The capital of Spain is also one of the country’s food capitals. While you’ll definitely find tapas bars everywhere in Madrid, if you’re looking for a specific kind of meal then you’ll have to move across town a lot (especially if you’re looking for a classic meal like Madrid’s cocido madrileño). This is honestly great, because walking through this city — with a couple of requisite stops at the many great food markets — is a treat. Locals love to gather for drinks or dinner after work during the week, and you’ll notice terraces are especially popular. Similar to the cafe scene in Paris, locals like to eat outside even if it means dining next to a smoker. Regardless of where you choose, make sure you pair your food with a beer (caña) or a glass of wine (vino). You’ll fit right in.
Vega $$ — A vegan paradise, Vega will impress even the most staunch carnivores. Seasonal produce is used to build a long list of tapas and full dinners based around jackfruit, mushrooms, tofu, and potatoes. The mushroom croquettes and the Thai vegetable curry are especially epic.
Where: Calle de la Luna, 9, 28004 Madrid, Spain
La Tintorería $ — Opened in 2004, La Tintorería is a local favorite in a touristy neighborhood. This traditional Spanish restaurant is more than just a place to come looking for tapas. The prawns and sticky rice as well as the octopus over potatoes are two good choices at this inexpensive gem.
Where: Calle de Espoz y Mina, 20, 28012 Madrid, Spain
LaLina $$ — Known for its patatas bravas, LaLina is praised by gluten-free eaters. This traditional bar is inside a neighborhood theater and has an artsy twist with a lot of velvet interior. Brush up on your Spanish and watch a play after dinner.
Where: Plaza de la Cebada, 2, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Cbada $ — This charming restaurant has a terrace that always seems to be full. If you’re lucky enough to find a spot outside, order a cold beer and a Spanish tortilla. It makes a great pair, and Cbada is generous with its servings. If you’re looking for a heartier meal, try the mushroom risotto or the Argentine filet.
Where: Calle de la Cebada, 3, 28005 Madrid, Spain
La Carmencita $$ — The second oldest tavern in Madrid is a household name. While a bit pricey, the food here is worth the price and you’ll also be able to say you had dinner in a place favored by historic poet and playwright Federico García Lorca. The deep-fried mussels and the Negronis are particularly well-known.
Where: Calle de la Libertad, 16, 28004 Madrid, Spain
La Lupita $$ — The best Mexican restaurant that Madrid has to offer. La Lupita has tacos, guacamole, and dishes that you can mix with different sauces and pair with a refreshing Michelada. The main dishes consist of a long list of tacos, quesadillas, and tostadas alongside Mexican beers and Spanish wines.
Where: Calle del Conde de Xiquena, 10, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Pez Tortilla $ — Spanish tortillas, croquettes, and beers. This exceptional hole in the wall seems to always be packed. The tortillas are fresh and very juicy, and you can order them by the slice or as a whole if you’re with a large group. Just keep in mind you’ll probably eat standing up.
Where: Calle del Pez, 36, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Ochenta Grados $$ — Fun and vibrant, Ochenta Grados offers a very tasty selection of tapas that have been cooked at low temperatures like croquettes, pizzas, tostadas, and fish dishes (the name translates to “80 Degrees”). Its dessert selection has delicious chocolate tart, leche de galletas, and other options you want to make sure you don’t skip. It’s best you get here early, as Ochenta Grados doesn’t take reservations during regular lunch and dinner times and it’s always a happening spot.
Where: Calle de Manuela Malasaña, 10, 28004 Madrid, Spain
La Nobia $$ — This quirky spot in the center of Lavapiés takes traditional food and gives it a modern twist. The duck and the cod served with ratatouille are standouts. The vintage furniture and artwork add character to the restaurant.
Where: Calle Salitre, 45, 28012 Madrid, Spain
La Esperanza Bar $$ — A modern restaurant where you can eat in the casual bar space or in the more formal seating area. La Esperanza is known for its wide selection of cheese and wine, but also for the kebab, Greek meatballs covered in yogurt, and couscous. Relatively new, it has conquered the neighborhood’s hungry heart.
Where: Calle del Olmo, 30, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Barrio de Salamanca
Mercado de La Paz $-$$$ — This food market (with a name that translates to “market of peace”) was founded in 1882. There are stalls that sell fresh ingredients as well as ones that sell prepared food. Two highlights include Casi Dani, which is a good place for tortilla de patata, and La Boulette, which has specialty cheeses.
Where: Calle de Ayala, 28B, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Amazónico $$$$ — A restaurant with an innovative take on Latin-American fusion cuisine. The decor, the plates, and the fresh ingredients will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to a very ritzy version of the Amazon jungle. There’s also a sushi bar serving takes on Japanese cuisine. Everything tastes incredible, so you really can’t go wrong with any dish. If you’re here for dinner, stay for the jazz concerts that take place until midnight.
Where: Calle Jorge Juan, 20, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Ten Con Ten $$$$ — One of the best fine dining options in Madrid. If you’re looking for a memorable meal, then make sure to make a reservation at this trendy spot. Formal though not stuffy, Ten Con Ten takes international cuisine to another level. The menu offers a lot of truffle dishes, pastas, very hearty salads, and tender cuts of meat.
Where: Calle de Ayala, 6, 28001 Madrid, Spain