La Tranca: Kick Off a Day of Malaga Tapas at This Local Hangout

Famous for its empanadas and other tapas treats, this neighborhood bar has many a story to tell.

The local haunt La Tranca is full of character — and serves up delicious empanadas

Whenever possible, Wally and I try to visit cities where we have friends. That way you can visit the places they know and love — and you can be more of a traveller than a tourist.

When we stayed with our good friends Jo and José in Málaga, Spain, we started off one day’s excursion with a stopover at one of their favorite local haunts: La Tranca, an Argentinian-owned tapas bar. Which makes sense that they’re famous for their empanadas.

“Only tourists drink sangria,” Jo cut in. “Locals drink tinto de verano instead.”

The name La Tranca has a few interesting translations:

  1. A metal bar or latch to secure something, a deadbolt
  2. A drunken bender
  3. Slang for a penis

Wonder which one they were thinking of when they named the joint.

Carmen Amaya is considered to be one of the best flamenco dancers ever

Even though it was early in the day, the bar was already crowded. Faded photos of faded celebrities covered the walls. A bistro table in the corner opened up, and we pounced. A lithograph on the wall behind us showed Carmen Amaya in a matador-inspired dress. José told us she’s considered by many to have been one of the greatest flamenco dancers who ever lived.

“Carmen Amaya is hail on a windowpane, a swallow’s cry, a black cigar smoked by a dreamer, thunderous applause; when she and her family sweep into town, they cause ugliness, torpor and gloom to evaporate just as a swarm of insects strips the trees of its leaves.” –Jean Cocteau

The walls of La Tranca are covered with memorabilia, many of them album covers. José pointed to one with the image of an artist, Isabel Pantoja, who is serving a two-year sentence for money laundering. She was linked to the Malaya case, a massive real estate and bribery scandal in the nearby oceanfront Spanish city of Marbella. The state court of Málaga convicted Pantoja of helping her boyfriend Julian Muñoz, the former mayor of Marbella, launder funds he embezzled while in office.


Jo, Wally and José enjoy drinks and tapas at one of their favorite bars in Málaga, La Tranca

Empanadas, Beer, Gossip — and the Great Debate Over Sangria vs. Tinto de Verano

We ordered empanadas, and Wally considered getting a sangria.

“Only tourists drink sangria,” Jo cut in. “Locals drink tinto de verano instead.”

The name translates to “red wine of summer” and is an even mix of wine and citrus soda. Wally took her advice.

Meanwhile, over beers, José regaled me with more great stories. He pointed to a black and white photo of a man dressed as a matador. He explained that the man, Latin pop artist Miguel Bosé, wore the costume as a nod to his father, the famous bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín.

Dominguín had a passionate affair with American actress Ava Gardner. The story goes that after the first time he had sex with her, as he was putting on his trousers, Ava asked, “Where are you going?” and he replied, “Out to tell my friends.”

La Tranca is the kind of carefree place where you feel like you’re among friends and you can stay as long as you like without feeling rushed. –Duke