The diverse gastronomic traditions of Spain have won the world over. With fertile soil, a Mediterranean climate and unhindered access to fresh seafood, it is no wonder why the country is known as a food-lover’s paradise. Tapas, or small plates, are popular throughout Spain. But there are some dishes that Madrid is known for.
These include: cocido Madrileño, a stew with chicken, chickpeas, cabbage, pork and potatoes; callos a la Madrileña, animal tripe (intestines), chorizo sausage, morcilla (blood) sausage and tomato sauce; roast lamb; and sopa Castellana, which is garlic soup with bits of ham or sausage.
Check out our article: 13 Things to See and Do in Madrid
With that said, Madrid is a foodie’s paradise! For every traditional restaurant, there are dozens more serving up inventive modern fusion foods made with fresh ingredients and Spain is known for. Here is my list of must visit restaurants in Madrid.
El Café de la Opera
A night of unparalleled entertainment is guaranteed when dining at El Café de la Opera (Calle Arrieta, 6). This is where you will get una cena cantada, literally meaning a “sung dinner.” I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a restaurant such as this. Upon arriving, the four singers, who double as waiters, introduce themselves to you.
Throughout the night, these talented servers belt out classic songs for diners’ enjoyment. At the end of their shift, they come together for the grand finale, leaving patrons completely in awe of their performance. The menu is comprised of international dishes, ensuring there is something for everyone. El Café de la Opera gives a new meaning to the classic dinner and a show combination. For more information, visit www.elcafedelaopera.com.
Casa Botín’s (Calle Cuchilleros, 17) claim to fame is simple: It’s the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Various international authors throughout the centuries, including Ernest Hemingway and James A. Michener, have chronicled the restaurant’s existence. Both authors frequented the restaurant in their travels throughout the Iberian Peninsula, and thanks to their literary evidence, Casa Botín has been able to prove its age to win the title of the oldest restaurant in the world. Casa Botín’s doors have been open since 1725, making it older than the United States of America!
Its cuisine is also noteworthy and carefully prepared in a traditional Spanish wood-burning oven. Cochinillo lechal, a 21-day-old pig that has been only fed on milk, is the hallmark dish of Casa Botín, and is one of the reasons why visitors keep coming back to this memorable and historic place. Casa Botín is a family-owned establishment, which means you will receive superlative table service and first-rate recommendations from your server. Some of the restaurant’s exterior stone walls are as old as the city of Madrid itself, which makes dining in the lower room an unforgettable experience and a chance to travel back in time (in a good way). Casa Botín is open for lunch from 1 to 4 p.m. and for dinner from 8 p.m. to midnight.
Owner Lucio Blázquez is a somewhat of a local celebrity. Since opening its doors in 1974, his restaurant Casa Lucio (Calle Cava Baja, 35) has been serving authentic Spanish cuisine to some of Spain’s rich and famous, as well as internationally recognized athletes like the Real Madrid team, and former U.S. Presidents such as Bill Clinton. While the restaurant has a tavern-like interior, the food and table service anything but dull. The place is run with perfect precision and with comprehensive care for all of its patrons. It has always been Lucio’s initiative to be able to offer the best quality of food to diners from all walks of life.
Lucio still supervises the staff and kitchen, which is why you can expect fantastic food when you dine at Casa Lucio. You will find businessmen, lunching ladies, and tourists dining at this renowned Madrid landmark any day of the week. Be sure to order the dish that Casa Lucio is known for, the eggs! They come prepared in a variety of ways and usually are served over hand-cut potato fries. Across the street you will find Taberna los Huevos de Lucio, another one of Lucio’s restaurants that serves his famous egg dishes, various types of tapas and an extensive selection of wine. Casa Lucio is closed during August and Saturdays for lunch. Dinner reservations are highly recommended.
Casa Mingo (Paseo de la Florida, 34) is definitely one of our favorite spots in Madrid. No other restaurant in Madrid can transport you directly to Asturias with its flavors. Casa Mingo opened its doors in 1888, and since then has been a popular place to feast on typical Asturian delights. Asturias is an autonomous community on Spain’s northern border, which includes cities such as Oviedo and Aviles, and food native to this region include chorizo (spicy sausage) and morcilla (black sausage).
Crowds in search of succulent sausage and home-cooked stews frequent this old world style tavern. Casa Mingo consists of large wooden tables and walls lined with bottle upon bottle of cider, making the ambiance informal and cozy. Sidra, the apple cider, is specially brewed and bottled by the restaurant and comes in two variations: with gas and without. Having loved each equally, I recommend you sample both types.
Another recommendation I must make is to try the various sausages. They are cooked in cider to give them their distinct Asturian flavor. Once you’re done with your meal be sure to check out La Real Ermita de San Antonio right next door, where you’ll find frescos by the famous painter, Goya.
Chocolateria San Gines
Some consider Chocolatería San Ginés (Pasadizo de San Ginés, 11) the birthplace of the ever-sugary churro. For over 100 years, this elegant pastry shop has been the place of choice for a hot chocolate and churro for sweet-toothed tourists of all ages. It has been around since 1894 and is located in the heart of Madrid. Churros can be found all over Spain, but others cannot compare to the ones served up at Chocolatería San Ginés.
The hot chocolate is always served dark and strong, and the churros are crunchy and sweet. Everyone has a different way of eating a churro. Some dunk it in the hot chocolate while others prefer to have it drizzled in chocolate syrup, but we think the best way to eat a churro is to wash it down with hot chocolate after completely devouring the deep fried piece of heaven.
El Fogón de Trifón
Feel like family when you dine at this small, but unforgettable boutique restaurant. Vegetarians beware, El Fogón de Trifón (Calle de Ayala, 144) is widely known for its decadent meat dishes, as well as its vast wine selection. One of their best dishes is the croqueta de murcilla, the blood sausage croquette. El Fogón de Trifón is not shy about incorporating game meats into the menu; deer, quail, ox, partridge and duck are just some of the house specialties.
Fresh meat and poultry are infused with the rich scents of olive oil and various spices to yield unforgettable plates of rich food.
Once you find this hidden gem, you won’t want to let it go. Goizeko Kabi’ar (Calle Comandante Zorita, 37) is known for its Basque cuisine — a gastronomic style characterized by fresh seafood and cured meats. Here, the fish is also superb. Chef Luis Martin is the one responsible for the delectable creations on the menu, and makes it a priority to add modern, as well as seasonal touches, to his cuisine in order to bring out the flavors. Some of the restaurant’s best dishes are only available in winter, such as the tuna tartar, duck foie gras with grape sauce and cod mango ravioli. Reservations recommended.
Located inside the Wellington hotel, just a few blocks from the Gate of Alcalá and the Buen Retiro Park, is Goizeko Wellington (Velazquez, 8). As one of the city’s top boutique restaurants, it serves mainly Basque cuisine. Goizeko Wellington is the result of Chef David Marcano and Jesus Santos combining their culinary talents to create an innovative menu completely influenced by Basque culture. The restaurant is bright and gives off a classic, friendly vibe. Similar to its sister restaurant, Goizeko Kabi’ar, many dishes are seasonal. The must-try dish here is the smashed potatoes. They are creamy, flavorful and oh-so-delicious. Reservations are a must. Visit www.goizekogaztelupe.com for more information.
From the moment you enter the restaurant you will fall in love with the interior. La Kitchen (Calle Prim, 5) is an old wine cellar transformed into a rustic, intimate restaurant in the trendy Chueca neighborhood. With traditional as well as contemporary elements, La Kitchen won’t fail to captivate you with its design.
And even if you’re not completely mesmerized by the interior, the top-notch service and spectacular cheeseburger (the restaurant’s most popular dish) will do the trick. I have yet to eat a burger like this outside the United States.
Named in recognition of the rainy weather in Asturias, Spain, El Paraguas, or “The Umbrella” (Calle Jorge Juan, 16) is anything but a damper. The restaurant is located in the upscale Barrio Salamanca and has been generating scrumptious Asturian cuisine since opening its doors in 2004. Food presentation is top-notch and the dishes are delicately prepared and beautifully constructed so that all their flavors come together perfectly.
El Paraguas has an impressive selection of wines to make your experience in Madrid complete — and to get you ready for your afternoon siesta. We recommend that you try their menu de degustación (tasting menu), which are several courses of absolute heaven. Be sure to make reservations because El Paraguas fills up fast during lunch and dinner. Asturian cuisine tends to be heavy, so remember to come with an empty stomach and ready to eat!
San Miguel Market
If you get a chance to visit the San Miguel Market (Plaza San Miguel, 1) you will know you have found yourself in food nirvana the moment you walk through the tall glass doors. Inside, you will find various food stations where you can dine on affordable and delectable dishes ranging from fresh raw oysters to just-fried ham and béchamel croquettes.
The San Miguel Market vendors are frying, chopping, brewing, packaging and arranging an incredible assortment of fruits, appetizers, tapas, meats, salads, desserts and coffees within this indoor market. It is an ideal place to come with large groups or with children — the vast selection of fresh foods will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. You can stand at a vendor’s counter and sip your café latte, or you can choose an assortment of fresh seafood tapas priced at €1 each. The San Miguel Market is clean, air-conditioned and efficient, making it a must-do in Madrid.
What are your picks for must visit restaurants in Madrid? Leave us your suggestions in the comments below!