Cured jamón, €2.50 glasses of vermouth, and an endless parade of tapas and vino. Here’s where to eat and drink in Madrid.Less
Juana La Loca is a stylish, popular restaurant with glass cases sitting on the bar filled with tapas and pintxos. Deciding on what to order feels like the tapas version of Tinder, only unlike Tinder, every single option at Juana is actually appealing—especially their famous tortilla de patata, a dripping egg and potato dish loaded with caramelized onions. It’s always packed, so definitely make a reservation, especially if you want to eat here on Sundays.
Emma is one of the few places near the tourist-heavy Plaza Mayor where you’ll find actual locals having a leisurely lunch or some quick tapas and vino with friends. Order a glass of wine from whatever’s offered on the daily chalkboard and pair it with some meatballs, stewed beef cheek, heaping plates of cured lomo and chorizo, and platters of Spanish cheeses.
Tucked away on a quiet street in Madrid’s Lavapiés neighborhood, La Fisna isn’t somewhere you’ll likely encounter many tourists. Forget the Prado Museum—reserve a spot here to admire the cozy exposed brick and the towering wall filled with wine (there’s a 37-page list of wines by the bottle). When it comes to food, La Fisna’s dishes are simple, but made with flavorful ingredients from nearby regions, like the egg omelet with Catalonian sobresada, a semi-spicy chorizo paste, and piparras.
This restaurant has been serving up bacalao frito tapas—their delicious small plates of fried codfish—since 1966. This is one of Spain’s old-school, historic bars with vintage photos on the walls, and somewhere that anyone and everyone is welcome. Pair your tapas with a cold beer, and join the locals in balling up your used waxy napkins, which are typical at bars in Spain, and toss them on the floor after you’re done eating. It’s not rude, just tradition.
Tablaos are bars and restaurants where you can see flamenco musicians and dancers, yet most of them in Madrid are more about the performance than the food. But Corral de la Morería features a show with some of the most famous flamenco dancers and musicians in Spain alongside some really excellent dishes, like wild sea bass and watermelon gazpacho. When buying tickets online, select the Cena + Espectáculo option, then order the Menú Alegrías. But the real secret? Corral’s sherry menu.
Saddle is a tasting menu spot that’s versatile enough for any special occasion. The bar area is sleek and sexy, perfect for a romantic anniversary drink, but the dining room is the highlight, with geometric light fixtures hanging over the tables from wall-to-wall skylights. The dishes, like the garlic-topped Mediterranean red prawns, Caspian pearl caviar with blinis and crème fraîche, spider crab marinated in sherry, and aged beef shank always deliver.
Start your evening with a dinner reservation at Angelita, a spot that serves up Mediterranean dishes like pisto, made with olive oil, fresh vegetables, and herbs that come from the restaurant’s very own garden just outside of the city. They have 70 wines by the glass and 600 by the bottle, and most of the food is a combination of Spanish and Mediterranean dishes, like scallops topped with bone marrow, artichoke, and chimichurri, and a really strong selection of local cheeses.
PaiPaí has one of the better wine lists in town, with options that go beyond the typical Rioja/Ribera circle to feature small and family-owned wineries from lesser-known regions—this is the spot to order a bottle from the Canary Islands, Madrid’s very own Sierra de Gredos, or even a Palomino Fino vermouth by the glass. Pair your vino with Spanish dishes that have some Asian and Peruvian flavors, like the crunchy egg set in a bed of potatoes parmentier and truffles and the slow-cooked short rib.
One of the most famous stalls at Madrid’s Mercado de la Paz is Casa Dani, a spot that serves up generous portions of croquetas, oxtail, and their famous tortilla de patata. What makes this version so great is that they fry the potatoes in sunflower oil—this helps them retain their original, sour flavor, which is then complemented by the sweetness of the onion. This tortilla can be anything you want it to be—breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, or a really epic hangover cure.
This cozy restaurant with less than 10 tables is the place to try food from Spain’s northern region of León. The size and atmosphere might remind you of squeezing into your friend’s tiny Manhattan living room for a potluck, but the patatas bravas, meats and cheese, and cheesecake are way better than anyone could make using a tiny gas stove. Le Qualite’s standout dish is their smooth, salty foie gras that comes with a sweet, caramelized sauce made from Canary Island plátanos.