Spanish cuisine is one of many great gifts to the foodie world. It’s a breath of fresh air in its simple, traditional and delicious flavors. Authentic Spanish cooking focuses on highlighting the true, natural flavors of food without drowning its taste in spices, sauces or condiments. It’s definitely different, but in my opinion it’s the way food should be.
Without some guidance though, in a touristy city like Madrid, it’s far too easy to completely miss out on this treasure. It’s not hard to find good food in this large bustling city; you just need know where to look! Too many people visit Madrid without ever uncovering the true secrets of Spain’s delightful delicacies.
My Foodie’s Guide to Madrid is meant to help visitors to this wondrous city, look past the copious tourist traps and discover the real foodie culture that Madrid has to offer.
Let me start by saying that there are WAY too many amazing places to eat in Madrid. It would be near impossible to cover them all! During my 2 years living in the city, I ate at so many restaurants I have a hard time even remembering them all.
I conducted extensive research through my taste buds and finally narrowed down the list to my few favorites! The following eating establishments quickly turned into my go-tos, the ones I brought my visitors to, the ones I suggest whenever someone asks for a recommendation, the one’s I, myself, frequented on a regular basis. In my eyes, they’re the best of the best! I think you’d likely agree
What and Where to Eat in Madrid:
My Must Try Spanish Dishes:
I guess before I tell you where to eat, I should give you a little idea of what to eat! The following are my absolute favorite Spanish dishes and must-tries on any trip to Spain! You’ll find them or some version of them in almost any restaurant you enter!
Seriously … if you leave Spain without trying any of these ….. just don’t talk to me.
- Tosta con Tomate– “Toast topped with crushed tomato,” the typical Spanish breakfast.
- Tortilla Española– Spanish Omelet, typically made with eggs, potatoes and onions
- Patatas Bravas- little fried potatoes drizzled with a spicy tomato sauce and sometimes a garlic aioli.
- Pimientos de Padrón– fried and salted mild green peppers from the North of Spain.
- Jamón Serrano– Dry-Cured Ham usually served in thin slices.
- Huevos Rotos– Literally “broken eggs,” usually a mix of potatoes, eggs and cured ham, but some places get fancy and add things like padrón peppers, cheese and chorizo!
- Manchego cheese- aged sheep cheese with a distinct mild taste and buttery texture made in the La Mancha region of Spain
- Croquetas– croquettes, deep fried breaded food rolls usually containing some mixture of potatoes, cheeses, meats and seafood.
- Rabo de Toro– oxtail, usually served braised or in a stew. Extremely tender and flavorful!
- Salmorejo & Gazpacho – my favorite tomato based Spanish soups!
- Churros con Chocolate- a must-try sweet on any trip to Spain! Spanish churros are very different than Mexican churros! Go see for yourself!
Know before you go:
- In Spain, seats are low in number and fill up fast! It’s completely normal to stand at a bar or barrel while drinking and eating. It’s all the more social!
- Spanish patrons tend to take their time eating and talking… for-ev-er. They won’t rush for you and the servers won’t push them to. A check on the table don’t mean smack. You could still be waiting for a whileeeeeee
- Popular Spanish eating establishments are LOUD. In Spanish culture interrupting, talking across the table and laughing for all to hear are completely normal social practices. What can I say? They’re very passionate in all aspects of life!
- If there are pictures of food in the window, it’s a good idea to avoid this restaurant.
Breakfast & Brunch
This teensy-tiny hipster café is one of the only in Madrid specializing in “takeaway coffee service.” They kick started the Madrid craft-coffee craze and some even consider Toma to be the best cup-of-joe in Madrid.
My go-to order: Café con leche “para llevar” (to-go)
Location: Malasaña // Calle de la Palma, 49 // $
Café de la Luz
This homey, eclectic café is a great place to set up in a comfy armchair and read or work with their free WIFI. Go before 3PM for special brunch pricing.
My go-to order: “Café con leche,” “Tosta con Tomate,” and if I stick around for a while a slice of their delicious moist carrot cake
Location: Malasaña // Calle Puebla, 8 // $
Bicicleta is an alternative café in the heart of Malasaña featuring a cyclist theme. During the week it’s another great workplace with free WIFI. On the weekend it’s lively, social vibe makes it a great meeting place for friends to catch up over coffee.
My go-to order: Breakfast combo with fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee and toast with crushed tomato OR Greek yogurt with fruit and muesli
Location: Malasaña // Plaza de San Ildefonso, 9 // $
Popular American-style weekend brunch spot! Great place to meet friends and enjoy a classic boozy brunch!
*It’s a good idea to make a reservation to avoid a long wait.
My go-to order: The Bunny Plate– an eggs Benedict sampler served with avocado, salmon and bacon & 8 mimosa pitcher. Plenty to share, or not– you decide 😀
More of a lunch-bruncher? Carmencitas is also known for their mouth-watering juicy burgers!
Location: Conde Duque // Calle de San Vincente Ferrer, 51 // $
Another great spot to meet for breakfast. Aussie-inspired European brunching with refreshingly creative menu items. Federal is modern, open, spacious and incredibly inviting!
My go-to order: One of their baked egg dishes and a green smoothie
Location: Conde Duque // Plaza de las Comendadoras 9 // $$
Expat hangover haven. After a long night of boozing, sometimes you just need the comfort of home. For me, that means a bagel. They may not be fresh out of the oven, but they’re doughy, bready and the closest you’ll find to a breakfast sandwich on this side of the pond. Oh, and they have healthy stuff too.
My go-to order: Bagel sandwich and a fruit smoothie
Locations // $
Snacks & Light Lunch
Taberna el Buo
My favorite place in the entire city for a famed Spanish tortilla. Each tortilla is made fresh when ordered, weirdly a bit of a rarity in Spain, and is the perfect portion to share with friends. Many of my visitors have claimed this was their favorite meal while visiting Madrid!
My go-to order: Tortilla de queso de cabra y cebolla caramelizada- Spanish Tortilla stuffed with goat cheese and caramelized onion
Location: Chueca // Calle Gravina Nº 4 // La Latina // Plaza de la Cebada, 10 // $
Traditional Andalusian tavern known for their wide variety of Spanish-style toasts. Great place for a mid-afternoon snack accompanied by a caña (small Spanish beer).
My go-to order: Tabla de tostas- mix and match 4 of their popular toasts! My favorites are the jamón iberico (cured Iberian ham) and the queso de cabra con cebolla confitada (goat cheese and caramelized onion)
Location: La Latina // Calle de Las Aguas 9 // $
This quirky café is located one of my favorite streets in the city and right outside of Madrid’s beloved Plaza, Dos de Mayo. It’s the perfect place to stop for a quick bite while exploring in the heart of Malasaña.
My go-to order: Some of my favorite huevos rotos in Madrid!!
Location: Malasaña || Calle Velarde, 24 || $
This small walk in takeaway joint is the closest you will find to an American deli in Madrid. Fresh pastas, salads, soups and sandwiches made daily with generous portions at an unbeatable price! It will only set you back 5,50 for two dishes and one drink- served all day and night!
My go-to order: Whatever’s fresh on the menu that day!
Location: Malasaña || Calle del Espíritu Santo, 2 || $
Ojalá’s colorful Mediterranean-inspired menu is complimented by their bright fun decor. With plenty of different seating areas available, including a large outdoor terrace and downstairs sandy “playa” you can have a completely different experience each and every time.
*Ojalá also serves brunch on weekends and offers daily a weekday menu del día
My go-to order: Guacamole, Veggie Sandwich and white sangria
Location: Malasaña || Calle San Andrés, 1 || $
The next few restaurants are about as traditional e-Spanish as you can get! Each of them offer a smattering of classic Spanish dishes, so if you’re looking for authentic, go for one of these. They each do one of my favorite Spanish dishes particularly well
Specialty: Hot and cold pinchos [small snacks] served on a skewer or over a piece of bread
Location: La Latina || Cava Baja, 30 || $
Location: Malasaña || Calle de la Madera, 37 || $
Specialty: Spanish wines, cheeses and cured meats
Location: Huertas || Calle Leon, 12 || $
Bodega de la Ardosa
Specialty: Tortilla de patatas
Location: Malasaña || Calle de Colon 13 || $$
Taberna Almendro 13
Specialties: Huevos Rotos & Roscas or round stuffed pastries
Location: La Latina || Calle Almendro, 13 || $
Menú del día
If you’ve read my One Day in Madrid post, you already know that I’m a huge fan of the Spanish menú del día. A menú del día is a price-fix meal, usually offered for lunch at a discounted “workers” price. This means that you can get a great sampling at a new restaurant that may normally be a little out of your price range!
My favorite menu del día in Madrid! They let you choose a price-fix meal from their regularly priced menu so it’s a great value and you know what you’re in for. My go-to dish is their salmon ceviche.
Type of cuisine: modern Spanish
Location: Chueca || Calle Libertad 8 || $$
Este o Este
Este o este is a cute little restaurant on the cusp of Malasaña with great food and great service at an even better price! Their daily menú features everything from interesting salads, falafels and hummus to fresh fillets of meat and fish.
Location: Malasaña || Calle de Manuela Malasaña, 9 || $
Amargo is right in the heart of Malasaña and a completely adorable spot to grab a bite. I’ve been a few times and have always been pleasantly surprised by the food! Their menú del día features Spanish dishes with international inspiration from all over the world.
Location: Malasaña || Calle del Pez, 2 || $$
Calle 30 is usually a restaurant on the pricier side, but their menú of the day is a real steal! They’re known for their focus on Argentinean fusion and quality meats, which you can watch roasting in the front window.
Location: Malasaña || Calle del Pez, 30 || $$
Where to Eat for Free
The following three restaurants are traditional-style Spanish tapas bars. Believe it or not, these types of bars, serving free small plates along with drink orders, are very popular in the South of Spain, but not so common in Madrid. Most bars will give you something small to snack on like olives or potato chips, but the free snack is rarely enough to suffice for a meal.
If you’re looking for a free meal alongside a hefty pregame or simply looking to pick at something substantial with your glass of wine, these are the places for you! The food might not be the healthiest, or the highest quality, but it’s damn yummy and best of all it’s FREE!
** These are not places to go if you’re looking for a chic dining experience, but you will get the typical Spanish bar experience.
Location: Malasaña || Calle Churruca, 6
Location: Chamberí || Calle de Galileo, 41
What to order at all of the above: Drinks, drinks and more drinks- and watch the tapas flow. You’ll be given generous portions of tapas including croquetas, patatas bravas, grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, wings, sliders and more. I promise, you won’t leave hungry!
Location: Conde Duque || Calle Conde Duque, 3
Trendy yet Affordable- Lunch & Dinner Spots
After all my tasting expeditions in Madrid, Lateral still always comes out on top! It was always my go-to whenever I had visitors, because it’s such a crowd pleaser and there’s truly something for everyone. If you’re looking to sample some modern Spanish tastes, Lateral is the place for you!
My go-tos: Avocado Tartar with Smoked Salmon, Melted Brie, Salmon Roll, Sirloin with Glazed Onion, Cheese with Iberian Cured Ham and a Flavored Mojito
Marieta is a beautiful modern restaurant with a great ambiance and exceptional service all at a fair price! The presentation of the food is exquisite, the décor is to die for and you really feel as though you’re getting an upscale dining experience.
**Make sure to make a reservation on weekends
My go-tos: I’ve never had something I didn’t love at Marieta. What always stand out in my mind are the desserts! Be sure to try the “Happy Birthday” cake!
Location: Salamanca || Paseo de la Castellana, 44 || $$
Closest thing to “American sushi” that I could find in Madrid!
Affordable & delicious Chinese food hidden under Madrid’s Plaza de España!
Location: Plaza de España || Bajos del aparcamiento
Greek and Shop
Real Greek yogurt, falafels and other Greek treats in the heart of Malasaña!
Location: Malasaña || Corredera Alta de San Pablo, 9
Traditional, mouthwatering kebabs, stews and other Persian delicacies brought to Spain. I went several times with a Persian friend who even vouched for the quality and authenticity of the food!
Location: Conde Duque || Calle de San Bernardino, 1
Tex-Mex & Burritos
If you’re craving Chipotle, head straight to Tierra. Mexican-style fast food burritos, fajitas, nachos, guacamole and more! They also have a great selection of international beers and happy hour margs!
Tuk Tuk serves what they like to call “Asian Street Food.” They fuse fun exotic flavors from Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore.
Location: Calle del Cardenal Cisneros, 6 || $$
Amazing deals for quality Indian food in one of Madrid’s colorful plazas.
Location: La Latina || Plaza Tirso de Molina, 5 || $
Desserts & Sweets
La Cocina de mi Vecina
Best Oreo cheesecake that has ever graced my lips!
Location: Malasaña || Corredera Alta de San Pablo, 15
Traditional Spanish sweets and pastries! Try one of their famous “napolitanas.”
Location: Center || Calle Mayor, 2
Chocolatería San Gines
Nestled on a side street right outside of Madrid’s center, this busy little must-try still serves the best churros con chocolate in the city!
Location: Center || Pasadizo San Ginés, 5
LoLo Polos Artesanos
Fun, colorful gourmet popsicles made with fresh and natural ingredients
Location: Malasaña || Calle del Espíritu Santo, 16
There ya have it! Hope you feel equipped to eat your way through my favorite Spanish city!!
Have you ever been to Madrid? What did you think of the city’s food scene?
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