Madrid Food Tour

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.  

Cochinillo:

“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

Pollo Asado

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

Family Trip to Madrid

My husband, Bobby, doesn’t know this, but a couple of years ago he lost his official vote in helping plan what our family does for vacation.  He shouldn’t be surprised, considering the last time he proposed and planned a vacation, THIS happened: 

However, this year, was the year he found redemption.  Since our oldest, Blake, was a baby (almost 9 years) we have been talking about (dreaming about) spending a summer somewhere else and just living life there.  We would talk about it incessantly in private, discussing what would make for the perfect scenario. What cities could work? What scenarios wouldn’t work at all? How old would the kids have to be?  Some of the fundamental conclusions we came to were: 

  • Time: For us it had to be at least two weeks up to one month.  We want to be in another city and really get the feel for what it’s like to live there and we felt this time period would accomplish that.  
  • Kids Age: We wanted our youngest, Tristan, to be at least 4-5.  We wanted to be able to send the kids to camp. We feel more comfortable sending the kids to a new environment knowing they will be able to clearly communicate what had gone on in the day.  Also didn’t want them to be so young that they would forget this experience entirely.
  • Language: the first time we do this (we hope for more), it had to be a place we felt comfortable speaking the language.  English is preferred but it could be Spanish, as we are both fluentish. We definitely wanted to be able to handle any situation that arose. [This really helped us narrow it down.]
  • Camp: There had to be a camp that all three kids could attend and wasn’t too pricey.  I wanted to live somewhere else, not referee my children all day in another city.
  • Work: I can write from anywhere, but Bobby.  Luckily he had started a business that allows him to work remotely from anywhere.  
  • Location:  After an RV I realized real quick that city life, is the life for me. Also we wanted to be able to have access to great food, grocery stores, gyms, and culture.  No offense to smaller cities, but a girl’s gotta eat.

Back to Bobby’s Redemption Story.  This past January, Bobby came home and had found the key to making all of our discussions and dreams come true.  He found a camp the kids could attend in Madrid. This hits two of our requirements.   After all the talks and all of the day-dreaming, it was time to put up. We had never been to Madrid, were we really going to do this? Hell yes! So we booked it! 

It was one of those things that I was so excited for, but also could not believe was happening.  We had three kids, our lives are chaos personified, how was this going to work?  How would our kids take the news?

Our kids were not thrilled. Blake is already old enough to say things like “you’re making me leave my friends for the whole summer?”

Dylan was saying things like “But I don’t want to learn Spanish on my vacation!”

Tristan’s concerns were along the lines of, “how many toys can I bring? But won’t the toys that stay behind miss me?”

We had a few big talks leading up to the departure. Easing nerves about taking such a long flight (their first), about how long we were going to be away, and how it is ok to feel sad or that they are going to miss their friends and family. If you are considering a trip like this, I would definitely have a plan about how to talk to them about it and give them space to express their concerns. As much as this was our dream, we definitely wanted it to be something they could be excited about as well.

It’s hard to believe that we are 14 days into this incredible adventure. The kids transitioned so well! Tristan however has asked to FaceTime his toys, and asks how I think his Colossal T-Rex is doing almost every day.

I’m so happy to share with you some of the details of how we made this happen: 

Camp

We are in Madrid for 4 weeks, and decided to send the kids for the last 3 weeks we would be here.  We spent the first week battling jet lag, and spending time together being tourists. This also let the kids get used to this new city and way of life before sending them to meet all these new people.  The first day they were nervous, but the teachers were all so sweet and patient. My kids literally ran to camp on Day 2 they were so excited to go back. 

The camp we found for the kids is called LAE Kids. It’s run by a lovely woman, Natasha, and she helped guide us through the process.   It’s a family based camp where the emphasis is on fun, immersive Spanish and getting messy whenever possible.   The children are a mix of nationalities from all around the world. We decided on a language camp, because for being children of Cuban descent, our kids could barely string together a sentence in Spanish.  This camp appealed even more because besides learning Spanish, the kids would meet different kids from all over, and do different activities like science experiments, art, and more daily.  

Apartment

After finding the camp, we researched the best areas to stay in Madrid.   Then we took that list and tried to find a place on Air BNB that was walking distance to the camp but still in a good neighborhood.  

The camp also had a relocation department. They recommended a few apartments, but saved us with their extremely helpful advice, FIND AN APARTMENT THAT HAS AC.  I would also suggest an apartment with a washing machine.  

There were some great options (another perk to bigger city).  In a long term rental you also get better pricing, and are able to negotiate somewhat with the owner.  Our rental so far has been amazing. The location is fairly central, and walking distance to a lot of great food and to Parque Retiro which is a park similar to Central Park in New York, and covered in trees making it about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the city.  

Transportation and Getting Around

A lot of walking is done in this city.  I mean having lived here for two weeks, and seeing the amount of bread that is fed to you at each meal, I get it.  Cigarettes and walking seem to be huge here. Diet of champions. 

  • Walking is a great easy way to get around the city.  For the most part you can find a great restaurant, pharmacy, supermarket, fruit stand, or really anything within walking distance.  If you want to start venturing out, there are so many options here.  
  • Taxi: There are taxi lanes on most major streets, and it has not been difficult at all to grab one when you need it.  They do accept credit cards. 
  • Uber: Uber works and is just around the same price as the taxis. 
  • Subway: we have been using the subway almost daily and the kids love it.  They are in excellent condition, and I would dare even say clean. We had one mishap where we ended up going the wrong way (for a long time), but besides that it’s been really straight-forward and easy to get around with. 

Nantucket Family Vacation

Nantucket is exactly what you see in the pictures. It’s quaint, idyllic, and serene.  There are flowers growing in every corner, each coordinated and hand picked to match the color of the front door.  Each home is made from the same wood which eventually grays, giving each it’s own shape but same nautical aesthetic.  All the homes display a clever name that tends to have something to do with the island or the island’s vibe. There are warm smiles, cool air, and wine flowing

Nantucket is one of those towns that you don’t find litter.  You know what I mean? It is Disney caliber landscaping and upkeep but without any of the crowds.   The island is magical.  It’s as if you arrive on the island, your collar suddenly pops up, you’re drinking wine all day, and saying things like “fabulous darling”.  Ok, that’s just me. Everything minus the popped collar. It just ain’t my style.

I had only heard about Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket growing up.  I would read about it in books or a headline about the Kennedys. I had never been, as Miamians don’t typically go north for the summer. When our best friends invited us to go, I didn’t see how we could pass up the opportunity.  Shout out to our best friends who are the best humans, and truly know how to vacation.

This summer was our second experience in this magical town.  Both trips were jam packed with amazing spots for both families or just some adult time. If you are on the fence about visiting, I would definitely say bucket list worthy.  It’s a little piece of history, but perfectly mixed with modern luxury. Here are a couple of suggestions from a wine guzzling, mom of 3, and self-proclaimed foodie, and keep we did most all of this with our kids:

Galley Beach:  this beach side restaurant is one of my absolute favorite places. You can grab a drink before you dinner reservation, and watch the sunset.  If you have never seen a sun set in Nantucket, this would be the place. Of all the sunsets I have ever seen, I have never quite seen the sky look so picturesque.  Shades of pink and purple fill the sky as you finish your first cocktail, and head in for dinner after all your selfies (obviously). The food here is delicious, and changes seasonally.  They currently accept reservations 28 days in advance. Check it out HERE.    

Children’s Beach: a small sandy beach off the marina with a huge playground attached.  The best part? There is also a huge grass area with picnic tables so you can sit on the grass as you watch your kids run around and not get full of sand [unless you’re one of those parents that like to play with your kids on the playground- no judgement].  There’s a little shop where you can get snacks or you can bring your own. 

Something Natural: A little house, set on a beautiful green open space, and makes the most insane sandwiches.  Think daily fresh baked bread, freshly cut meat, and the best pasta salad- hands down. You can eat there or pick it up to go (take it to Children’s Beach for a picnic).  We have tried a few of the menu sandwiches, and the specials they have daily.  All delicious.  I also dream about their pasta salad, and may take down a container solo at least 3 times each trip.  There is space for the kids to run around, and even a beautiful trail you can take over a lilypond if you’re up to walk off all the bread.

Critter Cruise:  an hour long excursion on the Monomoy where you and the kids capture different kinds of sea creatures and fish, and learn about each before releasing it back into the harbor.  The kids absolutely loved this cruise and the staff and captain were wonderful and were so patient as they taught the kids about each animal. Check it out HERE.          

Jettie’s Beach: Jettie’s is a family favorite.  It’s a casual beach bar and grill on the beach with a mustard, aqua combination out of your Nantucket dreams.  You can have a delicious lobster roll, Bloody Mary and then just spend your afternoon laying on the sand by the water.  We have also been lucky enough to spend a sunset here with a bottle of rose and that afternoon did not suck. An absolute must.

Juice Bar: homemade waffle cones are not something I take lightly.   They have so many different flavors of ice cream, plus cookies and smoothies for those who don’t like ice cream (or soul).  It is worth the line that goes around the block.

Cisco Brewery: Beer and rose on tap, food stands, and live music what else do you need? My daughter would say a Ring Toss, and guess what?! They have one.  We have spent a couple afternoons here, and each time had to drag the kids away screaming and crying to stay.  The vibe is chill and easy.  You can grab some locally sourced seafood or some quesadillas at another stand and just take in the music.  It’s an easy uber ride away.  

The White Elephant: Another Nantucket staple.  It is set on the marina with a beautiful grass area.  In season they set out corn hole and the kids can play and walk around the greenery as you eat and obviously, DRINK.  The food here is not the best on the island, but it does have a great ambiance. There is an aggressively large white elephant here by the water, and if you don’t take a picture by it- did you even go?  

Maria Mitchell Association:  It is a small quaint aquarium, filled with the animals that you found on the Critter Cruise.  It’s just a couple of small tanks, and two rooms with some fish tanks and microscopes, but it has a great staff and the kids get a real hands on experience.  Your paid entrance also brings with it access to Nantucket’s First House Tour and the other museums in town. Across the street there is a coffee place called, The Handlebar Cafe, and it has the most delicious iced coffee and a secret garden for the kids to check out.

 

Bike Ride: To be clear, I did not take a bike ride.  Exercising on vacation is not a thing I have traditionally done.  However my husband and our friend went and rented bikes at, Young’s Bicycle Shop, and took a 14 mile trip down the island.  Even caught some sea turtles on one of the beaches they went to. They used a great app called The Strava App, to help guide them through.

Walk Through Town: This place is so lovely, that you could have a lovely day just by walking through all the cobble stone streets and going in and out of all the shops.  There are no big chains, just small mom and pop stores that have been there for years or newer stores with locally sourced items. My husband picked up a Nantucket Red Sweater at Murray’s.  The kids loved Nantucket Bookworks, and there is a toy store called The Toy Boat that is charming and fun for them to wander around.  Here I am pretending I like to walk around town.

A Few More Restaurants:

The Nautilus: One of the most delicious meals I’ve had in a while.  You can only make a reservation for this one day of, and you do it by standing in line around 11 and hoping you get a seat.  Sounds like a huge pain in the ass, it is, but totally worth it.  The half chicken was so good one of us actually licked the sauce of the plate, and the wine list was also 100%.  This place becomes a little more of a scene with music and people crowding around the bar.  I would not suggest going with kids.

Cru: A gorgeous modern nautical restaurant theme restaurant on the marina.  The food here was out of this world, for both brunch and dinner.  It’s a little sophisticated but still kid friendly (at least for brunch).  The oysters were so fresh, and the fish and chips were stellar. For reservations click HERE

American Seasoning: it’s an older more classic restaurant just outside of the main square. The menu is a little more rustic than the other restaurants we ate at, but delicious.   

Slip 14: Casual spot located off the marina.  Very kid friendly.  The clam chowder was so good, I wouldn’t share it with my husband.  Also the calamari was a sneaky delicious treat. 

Greydon House: a hotel in the middle of town that has been modernized and is absolutely beautiful.  

Windowsills and Corners:  a few of my favorite corners of Nantucket

Lodging:

Both times we visited, we stayed in the home our friends rented for the week. Information available upon request.

There were the loveliest chicest hotels that you could look into if you would prefer:

The White Elephant, The Galley, The Nantucket Hotel, Greydon House, Harborview Nantucket, The Beachside on Nantucket, The Wauwinet, Cliffside Beachclub and more.