If you’re eager to taste a wide variety of tapas in Madrid, the one main issue you will have is choosing where to go. Navigating the labyrinthine streets with bars that are absolutely packed with people on both sides of the streets, makes you pause in hesitation wondering which one is best? Well, here is a list of my personal favorites. Some have your traditional fare, while others are more dedicated to certain specialties, such as anchovies or croquetas. Either way, you can’t go wrong, and with tapas, the rule is to have one tapa here, and then mosey on to the next.
MADRID CITY CENTER
La Anchoíta – Jesús, 4 (Metro: Anton Martin)
If you love anchovies, this is the place. In the old “Barrio de las Letras”, it is reminiscent of what you would expect of Spain: bullfighters and classic actors pasted on its wall, with a nautical twist. Order the Anchovies from Cantabria, served with “Pa y Tumaca” (which incidentally is becoming almost de riguer here) and you will be immensely pleased. Also serving a variety of crustaceans and oysters. The best part, it won’t break the bank.
Bar Amor – Manuela Malasana, 22 (Metro: San Bernardo)
In the past, this tasca catered to mostly septuagenarians and grandfolks, but not anymore. Recently taken over by Alberto Pena, he singlehandedly transformed a classic into an Avant Garde food haven. Not your typical tapas here. If you have recently been to Barcelona, or are reminiscing about the Ciutat Condal’s creativity, this is your spot. I personally loved the Mango and Foie Gras ravioli with a Pedro Ximenez reduction. Bonus, the wine list is abundant with over 50 different references, and if beer is your thing, they have a great artisanal selection.
Cervecería Cervantes – Cervantes, 38 (Metro: Atocha)
If you’re searching for classic tapas, and a decent wine list at a great price, you can’t miss Cervantes. On the beaten path, this place has been serving up quality food for quite a number of years. You really can’t go wrong if you want to really experience the Tapas Crawl.
La Gastro Coquetería - Segovia, 17 (Metro: La Latina)
I love me some croquetas, but I have never been to a place where croquetas are THE main dish. Chef Chema Soler serves up his fried creations in a variety of ways, always beautiful, always good. My surprise favorite, Sobrasada sausage and chocolate. Mm Mm good!
JuanaLaLoca – Plaza de Puerta de Moros, 4 (Metro: La Latina)
Not new, but definitely worth a visit, if you are willing to spend more than 20 euros per person. A beautiful and cosmopolitan place, frequented by the city’s young and hip; Juanalaloca offers one of the best tortilla de patatas I have eaten. Moist and delicious, the caramelized onions really take this up a notch. Also pretty fantastic, is the mini Reblochon Fondue with homemade bread sticks. The wine list is great too, but don’t plan on having anything other than your standard Rueda’s and Rioja’s.
La Pulpería de Victoria - Calle La Victoria, 2 (Metro: Sol)
I have never been to Galicia, but my friend who is from there told me that this rustic local is where she goes when she misses home. The must-order plate is Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus Galician style) and it is cut with scissors, as you are supposed to. Dusted with some smoked paprika, a dash of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil over potatoes, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Yet I did. Lacon, which is a Galician baked ham, also dusted with smoked paprika, and empanada de atun, (tuna pastry) Empanada de atun can be found almost everywhere in Spain, but not as good as the one I tried here. Flaky on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside. But don’t stop there, try the Orellada, which is pig’s ear and lacon in a spicy sauce and soak it up with their freshly baked bread.
Chueca has a plethora of tapas bars, but I made a bee line to this place, and so should you!
Mercado de San Antón - Calle Augusto Figueroa, 24 (Metro: Gran Vía)
The exterior is nothing to rave about, but inside is three floors of foodie heaven. The first floor is purely dedicated to a small, yet exclusive market, which begs you to wander around to whet your appetite. Then on the second floor, begins the madness. If you are tired of just eating Spanish food, then you’ll be happy to hear that there are other types of tapas here on offer. There is a Greek spot, where you can fill your belly with mezzes, then wander over and have some fresh burrataat the Italian stand. If you insist on having Spanish, there are lots of options too, La casa del Bacalao, for everything Cod, or La Alacena de Victor Montes, for more elaborate plates. If you’re eating light, then they also have a little corner dedicated to light tapas and fresh fruit and juices. If you are still hungry, or just want to have a post-tapa cocktail, head on up to the third floor. There is a gorgeous restaurant, with a delicious terrace.
SANTIAGO BERNABEU / NUEVOS MINISTERIOS
If you are in town, and happen to catch a football match, then here are a few close by.
José Luis - Rafael Salgado, 11 (Metro: Santiago Bernabéu)
Jose Luis has been serving Madrilenos for over 50 years now, and they have successfully expanded all over the city. I generally don’t like chain restaurants, but this one is different. If anything, you must go just to be served old school style, waiters in white jackets and gloves! But truthfully, their truffled tortilla de patatas is to die for! They are well known for their tortilla, so to go there and not order is a sin. If you don’t like eggs, no worries, they also serve such classics such as Callos a la Madrilena ( tripe stew), croquetas and Ensaladilla Rusa (potato and tuna salad).
Evboca - Calle Pradillo, 4 (Metro: Concha Espina)
If you have been keeping up with San Pellegrino’s 50 best restaurant’s list, then you have to come here. Chef Carlos Moreno is one of Quique Dacosta’s disciples, and what he brings to town are uber creative tapas and pinchos, and reinvented classics. My favorite was the Bocadillo de Calamar con pan de tinta y alioli; Squid sandwich on bread made from squid ink and garlic mayonnaise. A true Madrid classic made super classy!
Pinchos Udaberri - Calle Bolivia, 30 (Metro: Colombia)
If you are hankering for some typical Basque fare, I found this quaint local to have some of the best I have tried south of Donosti. Apart from the traditional pincho de chorizo or montadito de txangurro (crab salad over bread) there are some more elaborate bites to try. My favorite was the asparagus and artichoke pincho. Vegetables are very hard to find in Spain!
Just a bit north of the city center is this family neighborhood with a couple standouts.
Asturianos – Calle Vallehermoso, 94. (Metro: Islas Filipinas)
One of my favorite gastronomic trips has to be to Asturias, located in the north of Spain. Here you can find not tapas, but the asturian equivalent, platillos. More than one bite, these filling portions are designed to be eaten with a spoon. I loved their Fabada, bean stew with chorizo and blood sausage, and the selection of cheeses. They also have an extensive wine list, with over 300 references.
Cheese Bar - Calle José Abascal, 61 (Metro: Gregorio Marañón)
This is my heaven. From breakfast to dinner, every single plate revolves around cheese. There are more than 100 different types of cheeses, from all over Europe. My favorite was the Cod brandada (mousse) with Burrata and sundried tomato oil and sweet peppers.
NOTEWORTHY WINE BARS
Aloque - Calle de la Torrecilla del Leal, 20 (Metro: La Latina)
Great selection of wines and canapés to accompany it. Try the Eggs with blood sausage.
Laredo – Calle de Doctor Castelo, 30 (Metro: Ibiza)
After a stroll through the Retiro park, stop at Laredo. Gorgeous light wood fixtures over black brick walls, you needn’t look further. A fabulous wine list that not only has most of Spain’s regions on offer, but also wines from Portugal, France, Italy and Austria. Oh, and the food isn’t bad either!
Taberna Entrevinos - Calle Ferraz, 26 (Metro: Moncloa/Aravaca)
With more than 350 wines a la carte, and 20 by the glass, this place is a wine lover’s Paradise. A bit off the beaten path if you’re staying in the center, but worth the visit. They have an ample menu with sharing plates, and many off menu specialties.
De Pura Cepa - Calle Fuente del Berro, 31 (Metro: O’Donnell)
Also off the tourist beat, the only way I would have found this place was because a local took me. And even then, I probably wouldn’t have gone in. Extremely small, but inviting, it is worth mentioning due to the fact that places like these are disappearing, being taken over by the more cool and hip wine bars. They have a decent wine list, focusing on mostly national varieties, and you can accompany it with some small bites.
This list has taken me quite some time to compile, due to the incredible amount of restaurants Madrid has to offer. These are the ones that really stood out to me, because there were quite a few bombs and duds along the way. Although, that is the beauty of the Tapeo, entering one place, trying a few things and have a drink and a chat with your friends. It might not be fantastic, or it might be the best, but the company, ambiance and journey are what are truly important. So, give it a try, start with one of the ones I’ve mentioned, and take a chance on the one next door. You never know what surprises are just around the corner!