Everybody vacations differently. Some people would come on a trip to Madrid, itinerary in hand with a plan for each part of their day. They would have their day trips arranged, and a list of all the sites they want to see and each day would be filled with taking it all in. I love these kinds of people. They’re so thoughtful and organized, and their planning is commendable.
My husband and I are similar to these itinerary people, but just a little different. Our itinerary for new cities is almost exclusively restaurants. Madrid was no different. Our game plan going in was to go eat at as many of the restaurants, throughout the different neighborhoods as we could, and whatever we could walk around and see after as we walked off the bread was a plus.
In the 30 days we were there, we ate at just about 30 restaurants. I’m not going to bore you anymore with an intro. Let’s get down to it. The first 6 were my top absolute must go to places. Everything else I will leave at your discretion. I will say there is no going wrong in Madrid. It’s a magical land where even the most obscure empty restaurants, are filled with delicious food.
Our Top 6
- La Castela: Our first few days in Madrid were very blurry, but upon our very strong recommendation from our Landlord “Harrison Ford loved it here” we stumbled in. It was love at first bite. The staff is made up of a group of close knit guys who have no interest in talking to you outside of taking your order, their hard to get attitude only made me love it more. Their absolute must have dish is the Milhojas de Ventresca- we went back four times and had it each time. It is that good.
- Nutshell: no reservations, standing room or if you are lucky you can grab a bar stool, not kid friendly, $$
- What we had: We sampled almost their entire menu, and I can tell you that you cannot go wrong. I would say the Garbanzos salteados con Langostinos, Solomillo con Foie, and the Arroz Meloso con Pulpo and Calamar were my favorites. Check them out HERE for more information.
- Triciclo: This gastro restaurant came highly recommended by locals and friends of ours who make it their business to know food. I always come weary to gastro bars, in fear that it would go too far trying to be different. This place blew me away. Each dish was light and fresh, and took me by surprise with flavor. The menu varies depending on what is available seasonally, but I would tell you to trust your server. To get more information or book a table click HERE
- Nutshell: reservations available and suggested for dinner, if your kids are adventurous could work, $$$
- What We Had: Shrimp wonton, Tuna Tartar, Sea Bass Carpaccio, Solomillo, Cannelloni Stuffed with truffle mushrooms and ricotta, and a rack of lamb
- To be clear I am very aware we overdid it here. It was our only chance to come and everything was as amazing as it sounded.
- Ten Con Ten: As soon as the automatic sliding glass door opens into this gorgeous wrap around bar scene, you know you are somewhere special. We stepped into Ten con Ten for lunch one day, after receiving countless of referrals, and were taken by how beautiful it was and then blown away by the food. I’m a sucker for truffle and an even bigger sucker for truffle on pasta. Naturally this place had me at hello, so much so we returned for dinner a week later.
- Nutshell: would suggest reservations, especially if you go for dinner as this place becomes a little bit of a scene (so fun to watch). Very pricey- many people were there with their kids so it’s up to you.
- What we had: Besides the black truffle risotto which we had both times because it makes me feel closer to God, we also loved the Pulpo (grilled octopus) “Pedreidro” Asado, Arroz Frito Con Pato (duck fried rice), as well as the Solomillo Asado a la Pimienta (Sirloin with Black Pepper Sauce), and would highly recommend a plate of their Iberico.
- Los Juevos de Lucio: A light walk off the Plaza Mayor, down a charming cobblestone road you will find this charming place made for egg sluts such as myself. As you might have picked up on, this place is THE place for juevos (eggs) rotos. You can order them over almost anything, we obviously did Iberico, because while most people have told me they got sick of it- I did not. Check them out HERE for more information
- Nutshell: casual, need reservation for dinner, good for kids, $$
- What we had: Los Juevos con media racion de jamon, Pulpo braseado
- Street XO: We were told by all of the foodiest of the foodies we knew that this place was a must try. They open for lunch at 2 and the line starts to form around 1:30. That’s right, a line. Can you even imagine a place that is so delicious Madridians stand in line for the table, early! We were able to get a seating at the bar, and it was one of the coolest meals I’ve ever had. The spin on Spanish food was different from almost anything else we had. The restaurant is really edgy and has Japanese grunge decor. The staff is also very edgy but majorly into food. We let the waiter walk us through the menu, and everything was delicious.
- Nutshell: casual, get in line at 1:30 worth the wait, $$, not kid friendly
- What we had: Uzusukuri, Curry Japones, and whatever else the chef recommended
- La Kasa– came highly recommended to us from the owner of Casa Di Vino, and it was for lack of a better word, divino. The restaurant is modern and beautiful, and the staff was excellent.
- Nutshell: Even at lunch they were completely slammed, and made us feel lucky we could get a high top by the bar. I would definitely suggest reservations. $$ I didn’t see any kids while we were there.
- What we had: the Bunuelitos de Idiazabal (fried cheese), Gazpachuela, Mejillones de Bouchot Con Salsa Cafe de Paris, Corvina Macerada en Achiote, and the Lomo de Corzo Asado con Mole Poblano. I would suggest any of these dishes, with the exception of the Corvina which while interesting to try wasn’t exactly up my alley. You can check out the rest of their menu or make a reservation on their website HERE.
“Suckling pig” is a common dish served in a lot of restaurants in Madrid and all of the surrounding areas. I am told that the absolute best one, according to many of the emails I’ve received, and almost all Madridians that I spoke to, is in Toledo (a nearby town accessible by a 45 minute train ride) and it is called Los Cuatro Tiempos. However in Madrid you can find some pretty delicious variations. It’s typically served with roasted potatoes and is fall of the bone delicious with the crispy skin that just brings that added level of melt in your mouth deliciousness. We went to:
- La Taberna Del Capitan Alatriste: more of a local scene. Casual with an old Spanish vibe. The menu here was very kid friendly and fairly priced. I would make a reservation just in case, HERE is their website.
- Sobrino de Botin: Oldest restaurant in the world. I swear- can’t make this up. It’s on a beautiful street in the center of Madrid, and the cochinillo does not disappoint. Also casual, but some people dressed up. Kid Friendly and a little more pricey due to the “oldest restaurant in the world” tourist appeal. Definitely make a reservation- find the website HERE.
When it comes to this dish, Madrid don’t play. I want to point out to you, that I may be biased. I am irrevocably in love with Spanish cooking, so to me their pollo asado (roasted chicken) is perfection. Something about this dish, maybe it’s the magnificent way the skin of the chicken has just browned, creating just the right amount of crisp as it falls off the bone and is swimming in perfectly seasoned drippings. Is it hot in here? Whew! Sorry, I sort of just lost myself in that moment. Two of the best places to get your hands on some finger licking good chicken:
- Casa Mingo: It opened its doors in 1888, and the decor has maintained the original main features with wood paneling, a view of their bottles and barrels. The barrels are for their world renowned cider. It is a very local scene. Everyone comes here and places an order for the chicken, with a side of bread. For our little family of 5 we ordered two whole chickens and not a single piece of chicken was left over. Our kids begged to go back for more.
- Nutshell: Very casual, great price, and absolutely delicious. Reservations aren’t necessary and you can visit their website HERE.
- Limbo: Located inside a hostel right off Plaza Mayor and near Mercado de San Miguel, Limbo is almost a more modern Casa Mingo. I would called it the hipster Casa Mingo. It has a real young scene, even a space for live music, and the design is very modern with an open space concept. The chicken here is on par with Casa Mingo. The appetizers and sides are also really creative takes on classic dishes. Would also recommend the ribs.
- Nutshell: Casual, kid friendly, $$, and you can make reservations HERE.
Markets or Food Halls
- Platea: located in the higher end Salamanca area, Platea is a 2 story “gastro leisure space” food hall filled with different stands offering classic and a modern take on tapas. For those who want a more formal experience there is a restaurant with full service on the first floor, where you can order from the menu of the surrounding gastro pubs surrounding the seating area. It was a great experience with the kids, and also one of our first. They host live music and also have a “el club” for those who are looking to be without kids. Check out the website HERE
- Mercado Los Mostenses: Our amazing food tour guide, Margit, introduced us to this amazing market one of our first weekends in Madrid. Filled with different stands of different meats, seafood, fruits, vegetables and more. Most stands being run by the same family who has done so for generations. The pride and care that goes into each slice of jamon or each bocadillo de pulpo was overwhelming and needless to say delicious. Only open on the week day and a must if you can make it.
- Mercado de San Miguel: I am going to say something about this mercado that is not going to sit well, it was one of our worst experiences in Madrid. While beautiful, it seems to be just a shadow of its former self. While they seem to have led the food hall trend, I feel Mercado de San Miguel has become a victim of its own popularity. Whether the vendors have a hard time meeting the demand of the number of customers they are receiving, or they are just phoning it in- I can’t tell. But it was rather expensive and the scene was very touristy. I spent most of the time worried about where my kids were. I would not recommend when there are other more authentic, less hectic places to see.
- Mercado de Paz: If you can only do one food market, this is the one I would pick. Also full of vendors whose families have been doing this for generations, it also has Casa Dani a small little popup restaurant with hands down the best tortilla I have ever had in my life. Along with other little popups and different shops filled with locals, and really gives you more of an authentic experience.
Places We Tried and Loved…
The biggest food takeaway from our time in Madrid is simple, you can’t go wrong. We had a lot of recommendations to go off of, but when we felt like just venturing out we were never disappointed. Every place has its own personality and style. The thing that remains is that it is all made with fresh ingredients by people who just get what it’s all about- great food. Here are a few more places some that were referrals and some that we just stumbled into. All amazing:
- La Palma 60: the best croquettas of my life
- Bodega Rivas: the most tender fried octopus
- Cafe di Vino: her wine and Cava selection are amazing, and a mean ensalada Rusa
- Couzapin: the fabada of my dreams
- Gerardo: solomillo off the grill that was to die for
- Laredo: they had a dish with a scallop on a rice cracker that made me tear up
- La Barilla: fresh seafood, it was solid
- Taberna Triana: a truffle juevos rotos dish that I could have eaten once a day forever
- Catapa: arroz meloso (risotto) with rabo that I can still sometimes smell in my dreams