Spanish Tapas Restaurant Guide Madrid
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Tourist Free Zone! The Top Places to enjoy real Spanish tapas
In the Spanish language, a “tapa” means literally a cover or a lid, something you put on top of things to cover them. But in Spain eating “tapas” or going out to “tapear” (the act of eating Spanish tapas) is more than eating food; it is a gastronomical tradition, a type of cuisine and even a way to socialize, meet new people and have fun with your friends or family.
There is no clear origin of the tapa or the act of eating Spanish tapas. There are two theories that seem equally plausible: the first one is that in the Roman Iberian Peninsula, in the bars and restaurants they used to cover the jars of wine with pieces of bread to guard them against insects, dust, and dirt. It became customary to drink the wine and eat the “tapa” (cover) at the same time. There is also the theory that in the middle ages the king was fighting alcoholism, so he commanded the bars to provide a small amount of food (bread, cheese, ham) with every glass of wine, so it didn´t get into people´s head so fast.
The Tapas Rules
If you don´t want to look like a tourist when having your tapas, here are some non-written rules you must follow, such as:
Tapas Rule 1
In Madrid (and some other places in Spain) it´s mandatory to serve a tapa every time you ask for a drink, especially a beer. It can be some olives, chips, prawns, cheese, bread, it doesn´t matter. If you didn’t get a tapa with your drink, ask the bartender.
Tapas Rule 2
When you are in a group, all the rations and tapas are for sharing. It´s more than common courtesy, it´s the way the tapas and rations are consumed, unless it´s an individual portion, like a croqueta or a ‘’pincho’’ (food on a piece of bread). But if you are having tapas and they serve you a plate full of food, everybody is allowed to grab a bite.
Tapas Rule 3
You don´t ask everything at the same time. The best way to eat tapas is at a slow pace, ordering them in quantities of two or three at a time, eating them, and then asking for more. Remember: It´s not really a dinner, it´s more like eating some snacks while drinking.
Tapas Rule 4
There are places in Spain, like the Basque Country, where it´s customary to only have a drink and one or two tapas in each place and the move to another one. This way of eating tapas is more a “Pintxo” thing (the Basque kind of tapas) and it´s not mandatory, but don´t be surprised if you end up visiting 3-4 tapa places in one night.
Tapas Rule 5
Since it´s not really a dinner, you can start eating tapas and stop whenever you want. Usually, the sign that the “tapeo” is over is when people stop to order a beer and start with the “cubatas” (cocktails).
So, now that you know how to “tapear”, here are some of the best places in Madrid to ask for these delicious treats. Enjoy!
The top places in Madrid to enjoy real tapas
Where is it? Calle de Celanova, 19, 28029 Madrid
Casa Pepe is a popular Spanish tapas restaurant famous in Madrid for its chicken wings. It´s also known for its nickname, “Filthy Pepe”, not because of the quality of its food, but because it is customary to dump the bones in the floor after you finished with your wings. When you enter in Casa Pepe you must navigate through a sea of chicken bones in the floor that only get cleared every couple of hours. But it is worthwhile since those chicken wings are delicious. Seriously.
Where is it? Calle Churruca, 6, 28004 Madrid
This restaurant is very near to the Tribunal Metro Station and has the most delicious croquetas in Madrid. It´s known for its big portions, the enormous tapas they serve with your drink, like “huevos estrellados” (Fried eggs with French fries and Spanish ham), cheese, tuna pies, and fried red pepper. Don´t forget to order the “croquet de Cabrales” in La Petisqueira, a croqueta made with a very typical, smelly and strong cheese that melts in your mouth.
El Balcón de Malasaña
Where is it? Plaza del Rastrillo, 1, 28004 Madrid
A classic tavern in the center of Madrid that is a must-visit for all the tapas fans. Not only for its classical tapas like the codfish croquetas or the more creative ones, like the Rissoto rations. You cannot leave El Balcón de Malasaña without tasting the “Papas Arrugás con Mojo”, a ration of fried potatoes with a Canary islands typical sauce called Mojo Picón, spicey and delicious.
Where is it? Calle de la Cebada, 3, 28005 Madrid
Cbada is the perfect combination of food and entertainment. In this Spanish tapas restaurant, you can enjoy wonderful tapas like the chicken wings, the nachos with guacamole and especially, the Idiazabal cheese blocks, a characteristic cheese from the Basque Country that has an amazing taste. The place has art exhibition during the year, so you can enjoy its tapas and art at the same time.
Bodega de la Ardosa
Where is it? Calle de Colón, 13, 28004 Madrid
In some English-speaking countries, bodegas are convenience stores where you can buy all kinds of stuff. But in Spanish, bodega also means wine storage where you can drink a lot of different wines and beers. In La Bodega de Ardosa you can order typical craft beer, a great variety of tapas and rations of all kind and the vermouth, a sweet spiced wine, that is customary to be consumed on the weekend midday.
El Tigre Sidra Bar
Where is it? Calle de las Infantas, 30, 28004 Madrid
For Spanish people, the quality of the tapas is as important as its quantity. The bars and taverns that become successful thanks to the Word to mouth are usually the places that serve big quantities of food with the drink. In Spain it´s known as “ordering a couple of drinks and dining”, meaning that the amount of free food they served with your drink was enough for you to dine. Those are the places you tell your friends and come back. El Tigre is one of the Spanish tapas restaurants you shouldn’t miss.
Which are your favorite tapas places? Leave a comment and tell us!