1. The "cocido madrileño" (Madrid's stew)
Madrid's stew is a famous winter dish that has three different parts: a thick soup, chickpeas and meat. This savory and rich dish is easy to find at several restaurants across Madrid and it has a long history and is dear to many locals' hearts (and stomachs). The reason for that is its background. This stew used to be called "olla podrida" (rotten pot), because it was the way to utilize all the leftovers and even the driest of meat cuts. Madrid's stew is served in three scoops: first, the soup and pasta, then the chickpeas and vegetables, and finally, the meat. It's just too good to be passed on a cold winter day; make sure you don't miss it!
2. Madrid Tripes ("Callos a la madrileña")
If you think you can't stomach tripes, it's because you probably haven't tried it cooked the Madrid style. It is indeed an exotic dish. The main ingredient here is tripes - very well cleaned and boiled, and then cooked a bit like a stew, with a thick tomato sauce, potatoes, spices, chickpeas, ham, Spanish sausage, garlic, lots of onion and parsley. This is also a dish with a long history and is said to have been eaten in Madrid since the sixteenth century.
3. Madrid style squid ("Bocadillos de calamares")
For seafood fans this dish is a definite must, when in Madrid. Squids have quite a special texture, and maybe it's another exotic dish, but truth to be told, these appetizers are so tasty that it's hard to feel the squid within. Rolled in batter and deep fried, then topped with a light mayonnaise (better if homemade) and served in a sandwich. For them to be really good, it's important that the bread is really tasty and fresh, and that the squids are well dried and cooked.
4. Madrid Style Fried eggs
It's not a joke: Madrid style fried eggs are something to be tried. They're not just regular eggs, but come with a large portion of French fries and a huge ensemble of Spanish sausages and cold meats (chorizo, chistorra, Spanish ham). It's a summer dish, and as such, it is delightful to be enjoyed outside. Madrid's "terrazas" are much better enjoyed along with "huevos estrellados". A definite must try in Madrid. A funny thing about these eggs is that they’re usually called “broken eggs” (“huevos rotos”). Last minute Spanish touch: a dash of paprika on top.
In Spanish, "gallina" means chicken. Funnily enough, there is no chicken in this dish whatsoever. Its main ingredient is lamb tripes. For this traditional dish to taste right and not be a fatty appetizer, the tripes have to be properly cleaned and cooked. Traditionally, it was the food of the poor, made up of butchery's leftovers. Nowadays, it's not easy to find it, because of the intricate way of cooking involved and the exotic taste it has, when prepared. Deep fried lamb tripes served with French fries and sauce. Different and refreshing enough, and an authentic piece of Madrid’s fare.
6. Veal rosca
Rosca is the Spanish for "donut". But in this case, we're not talking a delicious sweet, but a tasty meat meal. The donut form is the only thing that relates "rosca madrileña" to a donut. The main ingredients here are veal and pork, ground or chopped, mixed with ham, flour and eggs, baked and then topped with a thick mushroom sauce. It's not at all an easy dish to prepare, so its appearance on Madrid's gastronomy list is quite fresh. Gladly, it's quite easy to find these days the delicious, crusty rosca madrileña served as an appetizer.
No Madrid food list is complete without tapas. The word itself represents the whole concept of Spanish appetizers: small, easy to eat, salty dishes usually enjoyed with a dash of good Spanish red wine. A true classic of Madrid's tapas is the "tortilla española" - an omelet filled with fried potatoes, onions, and usually, chorizo. Cut into small bits and served on toothpicks with olives, this is just what a hungry stomach really needs on a chilly afternoon. Other typical tapas include beef ears (grilled), shrimps and spicy fried potatoes. The variations are almost endless, and each one complements each other with taste and richness.
This is yet another local appetizer: a typical meal at a bar that goes well with Spanish wine. Snails are cooked in a clay pot, and the special part of the recipe is not the snails themselves, but the sauce. Just like many other foods on this list, it includes a lot of sausages and ham – Serrano, chorizo, etc. – which is quite typical of the Spanish cuisine. Pork stock, tomatoes and lots of onions top this thick sauce which makes the Madrid snails completely different from their French counterparts. This meal speaks Spanish with a distinct Madrid accent. Just perfect!
When you're about to go to Spain, many will recommend you eat churros and hot chocolate, and it’s not a bad idea. Churros are crusty but tender sweets. Deep fried and covered with cinnamon and sugar, they’re perfect when dipped into hot chocolate. And the Spanish chocolate has a very strong flavor, not at all like French or Swiss chocolate. This mix: almost bitter and thick chocolate with crusty ultra-sweet pastry, makes churros a perfect way to get started into Spanish food.
French toasts have a very special Spanish version. Sweeter but all the same crusty and delicious. The idea behind this popular recipe is the same that underlies French toasts: using old bread leftovers that are otherwise not edible. Soaking bread slices into warm milk filled with sugar and spices, e.g. cinnamon. Then add some batted eggs and deep fry the slices, topping them with more brown sugar. Coupled with hot chocolate, this is an endearing meal, perfect on a cold winter day.
11. Where to eat in Madrid?
Madrid abounds in lively neighborhoods, but to find the highest concentration of great restaurants (both chic and affordable ones) it is best to stick around the downtown area. There are tonnes of renowned restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars. Wandering around central Madrid, you will easily get a chance to taste each of the aforementioned foods.
Where to find it:
- Las Letras or Cortés: filled with museums and cultural highlights, there are some great restaurants to be found in this area, too. Open air spaces at Plaza Santa Ana restaurants are a big plus. A highly recommended one (by locals, mostly) is Restaurante Viña P .
- La Latina. This is a busy neighborhood, classy yet hip in terms of atmosphere. And for the gastronomy lovers (those willing to try huevos rotos and other tapas), it is a perfect place. A specific tip? The “Taberna Almería”.
- La Gran Vía. The main avenue of Madrid, packed with shops, office buildings, and, of course, classy bars and restaurants.
- La Plaza Mayor. The main square of Madrid. Large and elegant historic venue, a place to start and probably end your trip to Madrid. Evidently, there are many restaurants, bars and cafes serving a wealth of typically Spanish food.
Offline reading and travel directions:
You can carry this article in your mobile device to read offline and create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured herein with the GPSmyCity App (available on iTunes App Store
or Google Play Store
12. And where to stay?
Our main recommendation for getting the best of Madrid’s food is to stay near the downtown. Central Madrid is very well connected transport-wise: there are straight bus lines linking it to the airport, with the main bus and train stations operating day and night. It also lies at the heart of Madrid’s highly efficient subway network, plus there are several bike rentals offering regular and electrical bikes.
Although functional public transport of Madrid makes it possible to stay far from the city center yet still get access to its nightlife and gastronomical delights, staying within the downtown area makes it overall easier and much more comfortable. There are many hotels, hostels and tourist apartments in central Madrid!
that will simplify the task of choosing suitable accommodation.
Author Name: Carla Martínez
Passionate traveler and content creator in the immensity of the web. Mexican living in Europe and discovering its wonders. Follow her on Twitter