A Local’s Guide to (Ethical) Food Delivery and Takeout in Madrid

Sometimes you just want to order takeout. And in a capital city full of unlimited food options, here’s how to do it right.

You’re arriving home late from work and the idea of cooking dinner is about as appetizing as hitting the gym. Or maybe you partied too hard last night and plan on spending the day shamefully in your pajamas, vowing sobriety once again. Or maybe you’re finally conquering the task at hand, swapping procrastination for productivity, and you can’t be bothered to make food. Thankfully, it’s hard to go hungry in Madrid. 

However, the local delivery business—thousands of men and women zipping around the capital on bike—is rather precarious. Competition between the four key enterprises creates far dirtier working conditions than their eco-friendly transport would have you believe. Pass by any fast food joint and you’ll see a friendly gang of these guys lingering outside, chatting, sporting flashy backpacks, listening to reggaeton music, and waiting for the orders to roll in. 

But their hidden reality is low wages, job insecurity, non-unionized conditions or “false freelancing,” not to mention the lack of viability of the sector as a whole. As these companies compete to offer consumers the lowest possible delivery price—something to which we have all grown accustomed—it’s the delivery men and women who pay. The management of their work is outsourced by the leading companies to third parties: classifying “distribution” and its “distributors” as “collaborators” in business. But I think we can all agree that there’s little actual collaboration going on.

So what are the alternatives? Here are our top picks for sustainable delivery and takeout food in Madrid.

How to ethically order food delivery and takeout in Madrid

Choose a Smarter Delivery Service 

CoopCycle is the European collection of co-ops offering food delivery by bike. The Madrid division goes by the name of  La Pájara from which you can directly order food. Alternatively, install the iPhone or Android app to your phone. 

Their list of restaurants is small—just 14 establishments—and likely to grow with your support. Even still, they offer a wide diversity of cuisine: Italian pizza, French bistro bowls, Mediterranean fusion, and many vegan and gluten-free options. And for a delivery price of just €3.50 within Madrid’s center, there’s no excuse to not choose these guys.

Use an ethical service like La Pájara for food delivery in Madrid.
When it comes to food delivery in Madrid, ethical is always the better option.

Innovative Takeout 

Okay, okay, it’s not exactly delivery, but this app is worth your while! Arriving to Madrid just over a year ago, Too Good To Go is already a hit in eight European countries. Its aim is to cut down on food waste, given that a third of the world’s prepared food ends up in the trash. (If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant or grocery store, then you understand). 

The online platform allows local restaurants, supermarkets, fruit and vegetable vendors, bakeries, hotels and other establishments to sell off their “leftover” stock. That is, items that are perfectly good to eat and yet legally unable to be sold tomorrow are where you have the opportunity to snag a deal! 

Think fresh croissants that won’t last until tomorrow, untouched rolls of sushi, or hot pizzas that were preemptively made but unordered by customers. Too Good to Go makes these magical items available to you for less than half the market price. And it’s a win-win situation for everyone: less food in the bin, happy restaurants, and a deal for you. The only catch is that you must pick it up discreetly during the restaurant’s closing hours.   

Or Do Takeout Madrileño Style

If you’re keen to score some of the tastiest and authentic bites in Madrid, go about fast food with the locals’ mindset. Think hot chocolate and churros from a nearby chocolatería, a freshly fried calamari sandwich from the stalls flanking Plaza Mayor, or empanadas from a neighborhood panadería (bakery). These are all commonly packaged for takeout. We especially love El Capricho Extremeño for their hearty open-faced sandwiches, El Cambalache for an empanada-pizza hybrid, AlliOli for their small-portion takeaway paella, and Obrador San Francisco for their heavenly baked goods. 

Calamari sandwich: a great idea for takeout food in Madrid
The calamari sandwich: a staple of madrileño cuisine and a great on-the-go option. Photo credit: @archela

When in Doubt, Order a Pizza 

Every pizzería in town offers delivery via Just Eat, Deliveroo, Glovo, and Uber Eats, but select restaurants also have their own contingent of vespas! Simply call and place your order directly through them to avoid the precarious, third-party delivery companies. A few examples include: Il Cratere del Gusto (only delivers Tuesday–Sunday at night), Hot Now, the Pizza Napoli group, Pizza Mascalzone, Massa Pizza or the Il Siciliano group. 

Group of people eating pizza out of boxes
Sometimes you’ve just gotta order a pizza. (And if you can support a local business while doing so, even better.)
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