Insider’s Guide to Madrid

As everyone here at MFT knows, Madrid is most alive in the evening
As everyone here at MFT knows, Madrid is most alive in the evening
One of our favorite things to do here at Madrid Food Tour is trade secrets about Madrid’s hidden gems. Put this group of food and wine enthusiasts in a room and we will undoubtedly erupt into discussions about where to find the best snails in the old town, why Ribera wine is better than Rioja and which flamenco bar has the most duende.
With different tastes, different levels of experience in Madrid and lots of strong opinions, we leave every meeting with lists of new places, dishes and cocktails to try out. As a team we have collected so many secrets that it would be wrong not to share a few, so here you have it; the Madrid Food Tour team’s guide to our favorite food and drink in Madrid.

Lauren Aloise – Founder and Guide

Favorite restaurant: Such a difficult question! I usually try 2-5 new places per week so my favorites are always changing. I love the hole-in-the-wall restaurants we visit on our tours as much as the amazing fine dining restaurants Madrid offers. If I had friends in town we’d start with wine and jamón at Casa Gonzalez, eat the fried cod at Casa Revuelta, and end with some shared plates in StreetXO. Then we’d pop over to Del Diego or Santamaría for cocktails.
Go-to tapa: Salmorejo, a cold tomato soup that originates in Southern Spain.
Favorite drink: Spanish wines without a doubt. I love exploring the smaller DO and non-DO producers.
Perfect Madrid evening: Depending on my mood either a leisurely dinner where they look after the details, or a tapas crawl with a few friends. I love that in Madrid there is a plan for everyone!

James Blick – Founder and Guide

Favorite restaurant: I’m currently head over heels for the restaurant Vinoteca Moratín in Huertas. The delicious food is modern Spanish, the staff are quick to suggest an excellent pairing wine and the prices are very reasonable. Only problem – it’s tiny. So book ahead.
Go-to tapa: Boquerones en vinagre… like a sharp slap across the tongue and the perfect light tapa to start the evening.
Favorite drink: Wine wine wine. Whether it’s an old favorite from Ribera del Duero or an unknown drop from a Spanish wine region I’m not familiar with, I’m a suck for a glass of wine. Every bottle is like a mystery, or a riddle, waiting to be solved. And Spain just has so much wine variety and the vino is such good value.
Perfect Madrid evening: I’d kick off with a vermouth on tap at whatever tiled-lined rustic bar in Conde Duque, then I’d knock back a couple of pre-prandial glasses of wine at De Vinos wine bar and finally I’d walk off the booze by heading over to Huertas for dinner at Vinoteca Moratín.

Alejandro Cabrera – New Business Manager

Favorite restaurant: I love the pintxos at the Basque style bar Txirimiri– especially the grilled foie gras and tortilla de patatas ones! Even though the bar area is always packed, the tables in the back are usually available.
Go-to tapa: Carrillada de cerdo (slow cooked pork cheek) is to die for when made the right way. In Andalusia you can find in any tapas bar, although here in Madrid it is a bit more difficult to find a worthy one. I’ve recently tried it at La Berenjena in the Antón Martín neighborhood and it was very good!
Favorite drink: I love a cold caña and also a refreshing tinto de verano (red wine with lemon fanta).
Perfect Madrid evening: Having some beers with friends and then going for a bite to eat at one of the many taverns in the city.

Paula Movil – Guide and Foodie Extraordinaire

Lots of "gildas" ready to be eaten!
Lots of “gildas” ready to be eaten!
Favorite restaurant: StreetXO (El Corte Inglés de Callao). It is located on the food court of one of the most popular department store in Spain, but don’t be confused, this place has nothing to do with the standard restaurants you would find at a food court. StreetXO is everything but ordinary. Devoted to a refined version of Asian street food, it is an open kitchen surrounded by a bar where customers enjoy the sight of the eight cooks that move around the kitchen like acrobats that yell out orders, cook live crabs in front of your eyes and delight you with their cooking skills. The food is amazing, adventurous and surprising. My favorites dishes there? The Chilli Crab and the Pork Belly Saam.
Go-to tapa: If I am having the aperitif I would love a simple and perfect Gilda (olive skewer with a green spicy pepper from the Basque country called guindilla and an anchovy cured in salt). If I am “bar hopping” with friends I would choose the Tortillita de Camarones at Sanlúcar (San Isidro Labrador, 14), light and perfect to go with my drink. If lunch is what I am looking for, then I would probably go for the tasty gizzards with oyster sauce at Sala de Despiece.
Favorite drink: A Manhattan or a Bobby Burn at Del Diego (Reina, 12). A classic cocktail bar that is always the perfect choice.
Perfect Madrid evening: I would start drinking a vermouth at Casa Camacho (San Andrés, 4) located in the alternative Malasaña neighborhood. The place has been around for ages and is a classic among seniors and young people alike. The place is famous for the “yayo” (gin + vermouth). Then I would stop by Casa Candi in the Conde Duque area (an up and coming neighborhood) to have a caña and any of the good looking seafood Candi has that day. Then, off to Pez Gordo (Pez, 6) to eat a delicious Escabeche Casero de Pavo (homemade pickled turkey). To finish off the night I would have a cocktail at Santamaría cocktail bar (Ballesta, 6) while snacking on some torreznos (pork rinds) with egg yolk.

Amy Bingham – Editorial Intern

Favorite restaurant: Bodegas Rosell near Atocha. This place embodies everything I love about eating in Spain. Their croquetas are the best I’ve eaten in the city (and trust me, I’ve scoured Madrid for the best croquetas!), they have a huge wine list of fantastic Spanish wines and the waiters are as welcoming and nice as can be!

Go-to tapaCroquetas. Always. There is something about that crispy olive oil fried outside and that creamy deliciousness inside that I just can’t say no to!

Favorite drink:  Ribera del Duero red wine. It’s full-bodied, bursting with flavor and just spicy enough to pair perfectly with Spanish tapas.

Perfect Madrid evening: I would have to start out on Calle Pez in Malasaña for some tapas (particularly an ox hamburger at PontePez) then head over to Chambao (a tiny, adorable cocktail bar) for a vodka tonic with extra lemon, and then see where the night takes us, bar hopping around Malasaña or heading to a disco like Ocho y Medio or Barco.

Julia Golden – Editorial Intern

wine tasting in madrid
No Madrid evening is complete without a glass of Spanish red

Favorite restaurant: Garcia de la Navarra. I discovered this family-run spot on a whim six months ago and still can’t get enough. Both a bodega and restaurant, Garcia offers the best of my favorite things: fresh ingredients and fantastic wines. I have never actually ordered off the menu, because the specials are what makes this place unique. The chef picks up whatever is freshest at the market that week and creates his specials menu, often full of unbelievably rich vegetables and seafood, while the sommelier chooses wine to pair with each plate. If I were to die tomorrow my last meal would be their slow-roasted sweet red pepper with fried egg followed by the oxtail and paired with whatever wine Luis chooses for me. Heaven.

Go-to tapa: Almejas a la marinera. I love seafood more than almost anything and Madrid is one of the best cities in the world for a sea-foodie. This dish is made with the tiniest, most tender baby clams and the most delicious garlic and white wine sauce I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. I enjoy them standing at the bar with a glass of crisp Albariño, eating the clams straight from the shell like a Spanish abuelo, and shamelessly mopping up the sauce with good crusty bread.

Favorite drink: Vino! I love a glass of wine and Spanish wine, for me, is the best of the best. At a bar I will almost always order a glass of Ribera del Duero red, but also enjoy a good Rioja when available. Red will always be my preferred trago, but there is just something extra special about sipping a glass of txakolí, a dry Basque white wine, at sunset on a summer’s evening.

Perfect Madrid evening: I would start off with a glass of vermouth in any mom-and-pop bar in the old town where I can nibble on olives and chat with friends, or make some new ones. When the conversation turns to food, I would either head to Casa del Abuelo (Calle de la Victoria, 12) for simmering gambas al ajillo or to bustling Cava Baja for some tapa-hopping to nibble on chorizo, setas a la plancha and calamarcitos. I would end the night with a gin and tonic and lots of dancing in one of the always-packed Malasaña or Chueca bars.

Jessica Wray – Social Media Intern

Favorite restaurant: I’m being greedy here but…my favorite restaurant actually happens to be an entire market. I love the Mercado de San Miguel for the amount of choices and the great prices. I love going with friends, getting a drink and a few different tapas and bringing them back to a small table. It has a great atmosphere and you can never leave unsatisfied! Also, the options are endless, so you can always find something for everyone.

Go-to tapa: I’m pretty obsessed with fried pimientos de padrón. Although simple, they are always perfectly salty, flavorful and delicious. I could eat an entire ración to myself!  I’ve tried to make them myself at home, but they just weren’t as satisfying as they are in some of Madrid’s old taverns.
Favorite drink: On a normal night out I’ll either opt for a glass of Ribera or a tinto de verano.  If I happen to be in Malasaña, I’ll go for one of the craft beers that are becoming popular in the area. The Malasaña Ale from Fabrica Maravillas is pretty delicious.
Perfect Madrid evening: My ideal night would be to a local market and purchase a bunch of simple Spanish products. I’d get some jamón, chorizo, campo real olives, a block of cheese, some bread and wine.  Then I’d spend the next few hours snacking and drinking with friends at home. Around midnight we would head out to some of the bars around Malasaña, specifically on Calle Pez or Calle La Palma.

Jennifer Smith – Social Media Intern

craft beer in Madrid
There’s nothing quite like a beer on a sunny Madrid terrace
Favorite restaurant: My favorite bar in Madrid is Taberna Almería in La Latina. It is off of Calle de las Aguas, a five minute walk from the happening Cava Baja. You get free tapas with every 1,40€ glass of wine, and their tostas are out of this world! My go-to order with friends at Taberna Almería? Queso de cabra con cebolla carmelizada tosta (goat cheese with caramelized onions), salmon alhumado tosta (smoked salmon tosta), and a huge glass of Rioja.
Go-to tapa: My go-to tapa on a typical night out would have to be croquetas, but I also love sharing raciones of pimentos del padrón and huevos rotos with friends too. My go-to dish in the summertime is by far Andalusian salmorejo. I can’t get enough!
Favorite drink: Summer in Spain is not summer in Spain without drinking a few giant mojitos on a rooftop terrace. However, the rest of the year when I’m not drinking vino tinto, I love to order tinto de veranos.

Perfect Madrid evening: When the weather is nice and the days are long I love starting my evening on a rooftop terrace with friends, and then bar crawling in Chueca and Malasaña. My favorite terraces are the Azotea terraza at Circulo de Bellas Artes, El Viajero terraza in La Latina, and Atico de las Letras at Hotel de las Letras on Gran Vía.

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3 Comment

  1. May 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    I’m going to have to check out a few, if not all, of these spots when I’m in Madrid this next year. Thanks for putting this all together!

    Reply
  2. Guy Monette says
    June 25, 2017 at 3:22 am

    These look good and very tempting. It’s too bad i didn’t get these when i first arrive here. I’m leaving for Barcelona tomorrow morning. Is there a similar guide for that city?

    Reply
  3. Guy Monette says
    June 25, 2017 at 3:22 am

    These look good and very tempting. It’s too bad i didn’t get these when i first arrive here. I’m leaving for Barcelona tomorrow morning. Is there a similar guide for that city?

    Reply

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