Madrid is widely known because of Prado and Reina Sofia museums, Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor, the bullfights and Retiro park… It is also the home of some very impressive restaurants and some of the most innovative chefs in the world. But even when you lack the budget, you can still plan a great culinary weekend here. These are the 7 most typical foods that will make you enjoy the city from a different angle and where to eat them in Madrid:
1. Churros for breakfast (or tea-time) at San Ginés
You can find churros in many places around Spain. They are eaten with chocolate – a thick and dark hot drink made of cocoa -. But here in Madrid they become a must-have, specially for New Year’s Eve.
But, you shouldn’t go just anywhere. The top spot for churros con chocolate is between Calle Mayor and Calle Arenal, just a couple of steps from famous Plaza Mayor. It is called San Ginés.
The spot is open almost 24hr. but there is always people waiting for a free spot, specially first time in the morning and all-day on weekends, so be patient. Just make sure to go for churros, porras – a longer and thicker version – are fine but greaser.
2. Cod fish fritters at Casa Labra or buñuelos de bacalao
Don’t expect much fish&chips in Spain, just this classic appetizer that is served in this small shop behind Puerta del Sol. Only a couple of steps from El Corte Inglés and Descalzas Reales, many madrilians come here just to have them before lunch.
The dish is typical for Lent and Easter bu you can find it here all throughout the year. Just don’t be mistaken by the people standing outside and eating on the street, the do have an eating hall. Most people just go there to have one or two buñuelos, so they won’t bother getting in.
3. Cocido Madrileño at La Bola or huevos fritos at Lucio
Cocido Madrileño is a stew that is aimed for winter and which includes two dishes: the stew with chickpeas, meat, chicken, chorizo and vegetables that are boiled together for hours; and sopa de cocido, the soup made with the liquid from the stew and pasta. It is high in calories but it is also what you can call comfort food.
A great place to have cocido is La Bola. They opened in 1870 on a small street between Callao and the royal palace and the Senate. Famous and all, they don’t accept credit cards.
Another traditional option are fried eggs. Yes, there’s a restaurant famous for frying eggs in Madrid and it’s called Lucio. Celebrities from around the world pay a visit to Lucio when they are in Madrid to taste their food, including their huevos fritos. They are so famous that across Lucio at Cava Baja street, you can find a second restaurant called Los Huevos de Lucio – Lucio’s eggs – that is run by the same family and only serves fried eggs.
4. Go for tapas and drinks at the area between Malasaña and Alonso Martínez
There are tons of interesting projects around food in Madrid, but this area concentrates a high percentage of places that won’t charge you with the tourist tax – they don’t expect more tourists than locals and pricing is way better than the one at Sol, Letras and Chueca -. You will find all sort of food, tapas, discos, live music and traditional beer places.
Plus, almost any urban tribe can be found here, from hipsters to rockers, beats, yuppies…
5. Have a bruch-like breakfast or some cañas at a trendy place at Letras
If you are following this guide, you have already had the most-typical madrilian breakfast. Now go for the most trendy one. The area was formerly known for its night life but now there are many new places where you can eat, shop or do both at the same time. You will find small places with kilometer zero approaches, trendy spots with pop-up stores and mixed concepts where you can learn knitting while you have a drink, for example.
Sunday mornings you can go there for a full brunch-like course or just for some early cañas – draft beer – with friends.
6. Visit the last gastro concept market
There is something about gastro markets in Madrid. If you never heard of a gastro market, they are traditional food markets that have been transformed in places where you don’t only buy the raw food – fish, vegetables, meat – but cooked dishes in a tapas’ style. The first that opened in Madrid is Mercado de San Miguel, on the right side of Plaza Mayor. The most recent one is Platea at Plaza Colón.
The best of these markets is that you can taste many of the most interesting food trends in Madrid on the same spot and at the same time. You just have to go to each of the shops and grab what you wan to eat: oysters, jamón, cheese, tapas, sushi… they all share the eating space.
7. Go sweet with fresh violet candy and rosquillas tontas, rosquillas listas or rosquillas de Santa Clara
Sounds from a different time, when sweets where handmade and had all natural ingredients, but violet candy at La Violeta, near Puerta del Sol, is made of real violets -the flowers-.
If it sounds too weird or too expensive -it is a small luxury I must admit,- you can go for rosquillas. A ring-shaped pastry that you will find in Madrid around San Isidro’s festivities, in three different shapes: the smart ones – rosquillas listas-, the not so smart ones – or rosquillas tontas– and the ones for Saint Claire – or rosquillas de Santa Clara -. The difference is on the ingredients, I just love the tontas, don’t ask me why ;)