Travel Blog: Madrid Tapas Trail

20130815-123902.jpgThis post is a re-blog from a tripadvisor.com article, with some additions of our own experience, There’s no author listed, so I can’t give credit to the great writing and easy to follow directions.  All I can say is if you’re heading to Madrid, check this little tapas trail out !  It was a perfect way to experience the spots the locals enjoy. At the bottom, I also added a few of our favourite places, including a paella spot and the best churros place in town.

There are hundreds of Tapas bars in Madrid and many continue the tradition of giving free Tapas.

To keep it simple  Tapas is a small plate of usually tasty food that can be purchased or in many Spanish bars given free with the purchase of an alcoholic drink. It is generally believed this tradition began in the Granada region of Spain which  spread across the country with many bars trying to entice custom by outdoing each other with better and bigger Tapas.

Don’t be put off trying these bars, it doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Spanish, remember eye contact, smile and say hello ‘HOLA’ take your place or seat at the bar order your drink and your halfway there, within a few moments you will normally be presented with a free Tapa the choice is usually determined by the bar, but some occasionally offer a choice, at which you can smile and point.

Listed are six bars below all are within easy walking distance of Puerto del Sol they have put them in a easy to follow route commencing junction Puerto del Sol and Calle Mayor. Also a further two wildcards if you get the time or are nearby them.

Naviego, Calle Mayor, 18.

Starting at the West side of Sol walk up Calle Mayor keeping on the Right side of the pavement and after 50 yards you will come to  Naviego which  is a traditional bar frequented by locals and not lots of tourists. The price of drinks here is very good and the Vino Blanco refreshing, they also sell Cider ( Sidre) which is quite potent. The bar staff were friendly and the Tapas given free were very good and varied between Chorizo and fried Potatoes, Bread with sardines, very large Olives and Prawns, all of which were very tasty.  Only garlic potatoes free some days, so not always top tapas!

Erin’s note on Naviego: The atmosphere was a bit lacking. Think lineoleum, spartan and flourescent-light-bright. But the tapas were very yummy; we really enjoyed a nice salty potato and chorizo tapa with our beer.

Mesón Gregorio III, Calle Bordadores, 5.

Continue walking west along Calle Mayor for approx 100yards and you will see a Bordadores on a the Right hand side, this street is on a slope, just follow it down for approx. 25 yards and you will see Mesón Gregorio III on the Left side of the street next to El Neru another local bar you may wish to visit. Mesón Gregorio III is another local haunt full of the little old Spanish men in their crisply ironed shirts standing at the bar or playing and enthusiastic game of cards. The customers and staff were very friendly and accommodating, the selection of Tapas ranging from small plate of cooked lamb and bread, Potato salad and Croquettes. The cost of drinks again very reasonable and the house wine which they keep in square open topped carafes is very good.

Erin’s Note on Meson Gregorio III:  Small, with a large L-shaped bar on the right side.  Filled with boisterous loud older gentlemen.  I saw one man order what looked to be pink wine from an unlabelled bottle under the bar and asked him what he was drinking.  A rose, as it turns out.  The bartender kindly offered me up the same and it was delicious.  We were served yummy breaded/fried mussels bienville/Rockefeller style.  The filling may have been  a queso manchego roux.  it was super good…. creamy & crispy.  we liked it so much we went back Wednesday, but it was closed.

Meson Gregorio.
Meson Gregorio.
Amazing mussels at Meson Gregorio
Amazing mussels at Meson Gregorio
Wines at the ready.
Wines at the ready.

La Panera, Calle del Arenal, 19.

 After leaving Mesón Gregorio continue down the street  turning left onto Calle Arenal walk approx 50 yards and on the left hand side you will see La Panera, another traditional bar in a modern street. The prices of drinks are reasonable and the staff friendly and a Tapas were produced within seconds of ordering a drink. The Tapas here were tasty and well presented ranging from Sausage and Bread selection and a salad and potatoes.

El Escarpin, Calle de las Hileras, 17.

When you leave La Panera walk back in the direction you came but on the opposite side of the Calle Arenal you will see Calle de las Hileras walk a few yards up this street which is on a slope and you will see El Escarpín on the Left, up a few steps.

This bar is very popular and you will see locals drinking the Cider from bottles which they hold up at shoulder  level and pour into their glass held at hip level in order to get air into the drink, and they don’t spill much well early on the night anyway.

The bar staff were very busy but provided a good service and the Tapas were quite large the first being a plate of cooked local sausage.

Erin’s note on Escarpin:  A very busy, and very cool cider bar.  we watched as the bartender poured out a bottle of sidre by holding it over his head.  he didn’t miss a drop!  The sidre comes flat (which the locals were all drinking, and comes by the large bottle) and sparking, which is on tap.  That’s what we had, as we weren’t sure we could finish a full bottle.  The tapas we had were one of my Spain faves; ensalada Rusia, as well as a tuna and tomato empanada.

Ensaladilla Rusia.. a Spain fave.
Ensaladilla Rusia.. a Spain fave.

Mareas Vivas, Calle de Veneras, 3.

 Once out of El Escarpín walk up the street and Calle de Veneras is to the Left then up to the Right, this is when a little map printed from the Internet comes in useful.

This bar was the busiest and had a few tourists as well as locals probably because of its proximity to Calle Gran Via. Nevertheless well priced drinks and good Tapas.

Erin’s note on Mareas Vivas: It was just ok.  It was a bit hard to find; we had to ask a nearby bar for directions.  it had only locals inside, and the small bar  was filled up, so we grabbed a seat at a small corner table.   Out tapa was seared or baked ham and potatoes in a clay dish,  plus wee sausage in blanket   Tasty, but not blow us away tasty.

Mareas Vivas.
Mareas Vivas.

20130815-124443.jpgRincón de Roque, Calle de San Martín, 3.

 Calle san Martin runs parallel to Calle de la Hillaras and only a short walk through the nearby streets. This bar was not as busy as the others but how busy sometimes depends on the time of your visit, the Spanish go out much later than most. The drinks prices were reasonable with free Tapas provided.

The bars listed above are all within a easy walk of each other and provide a nice introduction into Tapas trails.

Erin’s note on Rincon de Roque : when we arrived, it was practically closing at 11pm. We ordered beer, but no tapas were served with drinks – first time that’s happened in all of Madrid.   Minimal service or interest in us.  Our least favourite of the lot and the only bar I would not recommend or return to.

Two wildcards for those that get a taste;

Matador, Calle de la Cruz, 39.

 This should be on any list, and is the best place to end a tapas trail. This bar is only a short walk from Metro Sevilla and Puerto del Sol, small dark bar that has everything Matador inside with posters etc. truly a locals bar. The prices for drinks here were very good and the Tapas probably the most generous.

Erin’s Note on El matador :  FUN!  Great service from our punk waiter who was only one of 2 staff in the small bar. Tasty  cheese and salami tapa.  We enjoyed more than a few canas of beer here as it was one of the only places open really late.  Liked it so much we bought one of their fun T-shirts.     .  Definite late night joint with  lots of locals at 1am  on a Wednesday.20130815-123808.jpg

El Rincón Abulense, Calle del Caballero de Gracia, 18

A modern bar in a street that runs parallel to Calle Alcalá and Calle Gran Vía, lots of locals the drinks was reasonable and Tapas given were good portions.

Remember there are hundreds of bars in the centre of Madrid so be adventurous and visit some that take your fancy. Remember the best ones are frequented by locals and will usually be busy, just squeeze in smile and you will find a space at the bar.

Previous entries prior to updating with my recommendations. (Erin’s note: we did NOT try these, so I can’t vouch for them)

1. Restaurante José Luis

Calle Serrano, 89. Madrid, 28006

Tel: 915-630-958

Web: www.joseluis.es

2. Restaurante Jose Luis

Rafael Salgado, 11

Tel: 914-575-036

Original Link to the Trip Advisor article.
Some other notes from Erin on bars & restaurants I enjoyed:

La Barraca:   After exhaustive research on best paella in Madrid, I decided this was the place.  (IN truth I had decided Restaurante Amayra was the place, but they were closed for several weeks in August when we visited, so this was my second choice.) It was to be a birthday celebration for 2, so we made a reservation on e-mail and had no difficulty.
On arrival, we were seated quickly and staff was attentive. The food was delicious. I had high expectations for my paella (having lived in Spain twice previously) and this restaurant lived up to its reputation. It was hot fresh, filled with seafood and the rice was the perfect texture, and tasted wonderfully of saffron and spices. It was also nicely served by the waiter, who presented it, ladled out the portions for us and topped up our wine.
I’d say the clientelle was a half and half mix of both Spaniards and tourists; to me that says a lot. We had a yummy flan for dessert that was nicely flavoured and just the right texture and firmness; not too sweet! I highly recommend La Barraca.

 Bar Cock; If you’re looking for a cool place for a cocktail after your paella at La Barraca, head across the street to this lounge.  Friendly staff, cold beer, groovy tunes.  we were served olives and chips with our beers.  Not gourmet, but it was a nice place to chill.  Plus they had free wifi.
Torre del Oro Bar: Located in the Plaza Mayor, but don’t hold that against it! Loaded up with bullfighting photos, trophy heads and memorabilia, this place was fun.  Warning, some of the photos on the wall show very horrifyingly graphic injuries sustained in bullfights.  Not for the squeamish!  The staff were loud, boisterous and chatty and gave us a great education on bullfighting and other spanish topics. The bean salad we were served with our beers was tasty.
Chocolate con Churros at San Gines.
Chocolate con Churros at San Gines.

Chocolateria San  Gines: The internet told me this was THE PLACE for authentic chocolate con churros (Spanish hot chocolate with crispy fried donuts. We got in just before a large group. Seating is limited, so bear that in mind or get yours to go.  The churros were fresh!  We could see a man in the back making them to order.  The chocolate is thick, rich velvety and hot.. more like a melted chocolate bar than the traditional watery hot chocolate we drink in North America. You dip the churros in the chocolate and then drink what’s left.  I found it much too thick and rich to drink down… but it was a great breakfast treat.  Address: Paradizo de San Gines, 5

Most of our meals in Spain were tapas.  Wander into any bar, order up a few small plates from the glass case displays and experiment, and it’s hard to go wrong.  I think we ate just one “full meal” in Madrid; the aforementioned paella, but grazing on tapas whenever the mood struck us was fun and a delicious way to try new things.

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