Food in Madrid
Madrid is a great culinary destination. Countless restaurants and tapas bars offer a wide variety of dishes, most of the times at a very good price. This guide presents some great foods and where to eat them when you are in the Spanish capital.
One of the best Street Foods in Madrid
This place is right in the center of the city, just outside plaza Mayor and specializes in what perhaps is the most popular street food in the city—bocadillo de calamares. Like many foods in Spanish cuisine the taste is in its minimalism. It’s just a baguette with fried calamari and a bit of lemon. Simple is beautiful.
You can eat it there if you find a table, which usually is not the case, or take it away and sit at plaza Mayor just a few meters from La Campana’s door.
Museo del Jamon
The Ham Paradise
When in Spain, there is nothing better than a short break for a sandwich with Jamon Iberico de Belota and half a pint of cold beer. Jamon Iberico is a ham made from Black Iberian pigs that has cured for at least a year. The highest quality grade is Jamon 100% Iberico de bellota and that means that it comes from free range, pure bred Iberian pigs that were fed mostly on acorn and has cured for at least 3 years.
This franchise has many restaurants in Madrid my favorite being the one on the Golden triangle of Art on Paseo del Prado. The best way is to do it like the locals. Sit on the bar and order a bocadillo with Jamon (you can choose the type of Jamon) which is just a baguette with ham. The baguette is always fresh and the jamon melts in your mouth. Delicious!
If you are hungry, you can choose platters with cold cuts and cheeses. They also have main dishes with meat or fish as well but I would stick to hams. The prices are fabulous.
San Bruno Taberna
Brunch and Breakfast the Local Way
My favorite place for breakfast or brunch in La Latina. Let me tell you from the beginning that this is not the place that you go to get pampered, it is hard around the edges as is the character in the bar who doesn’t mess around, but it’s genuine and that’s why I like it.
People come here for a coffee or even a quick drink before work so the service is fast and to the point. They make good café con leche and a dreamy tortilla espanola (omelet with potato) which they serve by the piece with fresh bread on the side. As for prices, it doesn’t get better.
If you go in the morning, everybody will be sitting around the bar, so why would you sit anywhere else? I enjoyed having my breakfast while watching the regulars come and go after a quick chat and a coffee.
San Gines Chocolateria
Behind the church of San Gines on a small alley is the oldest and most renown churreria in Madrid. Churros are long fried pieces of dough which you dip in hot chocolate or coffee before eating them and they are magnificent. You can also try porras which are the same thing just made thicker. The Spanish and Portuguese eat them for breakfast or any other time of the day as a snack.
In San Gines they make fresh churros day and night every day of the year, so you can go and eat them whenever you crave them. You have to go to the cashier and order before you can seat. Be aware that many times there is a long line around the door.
1902 Los Artesanos Chocolateria
A fifth generation family run churreria downtown. If you seat at the bar you can actually see how the churrero shapes the churros before throwing them into the hot oil and how he turns the big spiral of dough and cuts it into porras.
The churros are spectacular and the chocolate heavenly made. The staff is pretty fast on service and their all white uniforms add to the ambience. Their English are anything from mediocre to non-existent but you shouldn’t have problem ordering una racion de churros y un chocolate con leche.
They are always busy but queuing is rare.
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Mercado de San Miguel
This beautiful old market building dates back to the early 1900s and has been transformed into a hip food plaza where you can find all kinds of local dishes, many times with a fusion twist. Numerous little shops offer everything from tasty seafood and jamon to delicious cheeses and desserts.
The metallic building with the extensive glass surfaces is a part of the experience by itself. It’s not the place that you go for proper lunch or dinner, it’s the casual kind of joint that you go with friends on a winter afternoon and catch up over tapas and several bottles of white Cava.
It surely is more expensive than the average tapas bar, but it does offer something unique. It stays open till midnight on weekdays and till one o’clock during Fridays, Saturdays and holidays.
Almendro 13 Taverna
For the love of Tapas
My favorite tavern in La Latina and Madrid in general. Located in one of La Latina’s daedalian alleys this small place will win you with the simplicity and quality of its food.
Be prepared for a greasy egg ‘n’ ham extravaganza. Their specialty is dishes like huevos rotos—fried potatoes with broken fried eggs and bacon on top (your cholesterol goes up just by reading it) and roscas (big bagel sandwiches) with jamon. The food goes down easy with a glass of house wine which is pretty good.
It’s not a big place—ten tables and another ten-twelve down the cellar. They close after lunch at 16:00 on weekdays and 17:00 on weekends and open again for dinner time at 19:30 and 20:00 respectively.
Calle del Almendro 13
Tel: +34 913 65 42 52
Arroceria Marina Ventura
One of the best paellas in Madrid
Though paella is a Valencian plate, you should try it no matter where you are in Spain. Paella is the queen of Spanish cuisine and for me, the seafood one is the queen of all paellas. But if you are gonna have it, you must have it right.
The problem is that most places won’t use fresh seafood, and that’s why if you want a really good paella, you have to go to the right place.
Photo: V. Privitzerova
Squid, shrimp, prawns, crabs, clams and mussels all swimming in a mouthwatering sea of saffron gold rice. Need to say more?
It will set you back 30€ to 40€ per person but this is something to be expected for high quality seafood.
Calle Ventura de la Vega, 13
Tel: +34 914 29 38 10
The place to eat Cocido in Madrid
A great restaurant with cellar rooms and a great place to try cocido Madrileño. This traditional stew is made with chickpeas, pork belly, beef, bacon, pork and beef bone, chorizo, blood sausage and vegetables which are slowly boiled in a pot for hours. The outcome is incredible.
Cocido is served in two stages. First the broth is separated from the other ingredients and is served as a soup. Then a platter with the rest of the stew is brought as the main. Incredible and even though it’s mainly a winter food, I would eat it anytime.
The service is flawless and the space warm and atmospheric. Private dining rooms are also available. Prices are pretty good for this kind of meal and will set you back around 25€ per person.
Open every day from 13:00 to 16:00 and from 21:00 to midnight except Sunday night that it’s closed.
Calle San Agustín, 6
Tel: +34 913 69 29 21
And here are a couple of smooth places in Madrid to have a drink after you dinner.
A Cosmopolitan Relic
Madrid’s first cocktail bar was founded by bartender Perico Chicote in 1931 whose love for mixology started when he was 17 working as an assistant bartender at Ritz Hotel in Madrid. His huge collection of more than 20 thousand bottles that was stored in the bar’s basement was legendary but unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. It was sold after Chicote’s death in ’77.
Everything else is still in place though. The leather stools in front of the long bulky bar, the mirrors and the wood veneers, even the payphone outside the toilets.
You will not believe the number of international personalities that have passed through its revolving door and sat on its Art Deco armchairs until you see the hundreds of photos hanging behind the bar and on the walls. Just to name a few: Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Bettie Davis, Salvador Dali and of course Ernest Hemingway.
You cannot say that you’ve experienced Madrid’s nightlife till you have one of its dreamy cocktails.
Tel: +34 915 32 67 37
Listen to the bop
Small and very cozy venue that hosts different live sessions—mostly Jazz, every week. Heavy names like Barry Harris and Freddy Cole have performed on its stage in the past.
The AfroJam on Wednesdays is legendary and shouldn’t be missed. I loved the warm party ambient made by the musicians and the clients many of whom seemed to be regulars. This is not the place that you sit on your chair for long.
Open every day except Mondays and Tuesday.
Calle del Barquillo, 29
Tel: +34 91 521 15 68