Tuesday, February 18, 2014

{food} my favorite restaurants in madrid

Charcuterie platter at Taberna Almeria.

It's no secret that I love to eat. Not only do I love to eat, but I love to explore. Trying new food and new restaurants is always top on my list not just when I travel, but also on the weekends I stay in Madrid. I pinch pennies in other aspects of my life (*cough*i miss shopping*cough*), but really... it's totally worth it in this city filled to the brim with such a great culinary culture! This list is certainly not exhaustive or meant to portray 'the best restaurants in Madrid', but simply a collection of some of the most memorable meals I've had around the city.

desayuno: La Bicicleta Cafe - Malasaña
breakfast / morning break

Spaniards are notorious for not eating breakfast before starting their days. Oftentimes when I ask my students what they ate for breakfast that morning, they shrug and say, "I didn't eat. I drank milk." Or Cola Cao. That's because the norm is to take a morning break at around 11 AM for coffee and toast. A typical desayuno order in Madrid is a cafe con leche with tostada con tomate (tomato toast).

My absolute favorite spot for this simple but delicious breakfast? La Bicicleta Cafe in my old barrio, Malasaña. The coffee in this hipster paradise is known to be the best in Madrid, and I wholeheartedly agree. By day La Bicicleta is a chill cafe that is perfect for studying or getting work done, but by night it turns into a happening bar for both 20-something Madrileños and expats alike.

After drinking a quick cup of coffee and eating a bite of toast, or perhaps a pastry or the ever famous churros during desayuno, Spaniards go back to work and school for a few more hours until the biggest meal of the day, la comida (lunch). In Spain lunch is the most important meal of the day. It is a time to sit down for a few hours, catch up with family and friends, and relax. It is not uncommon to unwind by drinking a glass of wine or a few cañas (small beers) with lunch, even during the work week (which is a-okay with me). :)

la comida: Restaurante Gabriel - Conde Duque

Although most of the week I cook lunch at home after I get off of work, I like to treat myself to a menu del dia once a week or so because they are the best things since sliced bread. The menu is offered M-F during the lunch rush and typically comes with a starter, a main dish, a dessert or coffee, and a beverage of your choice - wine, beer, water, or soda, all for the low price of 8-15 euros. Ridiculous, right? 

The BEST, caps necessary, menu del dias I've had were 100% at Restaurante Gabriel. Just a short walk away from uber trendy Malasana, Restaurante Gabriel is tucked away into the quiet but beautiful streets in the Conde Duque barrio. I always leave this restaurant absolutely stuffed because I can't bear to leave even one bite behind on my plate. Gluttony at its finest, but hey - when it's worth it, it's worth it!

As Danni & I wrote in the guest book last Friday, "El mejor menu que hemos probado en todo de Madrid... y nosotros hemos probado muchos! Hasta la proxima!" The best menu we have tried in all of Madrid... and we have tried a lot! Until next time!

tapas: Taberna Almeria - La Latina
snack between lunch and dinner

The history of tapas is actually quite interesting - click through to The Reluctant Gourmet if you'd like to read about it. Although tapas are typically eaten in order to keep hunger at bay before a main meal, I happen to love tapas so much that I prefer to order a few and also share a racion or two with friends to make a meal out of it. Tapas crawling is just so fun! Some of the best tapas bars in Madrid are located in the La Latina barrio. I'm sure you've heard of Cava Baja, but my favorite bar is a 5 minute walk from the epicenter of all things tapas, on calm Calle de las Aguas. I have loved everything I've ordered at Taberna Almeria, but their 3 euro tostas is what makes me coming back for more each time. The queso de cabra con cebolla carmelizada tosta (goat cheese with caramelized onions toast) is actually life changing. It has converted many self-proclaimed goat cheese haters over the last year, and made me into a regular customer. Like... I want to go right now. And order two of them. Just for myself. Yummmm. To make it even better, a glass of wine will cost you about 1,30... and you get free tapas with each drink. So cheap!

L-R: queso de cabra con cebolla camelizada, manchego con tomate seco, and salmon ahumado

la cena: Taberna Gastromaquia - Chueca

Although Trip Advisor reviews should often be taken with a grain of salt, 354 reviews and 4 1/2 stars definitely proves a restaurant's deserved dominance at the top of the restaurant ranking list. You would expect the #18 restaurant in Madrid to cost you an arm and a leg, but Taberna Gastromaquia is actually quite affordable, especially if you share a few plates with friends. If When you go to this restaurant, don't be fooled by the exterior, or even by the bright lights and the semi-bland red & white design. It's all about the food and the service in this tiny restaurant in the Chueca barrio. Hugo, the owner, is wonderful! He loves to chat with his customers, and has a freaky good memory. If you come back a second time he will definitely remember you. He speaks perfect English if Spanish isn't your strongest suit, as he has lived in NY, Miami, and England in the past. My recommendations for this restaurant? Everything. But if you want some solid recs - the guacamole appetizer with plantain chips, goat cheese salad, mussels in tikki masala sauce, and the octopus are all fantastic. Another insider tip - make sure you call ahead for a reservation if you plan to go on a Friday or Saturday night. This is one happening place on the weekends.

guacamole with plantain chips

nom nom nom. and now I'm hungry. You muuust let me know if you try any of these fabulous places.

Do you live in Madrid? What are your favorite restaurants?

xx, Jen


  1. I need more menu del dias in my life. I've been way too stingy and I don't go often enough. The next time I have the chance I'll choose Gabriel for sure!

    I know you have good taste since Zombie Bar was deliciosooooo. I'll have to hit all these up!

    1. haha I'm so glad you liked Zombie Bar!! We should start a menu del dia blogger date every other week!

    2. ahh can we please do a menu del dia blogger date at Gabriel before I leave on the 28th? it looks amazingggg

  2. That guacamole with plantain chips looks TO DIE FOR. I need it in my life right now! And I can't wait to check out the menu del día at Gabriel (once I get my next paycheck, that is...) because it's super close to where I live! Gosh I love living in a city where there are so many fabulous dining options :)

    You should seriously write a book or something with all of your favorite restaurants in Madrid! Or make a page on your blog about them! Jessica is right, you have great taste, so I want to read more!

    1. It really, really is. The best guac I've had in Madrid! Even better than our fave nachos / tacos / burritos hang out. ;)

  3. Delicious! You are definitely making my mouth water! I was sad to find out that some of my favorite restaurants are now closed. :(

  4. I've passed by Restaurante Gabriel several times but have never made it in yet. Your glowing review has made me add them to my must-check-out list !

  5. Great review!! A friend of mine wants to go for tapas in La Latina this weekend so I'll suggest Restaurante Gabriel - sounds good!


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