the Camino, the Eucalyptus forest, the incense from the Batafumeiro, the wood smoke from a cosy fireplace, even the smell of an approaching snow shower up in the mountains.
    What are some smells/aromas from the Camino that left an impression?


    • Sonia – I have to admit, I have almost no sense of smell.

      That is a bad thing when I’m drinking a beautiful glass of wine, it is a good thing when I take off my boots after walking 30kms.


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