Mushrooms. Foie Gras. Goat Cheese. Egg Yolks. Fried Cheese.
A gem of a restaurante in the Chueca barrio, this is an decadent and relatively inexpensive destination even if you only slightly enjoy mushrooms. The fungi are fresh from the Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounding Madrid, especially in the autumn when everything gets really nice and moldy. It is best to surrender to the camarero (waiter) and have him bring you what ever is most delectable at that moment, he will also be able to suggest what combination is best; boletas con yema or enoki con foie are two of my favorites. It is also recommended that you order one of their goat cheese salads as the greens really make a world of difference in digesting the rich meal; especially if you are interested in the torta del Casar, a strong, pungent cheese from the north which they serve fried. It would be uncommon for me to leave without having ordered three plates of setas, a salad, torta del Casar, a bottle (or two) of wine, and a feeling of complete utter bliss.
Underground Chinese/ El Chino de Plaza Espana/ Jia Xiang Xiao Chi
If it is possible to eat better Chinese food without going to China or at least a Chinese kitchen, I need to know, immediately. The handmade noodle soup (sopa con tallarines hecho a mano) are quite honestly something I salivate over all too often. Pillowy, salty, and dreamy, they can make any day perfect when paired with the Chinese greens or off the menu sauteed seasonal veggies which you may need to literally point to and hand gesture your way to order. Which brings me to the service. It is awful, especially when both the servers and clients speak broken Spanish. But language barriers aside, the same 5 or so waitresses will be serving you not only the best dumplings you have ever had, but surly glances and impatient water refills. Nonetheless, the costumers are loyal, which says something about the food, but also the out of control line, be prepared to wait, then feast. Only the cool kids know about this place. Congratulations.
Anyone living in Spain and craving an original language film would be wise to keep the Filmoteca’s monthly program posted somewhere in sight. The theater is adorable in a very old time way with a cafe downstairs featuring typical Spanish fare, tortilla española and café con leche and pastries. Similarly, you could walk across the street to the oh so tiny Spanish bar and grab a caña for a Euro, watch some fútbol. Be aware that on nights when Casablanca or Sign’ in the Rain are showing the 2 Euro tickets sell out quickly, so plan on arriving early and waiting in line for a minute. Then head to the bar. Don’t become impatient.
Chocolateria San Ginés
Thick and decadent sipping chocolate. Warm and doughy dipping churros. The combination is deadly.
Especially considering that this chocolateria is open at all hours of the day. When that undeniable sweet-salty craving strikes at 4 am as the Madrilenos are heading to the clubs, you can bypass Joy, the neighboring club, and dip and sip the most luscious fusion of sins. If you find yourself avoiding the shoulder to shoulder crowds of Sol, do not fret. During the chillier months, you will be able to find chocolateria trucks stationed outside many metro stops. Indulge.
La Via Lactea
A pool bar meets 80’s bar, this is a classic. It is situated on the perfect street (I lived, and hardly slept directly across the street) in Malasana, the cool, young, hipster barrio of Madrid.
Young, fun, and delicious. I would frequent this little restaurant bar for a quick tosta, a cup of tea, or a beer. Some of my favorite bites were foie gras one day goat cheese the next. The cous cous salad is just enough to make it a meal.
Take the time to sit. It is one of the favorite activities of the locals. Choose to enhance your leisure with some heart achingly delicious gelato. This is the place to get it in Madrid. Don’t fall for the distracting shops along the main shopping streets. Acquolina’s frozen treats are rich and creamy served in cones or cups and perfect all times of the day. In the morning I liked to wake up to the flavors of fresh fruit. A couple hours later would call for the smooth and nutty avellana (hazelnut), or possibly an equally nutty horchata, a sweet creamy almond drink. Restraining myself from this corner shop was, possibly, one of the most difficult things to do in Madrid.
La Esquina de Eusebio
Tapas gratis. Bebidas baratas. Buena gente. (Free food. Cheap drinks. Good people.) Pretty self explanatory. This is a super local spot which has made its way by word of mouth from one TEFL teacher to the next. The bar is owned by a vivacious Portugese couple who are constantly doling out large glasses of beer and full trays of bread with various topping. Look for the anchoas, they are the perfect combination of salty, oily, and briny. Wash them down with multiple malty beverages and you have got yourself a meal under 10 euro.