A happy ending in Baix la Mar: from the humble neighborhood to the tourist neighborhood from the kitchens of El Gallego
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A happy ending in Baix la Mar: from the humble neighborhood to the tourist neighborhood from the kitchens of El Gallego

May 26 from 2024 - 08: 00

Baix la Mar seems like a neighborhood shaped for tourism, but before its streets were full of services and establishments in the neighborhood and for the neighborhood. Carpentry shops, shoe shops, warehouses... It seems incredible, but what was difficult to find were bars and restaurants. Today, the fishing neighborhood of Dénia concentrates a hospitality offer like in few places, but 50 years ago there was a lot of lack, which surely motivated the first Galician restaurant in the place to open.

Tasca El Gallego is one of those establishments that created the neighborhood. Or it was, because this week the blinds were lowered for the last time. The establishment run by José Montes for 25 years has seen its streets evolve between service and service. He lived through the era in which tourism preferred other areas of Dénia, also the remodeling and pedestrianization of the streets, and the deterioration of neighboring businesses that had no space in the new business model of Baix la Mar.

From coast to coast

José came to Dénia from a humble family from Galicia that lived in the countryside. He decided to take the step because they told him that life was very good here, although he jokes that it is very hot. For many years he cut his teeth in the city's hospitality industry, having worked in a large number of establishments, such as the Mena Restaurant. Finally, he was given the opportunity to drive the Baix la Mar Galician car that was already a quarter of a century old. Thus, he took charge of Tasca Gallega, renaming it Tasca El Gallego.

In Dénia he met his wife, Juana María, with whom he has run the Tasca for 25 years. A quarter of a century goes a long way: to witness the hospitality boom in the surrounding area (he was no longer the only Galician in the neighborhood), but also the decline of businesses that had "the nerve" to not be focused on tourism. His street, one of the few where there is still vehicle circulation, is a business cemetery. Many dreams turned into dusty shop windows and sunburnt signs. But they have always worked.

What is this success due to? José is clear, the pampered purely Galician offering was unique in the place. He adapted to the tastes of his clients, as with the rise of tapas, but he always insisted on what he knew how to do: the products and flavors of his native land. "Why am I going to make rice if there are many here who make it?" He asked himself, joking: "Let the Valencians make rice."

The goodbye of El Gallego

This week, Tasca El Gallego has closed forever surrounded by all the friends that José and Juana María have made over so many years. Theirs is not a sad ending. In fact, it may be the only happy ending on the street, as the blinds will be lowered so that its owners can enjoy their well-deserved retirement.

And when it reopens? What was an emblematic restaurant will become a churrería, another of those businesses that when they are fashionable spring up in every tourist neighborhood.

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