No place for your liver. Embrace yourself, Madrid cuisine is delicious, but heavy on your stomach. Start it slowly, and ramp up with the meals, or be brave and get straight to Melo’s as first stop and hit hard from the beginning!
Here are our best spots in Madrid
- Fry everything! Melo’s
What’s Melo’s? Ask any young person in Madrid. Everybody knows Melo’s. It’s a living legend in the city. And that means it’s always packed. The place gets severely crowded, every evening, and there is no way around that. So just come here at any time, fight hard for reaching the counter, and enjoy the atmosphere. Two orders are a must for the first time eating here: zapatillas and croquetas. What’s a Zapatilla? Easy put: the biggest ham and grilled cheese sandwich we ever had on our table. Seriously, half a sandwich is enough for two people, especially if you order croquetas “as a side”, filled with creamy cheese. Finish off with Padron Peppers, complement everything with the home white wine, served in ceramic bowls. Trust us, do not let your visit to Madrid miss this place, just don’t.
- Tortilla time at Cerveriz Bar
This dark and unassuming bar on the same square of the famous Mercado de San Miguel hides a surprise inside. The best tortilla in town is prepared in the rear kitchen by Carlos, the exuberant Galician owner of the place. The other specialty of the house is cider, served “from-top” to allow air to combine with the liquid and making it slightly fizzy. It’s a genuine Madrid bar de la Vieja escuela. An atmospheric tavern where the clock stopped in 1950. With some of the most delicious food and wine we tasted in the city!
- Jamon! Jamon!! Jamon!!!
Travelling to Spain means eating jamon. No other meanings. Let’s be clear here. Iberico ham is one of the best things in the world. The depth and complexity of flavors, the rich and savory taste, the perfect fat marbling are all concurrent in creating this delicious product. Furthermore, the food shops are an ideal source of pictures, with the legs forming a ceiling above our head.
In Madrid, there are several places where to enjoy this delicatessen. Museo del Jamon is the most famous, with several stores spread around the city. Apart from that, we recommend two shops you can quickly reach on foot. Ferpal has some of the best shop windows in town, facing the pedestrian alley Calle del Arenal. You can buy cheese, ham, and it has a small bar where you can enjoy your purchases.
Julián Becerro is one of the big names of Jamon Iberico. The factory is in Salamanca, and they have four shops in Madrid. The one we suggest, called Alma De Julián Becerro in the Barrio La Latina neighborhood, is the smallest one, but it’s the one with the best scenography. Note that here there is no place to sit.
Of course, you can buy tapas de jamon in mostly every tapas bar in Madrid, but if you want to really appreciate the different products, and have the best experience, we recommend a visit in one of these places!
Delicious tip: Jamon can be expensive (up to 200 € per kg), but there’s no need to buy tons of it. Our suggestion is to buy one of the best products (like the famous Cinco Jotas). 100 gr is about 20 €, and it fits a snack for two people. For the same amount, you can buy a tapas of mediocre jamon in a tapas bar. Prefer to take away, and ask for the best quality!
- ¿quieres pedir unas tapas?
A tapas bar is the essence of Madrid. That’s one of the reasons we love eating around here. For the few who don’t know, a tapa (plural tapas) is a small dish usually meant to be shared. It may be served for free while buying a glass of wine, in a smaller size. In numerous restaurants (or more proper, tapas bars) they sell media raciónes and raciónes, which are tapas in bigger portions. Patatas bravas, croquetas, Pulpo a la Gallega are just some examples of the several dishes available. And they are all amazing!
Among the best tapas in town, we can name La Casa del Abuelo, serving the best gambas al ajillo (shrimps in garlic sauce) in town since 1906, Casa Gonzalez, in Barrio de las Letras, where cheese is a superstar, or El Tempranillo, with its top quality Spanish-only wine list. Our recommendation is just to explore multiple places, avoiding cheap chains and just enjoy the vast food panorama of the city.
- Comfort food with tradition: El cocido madrileño at La Bola
Madrid traditional comfort food is called cocido madrileño. It’s a chickpea-based stew, hearty and fatty, with meat and vegetables. During winter, many restaurants serve this specialty, while it may be somehow hard to find it during summer. Every day of the year, though, the kitchen at La Bola is filled with small terracotta pots, where this stew is cooked. This restaurant, opened in 1870 and currently managed by the 4th generation of the same family, is a valid place where you can find this traditional dish prepared traditionally. Not the best stew we ever ate, but if you want to explore Madrid’s traditions, look no further.
Delicious tip: There’s another famous restaurant where you can taste cocido. El Botin restaurant is (probably) the oldest operating restaurant in the world, founded in 1725. However, we preferred the stew we ate at La Bola (it’s also much cheaper!)
- El bocadillo de calamares, City’s fried fish specialty
We have to confess. We can’t understand why bocadillo de calamares is such a beloved dish in Madrid. In essence, it’s a sandwich made with a baguette and filled with fried squid rings. That’s it. We have some doubts about the general nature of this dish, but if you really want to try it, we suggest La Campana, near Plaza Mayor. This cerveceria is mainly focused on preparing this kind of sandwich, and the queue outside moves fast.
- Flavors from the new world
What’s the best product Spain brought back from its conquests in South America? No, it’s not gold. Cocoa was introduced in Spain by Columbus himself after his fourth visit. But it was Hernán Cortés, after learning at the court of Montezuma the techniques to prepare a drink from these beans, who made the first cup of hot chocolate, or “chocolatl” (its Aztecan original name), for Charles V. From that point on, hot chocolate became the luxury drinking in the city.
There are two historical café where to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate: El Riojano and Chocolatería San Ginés. The first one is a family-owned pastry shop serving pastries and hot beverages since 1855. Do not be scared by the small entrance; it has a vast tea room in the back with several tables. The second one is a famous café near Puerta del Sol, serving hot chocolate and traditional churros. Be aware; the latter is a prominent touristic location, expect to queue up to an hour, especially in winter!
- The oysters at Mercado de San Miguel
Being a stone throw from Plaza Mayor, we can easily understand why Mercado de San Miguel can be viewed a bit like a tourist trap. While its central location inflates the prices, the place still deserves a visit. The most interesting bit is the architecture of the site, built in 1916. Inside, it hosts what it could be called a “gourmet tapas bar”. More than forty vendors provide different snacks, from traditional marinated olives, cheese, jamon, to more complex tapas prepared in front of the customer.
As good as it may sound, we think there are better places where to have tapas in Madrid, much better. But one shop stands out from everything else. Daniel Sorlut Oyster is a second generation oyster farmers from Bourcefranc-Le Chapus, in the Bordeaux region in France. Their specialty is a particular quality of oyster they bred over the last century, called “Special Daniel Sorlut”. It has a smooth, meaty texture with delicious sweet taste. If you want to have a quick bite in this market, we recommend this stall!
As we mentioned in our top spots list in Madrid, we speak more in details about this location in a dedicated article. The brasserie – food cart style venue from the owner of DiverXO, the culinary genius David Muñoz, is everything we could ask from a restaurant in the trendiest neighborhood of Madrid, Salamanca.
It’s fashion, it’s fun, it’s electric. Spanish flavors are merged with pan-Asian notes, creating incredible combinations like “Hong Kong style cocido” and “Japanese pigeon”. Loud music, orders shouted across the kitchen, good cocktails and delicious food. That’s StreetXO, and it’s one of the best restaurants we ever tried!
Madrid is continuously evolving, and its culinary panorama is improving every day. Tradition and innovation are deeply intertwined, with some fantastic results that we can’t just get enough! But don’t stop there. Madrid is an amazing city that deserves to be explored and visited multiple times. Check out our top-spots list and our special post about the best art galleries in town to get some more suggestions!