One of Spain’s favorite sports is to go out for tapas in a group, and in Madrid we have numerous areas to go out and practice the art of ‘tapeo’: Sol, Huertas, Calle Pez, Calle Ponzano (where the verb ‘ponzaning’ came from) the surrounding areas of the Plaza Mayor, La Latina, and many others. More and more restaurants with international food have opened in the city, but the traditional places for tapas in Madrid are those that win the hearts (and the stomachs) of Madrilenians and visitors.
1. THE BEST CALAMARI SANDWICH FROM MADRID
The most famous fast food in the city is our fried calamari sandwich. Squid inside a loaf? Yup, and people line up to buy one. Don’t worry though, the line moves very fast. Most of these establishments are around Plaza Mayor. So, you can eat your sandwich while sitting in the square. It’s just something you cannot miss.
It’s a pretty caloric snack, like almost all the tapas that we’re going to recommend in this article. But you know, you NEED strength for all the tourist stuff and with this sandwich, you’ll surely get it! Go to La Campana (calle de Botoneras, 6). You’ll not regret!!
2. WHERE TO EAT THE BEST “CHITTERLINGS” IN MADRID
It’s one of the most traditional dishes, and its consumption is almost exclusive to Madrid. The gallinejas are guts of suckling lamb. The entresijo is the mesentery of the lamb and, therefore, a part of the gallineja. Probably, all this does not sound very appetizing, but be open to trying it. It’s served all well fried and accompanied by French fries. It was always a popular dish in the humblest neighborhoods, since it was considered “leftovers”, and therefore was cheap food. But nowadays it’s eaten for pleasure!
The most famous place to eat them is in the Freiduría Gallineja (calle de Embajadores, 84). This is very close to the old Slaughterhouse, which, by the way, is now a cultural center. This food is typical of the popular street parties, so if you’re in Madrid during the May festivities, you’ll find it in street stalls sold in a paper cone.
Credit: Tamorlan en Wikipedia
3. THE BEST GRILLED EAR IN MADRID
In the Spanish gastronomy, all the parts of the pig are used, and the ears are one of the typical plates of Madrid. One of the most recognized bars to try this particular tapa is La Oreja de Jaime (calle de la Cruz, 15) In Spanish, this means Jaime’s ear, so you’re already guessing what their star dish is, right?
The ear is served well fried, chopped into small cubes and accompanied by a spicy sauce. If it’s packed, try Casa Toni, just next door. As you can see, it’s not difficult to find this tapa in the center of Madrid. We hope you eat it with a very cold beer!
4. POTATO TORTILLA
Who doesn’t know about the Spanish omelet? It’s a very easy dish to make and to eat! It also is one that generates group discussions like “With onion or without onion?”. Different types for different folks, but if you want to eat an omelet really “done to perfection”, go and taste a juicy tortilla from La Ardosa (calle de Colón, 13). It has not been open since 1892 for nothing! You can accompany it with their tap vermouth, another house specialty. But, if you’re a beer lover, you’ll find yourself in what was one of the first breweries in Madrid, which now offers imported beers.
5. WHERE TO EAT “TORREZNOS”
These fried pork rinds are finger-licking good, no matter how unattractive the name sounds. Some people say they’re going to “try one” and then leave the plate empty. In some places, they serve torreznos as an appetizer (especially in those noisy pubs where napkins are thrown to the ground) but a good place to ask for a ration is in Los Torreznos Bar (calle Goya, 88). Sometimes you have to go to those good old restaurants even if they’re not right in the city center!
6. GARLIC SOUP
Or Castilian soup, as more refined people will say. It’s a simple and tasty dish that historically has fed rich and poor since it only takes basic and affordable ingredients. But the trick for its success is in its preparation.
A place where they make it very well is Casa Paco (Plaza de Puerta Cerrada, 11) a tavern from 1933. Do not forget to ask for bread so you can dip the bread many times in the broth. It will look like it just came out of the dishwasher… It’s said that this soup feels great when you’re hungover. So, now you know what to have for lunch after a great Madrilenian party!
Credit: Taberna Casa Paco
7. COD CROQUETTES
As good croquette lovers, we like to eat all the flavors and sizes, but there is one in particular that has become a classic of Madrid: the cod croquette of Casa Labra (calle Tetuán, 12). It’s a centenary tavern with vintage decoration, full of history and… full of people. But the service is super quick, don’t worry! You don’t even need a table, people eat them standing inside or outside. Croquetas are ordered by units and they’re a good size (but you surely will ask for more than one…) Of course, do not make the beginner’s mistake of burning your tongue! Don’t be anxious and enjoy every bite!
Credit: Alejandro Arce Herrero
8. SNAILS FROM MADRID
Spain, together with France and Italy, is one of the main consumers of snails. What’s special about Madrilenian snails? Well, they’re cooked with various spices and chorizo! The best-known place in the city to eat them is Los Caracoles (calle de Toledo, 106). People usually eat them standing at the bar and drinking a beer. They’re very good, and you can’t miss them! They’re typically served in a clay pot, although if you go as a group or go alone but you REALLY love snails, we dare you to ask for their “marmite”.
9. GARLIC SHRIMP
Fancy eating tender shrimp bubbling in olive oil with tons of garlic??? Yeees you do. And the best place to do it, according to thousands of Google reviews, is La Casa del Abuelo (calle de la Victoria, 12). There are other branches, but this is the original tasca of 1906. There are a lot of tapas, but we recommend you go for garlic shrimp and accompany it with their sweet wine. The most popular garlic flavors are Pil pil, scallions, and saffron. (Our mouth is watering already, and yours?) But they make quite a statement on their façade: the house specialty is grilled shrimp. Your choice! Bear in mind, it might not be the cheapest backpackers’ starter, but the taste is delicious. It’s an extremely popular bar, some may say it’s too touristy in terms of crowds and prices, but you’ll have to assess it for yourself!
Credit: La Casa del Abuelo
10. SPICY POTATOES
Finding out where the best tapa of patatas bravas of Madrid is served is a difficult task, as like the potato omelet, there are too many types and places that serve it! One would think that spicy means really strong flavor in your mouth, but it really depends on your spice tolerance (and in many countries “spicy” is much hotter than in Spain).
We love the secret sauce of Docamar (calle Alcalá, 337) and the singular but not-so-spicy sauce of Las Bravas (calle Álvarez Gato, 3). Additionally, in several of the restaurants mentioned above, you can also ask for patatas bravas, sooo, you’re not leaving Madrid without eating a good portion!
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