Perhaps have you ever been surprised to hear people from Barcelona ordering a “bikini” at a terrace of a coffee shop or a restaurant? Well in Catalunya, the term “bikini” does not only mean the two-piece swimsuit, but is also used to name the french ham & cheese sandwich better known as “croque-monsieur” in France of “mixto” in the rest of Spain. Indeed, the grilled sandwich made of bread, ham and cheese changes name according to where one resides.
To understand the origin of the name bikini, we need to go back in 1953, and more precisely on avenue Diagonal at Sala Bikini. Sala Bikini wanted to be at the forefront and its owner decided to import from France the famous croque-monsieur.
At that time, when Catalonia was under Franco’s dictatorship, it was forbidden to use English or French words to describe Spanish products. Customers therefore requested “el bocadillo de la casa“, which is “the sandwich of the house”. Over time the “Bikini Bocadillo” became simply the bikini. The term is now in the common language.
The Sala Bikini has now become the Bikini Club, a night club and concert hall that continues to capitalize on the notoriety of the sandwich by disguising some staff members in giant bikini.
Be aware that the name bikini is only used in Catalunya. The rest of Spain uses “sandwich mixto” to name it!