The first impression you get from the Rambla Principal of Vilanova is that it is full of bars and cafes with terraces along the shopping street. Interestingly enough, few of them serve proper meals. Cafetet 9 (Rambla Principal 83) is the most notable exception.
When I grew up in Halmstad, Sweden, in the 70-ties, the streets of our town centre were reserved for traffic. The authorities considered that eating was an activity to be carried out indoors, partly for hygiene reasons, partly not to encourage the consumption of alcohol in public. For Swedes back then, the concept of eating in an outdoor terrace was tightly linked to travelling abroad, not the least to the Mediterranean countries.
Nowadays, the centre of Halmstad has been turned into a nice pedestrian area crowded with outdoor restaurants, which tend to be very busy during our short summer. Still being Swedes, although we live here now, my family and I like to go for an outdoor lunch at places where we can sit and observe people passing by. Here in Catalonia we can do this in Barcelona, Sitges or any of the coastal towns of Costa Brava, but not easily so in Vilanova.
I guess that this stems from the fact that Vilanova is first and foremost a relatively industrial town and still has some way to go to fully cater to tourist needs. Demand here above all comes from local people and while they seem to love to have a coffee or a glass of wine in the terraces on the Rambla or in the Plaça de la Vila they prefer to sit indoors whenever they eat a full meal.
Luckily enough for us, in the middle of the Rambla there is a place called Cafetet 9, which does serve food in their terrace and for that very reason was the first restaurant we went to when coming here in 2005. We acted as true foreigners and chose a table outside to eat. I do not really remember, but would not be surprised to hear that the other tables were totally empty, since this was in late February and it must have been much too cold for the Vilanovins to accompany us outdoors.
Except for a long list of tapes, el Cafetet 9 also offers the typical 3-course menu del día, where you have a number of starters, mains and desserts to chose between, here for € 10,50 (weekdays). The dishes served are Catalan, or in the most extreme cases Mediterranean, and although nobody should come here for a culinary experience, this is far from a tourist trap.
With Vilanova attracting more and more tourists, I trust that we will soon see more establishments of this kind, especially down at bottom of the relatively unexploited Rambla de la Pau. Then my family might be able to find a new outdoor restaurant where we do not have to have cars crossing the Rambla right next to our table. Neither will I miss the irritation it causes me that the Cafetet 9 management does not let me exchange the dessert included in the menu for a coffee. I know of few other places showing that lack of flexibility and service mindedness and will be happy to vote with my feet whenever that is possible.
In the meantime, this restaurant will remain the place to go for us whenever we want to have a meal but at the same time see and be seen in Vilanova. And that is not too bad.