Tag Archives: Museo del Jamon

7 Must-try Spanish Restaurants In and Around Madrid Centro

Centro Madrid, needless to say, is one of the Spanish meccas for tourists because it covers the districts and neighborhoods where found are some of the country’s most engaging sites and attractions. In the south, you’ll find Latina and Embajadores neighborhoods, while situated in the East are Recoletos and Colon. The Northern portion is bounded by Chamberi, among others, while Moncloa-Aravaca is located in the West. Within its confines are innumerable must-see attractions like museums, churches, plazas and monuments scattered around popular touristy areas such as Puerta del Sol, Gran Via, Atocha, to name a few.

Likewise, Centro Madrid is touted as a hot spot as far as iconic bars and restaurants are concerned. This is exactly what I love about this part of the city– it easily boasts of a great number of food establishments that serve all types of food imaginable. Of course, if you are a tourist, try as many of the typical Spanish fares as possible.

Below are 7 popular restaurants in and around Centro Madrid that you must dine at. Note that for every restaurant, I also recommend a top dish that you should try.

1. Museo del Jamon (Gran Via)

Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor is one of the most popular in Sol, MadridFor great Spanish eats, a top choice is Museo del Jamon of Gran Via, Calle Mayor and other various locations. It is popular for serving a great variety of Spanish food fare at affordable prices. Traditional Spanish comida are found in menu here, and available in both tapas and raciones. Quick and cheap servings of tapas can be had on the bar on the ground floor. For instance, bocadillos of lacon, chorizo, queso, and jamon sell for 1 euro apiece. On the second floor is where sit-down dinners and multi-courses are served.

I recommend its mouth-watering Callos de Madrileno

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2. Cafe Melo’s Bar (Barrio of Lavapies)

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For those looking to savor zapatillas, check out what I personally think is the best in Madrid, the ones served at Café Melo’s Bar. Located at Lavapies, along Calle Ave Maria, it serves some of the tastiest and chunkiest zapatillas in town. It’s not only a huge delicacy, both in size and taste, but also reasonable in price.  One can relish its heaping lacon-and-cheese sandwich for only 11 euros. That’s for one whole order, and a bit over 6 euros for a half. Another must-dine at Melos is its croquetas — a delightful, crunchy ball with hot gooey cheese and ham bits in its inside.

Even a half-order of Zapatilla more than satisfies

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3. Bar Santurce (Plaza General Vara El Rey, La Latina)

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You must have visited El Rastro for its variety of inexpensive knick knacks and various other items, which are sold on shops and its network of streets. But I must say that your visit to this barrio is not complete if you have not dined at Bar Santurce and tasted its grilled sardines. Located along General Vara del Rey, customers, old and first-timers, would not mind the cramped, no-frills dining area as they are simply after its main offering, which is its tasty grilled fare. The dish is eaten best with pimiento de padron, a piece of bread, and ice-cold beer.

Opt for a tapa of Pimiento de Padron

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and of course, its grilled sardines

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4. El Brillantes (Plaza Emperador Carlos V, Atocha)

El Brillante at Plaza Emperador Carlos V MadridAtocha is known for being the site of one of Spain’s premier museums, Museo Reina Sofia. Within the barrio, you can also find Atocha Metro and RENFE stations, transport systems that will bring  from you anywhere in the city and all around Spain.

If you find yourself in Atocha, a good choice to pacify your hunger is at El Brillante, an iconic Spanish restaurant that takes pride in serving what according to it are the most delicious calamares sandwiches. In fact, it is not shy to post a sign that says Brillante’s bocadillo de calamar is the best in the whole of Madrid.

Where its Bocadillo de Calamares is a must-eat

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5. Casa Labra (Calle Tetuan, Plaza del Sol)

2017_050120_2843_549Casa Labra used to be a Tavern that right from the start had been serving unique cod croquettes to residents in this part of Madrid. With its location within the area of Puerta del Sol, and in front of the El Corte Department Store, the restaurant is proud of serving its highly in-demand cod croquette.

Savor its croquetas de Bacalao

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6. Chocolateria San Gines (Calle Arenal)

Especially if you’re a sweet tooth, your tour of Madrid is never complete without dropping by San Gines. Suffice it to say that this cafe bar has some of the most popular churros in town. Although I was misheard by the lady at the counter and got me some borras instead, which were too much for me to finish. Had a hot cup of choco, which surprisingly wasn’t that sweet like I thought it .
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While others like churros, i love its porras more

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7. Mercado San Miguel (Plaza de Sn Miguel, near Plaza Mayor)

The most popular market of its kind, where hundreds of food kiosks are lumped under one roof selling various fares such as mariscos, dulces, vinos y cervesas, chicharrones, and even paellas. If you’re one big tapa lover, you must head to this market of hundred tapa bars just outside Plaza Mayor. You will be bewildered by the seemingly endless tapa choices, each of which is sure to satisfy your craving.
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Have a taste of chicharrones, among numerous other delightful tapas

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Museo del Jamón: Indulge in Some Fine Ham, Bocadillos and Much More

Perhaps  you just flew into Madrid for the first time, and so you’re an absolute newbie in the city. More often than not, you are at a lost on which Madrid restaurant to go to have your first Spanish “comida.” In which case, I would recommend Museo del jamón. I suggest you try out one of the most frequented branches along Calle Mayor, at Puerta del Sol. (There are two Museos in the area, the other one is in Carretera de Jeronimo.) Here is where I had my first dinner in Madrid, and a taste of the savory Jamón Iberico, that much-talked-about premier ham product made from an olive-fed, black Iberian pig.

Popular for the numerous ham ( Are they even edible?) that hover above the sides of the restaurant as they hang from its ceiling, the Museo is a hands-down choice of many first-time diners in Madrid. And rightly so, since the restaurant offers not just high grade jamón, but a wide variety of fresh and full-flavored meat and sea food dishes as well.

It’s clear that the restaurant is a hot spot when it comes to anything that’s cured ham. It manages to be steps ahead of its competitors, which is why it is touted as a major player of the jamon industry of Madrid. Needless to say, when one experiences his first taste of the Spanish ham, it’s likely that it is thru Museo del jamón.

At Museo in Calle Alcala, you may opt to enjoy a sit-down dinner at its comidor on the second floor, where order is served within minutes (at least in my case); or have a quick sandwich and beer (or refresco) fix at the bar. If you choose the latter, you might be required (especially during meal hours) to display some jostling moves to be able to give your order and land a bit of dining space at the bar.

Popular dishes at Museo del Jamón (ones that I’ve tasted so far):

imageThe mixed carne dish is simply meat overload.  Allow your palate to revel in the richness and mouth-watering taste of  pork and beef fillet, bacon, and sausages – cooked either grilled or friedimage Probably one of the best frituras de pescados in town. Sea foods tend to be greasy when fried, and this one at Museo is no exception. But regardless, our plate ended up clean. The taste was just spot on that we thought it’s such a waste if any was left uneaten imageChistorra resembles the chorizo, only it is smaller, more like bite-size that you can just pop into your mouth to relish. I love that it is a bit sour and spicy, and served in heaping quantity. It jives well with any bread, albeit the baguette is a fine match. Chistorra comes drenched in a thick, reddish liquid which I mistaken as oil, but was told it was apple cider

1-euro Bocadillos, copa y bebida con aperitivo at Museo del Jamón

Now for those who love bocadillos but can only spend so much, there’s no other place to enjoy them but at Museo del Jamón. The restaurant offers six varieties of these sandwiches – jamon, queso, lacon, chorizo, salami, and salchichon – for an incredibly low price of 1 euro per piece. Tasty meat choices as liberal fillings to fresh, crunchy bread – who could resist such an offer? Many other items are available for 1 euro at the bar, like a bottle of Pepsi or 7-up or a copa of cervesa (which costs less, at 90 cents). What’s more – an order of any of these drinks comes with aperitivo, the Spanish term for aparitivo or light snack. Order a refresco or cervesa at the bar and it is served along with an aperitivo in the form of small sandwiches, empanadita, chips, or a few slices of jamon.

image The plain bocadillo de queso is the quintessential sandwich for days I want to go meat-less – that sadly becomes not so if my order of refresco comes with this aperitivo
imageBocadillo de salami is perfect for those who love spicy and salty meat. If only for the rich taste, it makes me wonder why the sandwich only costs a euro. Again, my refresco was served without any appetizer
imageSalami bocadillo and la copa de cerveza is an affordable food combo that seems meant to satiate a hungry soul. My beer comes with a mini jamon sandwich
imageBocadillo de Chorizo is another favorite. In fact, I took a few bite before I realized that I have yet to take a photo for my blog. Chips, this time, was served as an aperitivo

imageBocadillo de Lacon, made from the hindlimbs of pigs, is like spiced ham and saltier compared to the traditional cured ham. Its largely meaty and tasteful qualities make it my top favorite among all six sandwiches

imageBocadillo de Salchichon. The Museo at Carretera de Jeronimo has available dining counters set against the glass windows on its sides, affording full view of the busy streets outside

image Notice the slot machine near the bar, a common fixture found inside many food establishments in the city

image Display counter of various cured ham products for take-away
image Museo del Jamon along Calle Mayor

Bocadillo de Calamares: That Spanish Sandwich Goodness I Had Come to Love

Squid is an essential ingredient of that tasty rice-seafood-chicken dish beloved in Spain known as paella. There’s no perfect paella without calamari. It’s the same case as concocting this dish without saffron – don’t ever be caught doing that in Spain or risk the scorn of true-blooded paella lovers. That’s how important squid is to paella. But, are you aware of another popular Spanish dish that uses calamari? It’s that sandwich drenched in gustatory divineness – bocadillo de calamares.
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My delicious plate of bocadillo de calamares (also called bocata de calamares) costs 2.50 euro at Museo del Jamon Restaurante, located at Calle de San Jeronimo, Puerta del Sol

Jamon owns the title of Spain’s premier food – there’s no doubt about that. But, being a big sea food lover, I’m glad that the spotlight’s also on this squid sandwich fare. In fact, calamares is among the top choices as far as bocatas are concerned.  At first, I thought it’s an odd combination, calamari and bread. But after the first bite, I fell for it instantly. Since then, my palate has been pestering me in a regular fashion, making me crave incessantly for this wonderful deliciousness of a sandwich to which I have no choice but to satisfy – to my own utter delight.
imageBocadillo de Calamares is traditionally paired with a copa of chilled local beer (Mahou), but I’ve grown used to eating it with cold cola, which for me is the perfect wash-down beverage. Here, we dined at Cerveceria Plaza Mayor Bar, where a meal of bocata de calamares and cola is worth 5 euro. We paid an extra 10 for dining on its terrace.

Fried to perfection

The squid is dipped in batter and deep-fried just right to ensure that the meat isn’t tough or rubbery. Bocadillo restaurants in Madrid always cook their squid to perfection, and rightly so, unless they want their diners to endure prolonged mastication for naught (and lose valued patronage as a result). In the end, it is a simple bread-and-fried-calamares affair; but no doubt everyone will agree it to be exquisite gastronomically.

Overflowing goodness

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My fill for the day from La Ideal bar, located at Calle Botoneras. It serves some of the tastiest squid bocatas around, giving “next-door neighbor” La Campana good competition. The restaurant seems serious about its quick-service mission; always got my takeaways in a jiffy the few times I was there – whether there were huge crowds or not.

I veer away from those fancy restaurantes that offer hours-long dining consisting of multi-course meals (well, you have no choice really but to shun them if you lack the necessary ‘efectivo’), and rather eat bocadillo de calamares at my favourite sandwich bar. But what I really love about these establishments is that despite wanting on frills and refinement, they compensate with a generous amount of calamares. Yes, this is true every time. I like how my favorite bars like La Campana and Cerveceria Plaza Mayor fill my baguette plenty with these squid rings like there’s no tomorrow.

imageBocadillos at Plaza Mayor are usually overstuffed  with calamares to the point that pieces spill onto the plastic bag (which is totally fine with me since I’d have more to munch on). Prices range from 2.50 to 3.50. The popular La Campana Bar also found at Calle de Botonelas sells them for 2.70 euro each.

It’s common for calamares restaurants in Madrid to serve it baguette-and-squid plain – and nothing else on. This way, customers can appreciate fully the taste of the squid meat. Hence, don’t go looking for condiments spread over the squid rings – like mayonesa, aioli, lemon, or the other usual. Still, they are available upon request; restaurants readily accede knowing that some customers would want tweaks on their sandwich’s taste once in a while. But for me, the bare calamares-bocata combination always works just fine – it’s more than enough to satisfy my hunger.
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You might think that a sandwich as delicious as this might be complicated to prepare. On the contrary, it’s never rocket science. Once, I’ve seen a sandwich guy fry the squid rings, stuff them onto the baguette, wrap it, and hand it to the customer faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

Suffice it to say that even if bocadillo de jamon is hands down the one sandwich to beat here in Spain, calamares holds its own, and is an equally favorite option of many. It’s a must-eat bocadillo, one that shouldn’t be missed by any first-timer in Madrid. In my case, if I were to choose between jamon and calamares, I’ll go for the latter any time of the day.

My Meanderings Thru Madrid’s Two Plazas

December 21 in Madrid, Spain. Four days to go before the most awaited day of the year. Where shall I go in this city, almost all expanse of which I am hardly familiar with?

Actually, the group has decided to spend the last few hours before Christmas Eve at Plaza Puerta del Sol’s Museo del Jamon.

Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor, Madrid
Museo del Jamon, Calle Mayor, Madrid

We were looking to imitate what the Spaniards do at the Museo – standing with one hand holding jamon bocadillo and the other a glass of wine or beer, dining with friends while having animated conversations and laughs – seriously, but all in good nature, of course.

I agree that the 24th is strictly for merry-making and bonding among buddies; with me not doing any excessive sightseeing or photo-taking that would otherwise weigh down my Yuletide-moded amigos.

Off to Plaza Puerta del Sol

With this plan already set, I decided to proceed with my other plan tonight, which is to go to Puerta del Sol

Arguably Madrid’s most exciting tourist site, the plaza I thought should be toured in solitude. I am ready to lose my way through the plaza’s main streets, and perhaps even the confusing networks of alleys and inner streets.

Crowd gathers around a small, strange-looking vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and trimmings. Callle Mayor, Madrid
Crowd gathers around a small, strange-looking vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and trimmings. Callle Mayor, Madrid

Traveling alone helps me explore to the optimum, what with nary a single human distraction that being in a group often brings about.

On the other hand, touring in a group means different minds ready to oppose your own plans and agenda and push their own. You travel with even just one companion, and your well-laid plan most likely goes all for naught.

I also needed great photos, lots of it that I can post here. And I’m doing it now as I know I won’t be able to on the 24th.

With a bunch in tow, most will be content on dining at the Museo and afterwards go to a nearby cafeteria for a round (two for some) of warm Americano or con leche.

Missing La Violeta

Another reason why I wanted to go to Sol is to see La Violeta, a popular candy shop that sells unique confectioneries.

We just received a box of its lavender sugared candies, and so I thought that it’s a sign for me to write a piece on the establishment, or at least make a mention in one of my posts (done here).

I find it to be really nice in taste. Hence, I just cannot make any sense of others commenting on it as weird. To be frank, I’m happy to have relished La Violeta, it being considered as a well-loved status symbol.

La Violeta Candies. Dubbed as Spain's Old-fashioned Candy. It tasted so nice and sweet, similar to other common confectioneries, which is why I can't understand it also being called one of the world's strangest candies. Calle Canalejas, Madrid
La Violeta Candies. Dubbed as Spain’s Romantic, Old-fashioned Candy. It tastes very nice and sweet, no different to other popular confectioneries. I strongly disagree with others labeling it as “one of the world’s strangest candies.” Calle Canalejas, Madrid

Referring to an online map, I learned that it was located beyond Calle Major, further down Carrera San Jeronimo.

However, I wasn’t one with a sane sense of direction. In other words, I went the opposite way and reached Cathedral Nuestra Senora de Almudena instead.

I will see you next time, La Violeta.

Quaint bakeshop along Calle Major selling Christmas themed cakes and pastries, its window display filled with colorful and beautifully-designed bake treats attracting many onlookers.
I might have missed La Violeta, but was lucky to have chanced upon a quaint bakeshop, also along Calle Major. Its window display is filled with beautifully-designed Christmas-themed baked treats that easily attract passers-by.

The mistake turned out to be a blessing because I found out that the church has a 6PM mass schedule.

I was already late, however, because I got there at 6:15. By this time, the offertory part was more than halfway finished. I attended the mass anyway and promised to be on time next Sunday.

Many evening masses in Madrid begin at 7PM, some as late as 8:30. San Antonio in Murillo starts at 7:30. I guess I’ll be attending at Almudena Cathedral for the next couple of months, now that evenings these days have turned extremely cold.

Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of the City of Madrid, Spain
Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of the City of Madrid

Lo and behold, the tree at Puerta del Sol

Mass finished at exactly 6:47PM, and after taking a photo of the Cathedral, I proceeded back to the Plaza to finally see the Christmas tree. I haven’t seen it lighted before so I expected to see a spectacle.

And a breathtaking spectacle I did witness!

Magnificent Christmas Tree in the midst of Plaza Puerta del Sol
Magnificent Christmas Tree in the midst of Plaza Puerta del Sol.

Radiant in bright yellow-colored lights, the gargantuan tree was a sight that’s unrivaled in all of the plaza. It was devoid of colorful lighting decors or fancy trimmings, but its imposing height and steady golden luminescence was more than enough to captivate anyone.

Street performers are usual fixtures at the plaza. This time, however, the themes of their acts are appropriate to the season, with many dressed up as Santa Claus, elves, Christmas trees, and cheery cartoon characters.

Vendors of lottery tickets, barquillos, bootleg bags, shirts, and CDs, Christmas decors, fireworks also litter the place.

Seller attends to prospective buyers while seemingly on the alert for the police. Notice his hands holding the strings attached to the clothing sheet that will help him carry away his wares in case the police shows up.
Seller attends to prospective buyers while seemingly on the alert for the police. Notice his hands holding the strings attached to the clothing sheet that will help him carry away his wares in case the police shows up.

Speaking of lottery, I don’t know exactly how the sweepstakes work here, so I refrained from buying the Navidad ticket (the draw was December 22). Besides, I can’t afford to pay 20 Euro needed to secure a single ticket.

Albeit, I am already a regular of Euromilliones lottery, the play of which I am more familiar with. It is also cheaper, costing me only 2 euro every Tuesday and Friday.

I then proceeded to Plaza Mayor, and upon entering, was easily awed by numerous Christmas lights that adorn the square. I thought that everything inside was magical and ready to enthrall everyone in time for the Yuletide season.

A major highlight of the place was the glass display showing miniature scenes that serve to narrate the Nativity, or events leading to the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Check out these beautiful scenes from PLaza Mayor. Feliz Navidad!

These multi-colored lighting shaped in boxes greet you as you enter Plaza Mayor. Madrid en Navidad!
Greeting everyone and providing entrancing luminescence are the Plaza’s multicolor-lighted hanging boxes. Madrid en Navidad!

Plaza Mayor kiosks sell Christmas goods of all shapes, sizes, and kinds - decors, dresses, food, and toys
Plaza Mayor kiosks sell Christmas goods of all shapes, sizes, and kinds – decors, dresses, food, and toys.
Everyone, especially kids, were happy with the act of this performer - using a contraption to create gargantuan soap balloon. Children can't wait to burst them to oblivion.
Everyone’s thrilled with the act of this performer – he uses a contraption to create and throw gargantuan soap balloons high up the air. Children can’t wait for these soapy formations to fall so they can burst them to oblivion.
The carousel inside Plaza Mayor makes the Yuletide celebration more festive and fun for the kids.
The carousel inside Plaza Mayor makes the Yuletide celebration more festive and fun for the kids.
Two bunches of balloons escape their sellers, fly, and get entangled with the Christmas lights. Gone to waste!
Two bunches of balloons escape their sellers, fly, and get entangled with the wires of the Christmas lights. Gone to waste!
Madrid en Navidad! In the middle of the plaza was a square-shaped display that features miniature scenes and figurines depicting scenes from the nativity.
In the midst of the plaza is a square-shaped display that features miniature forms and figurines depicting scenes from the nativity.
Oglers intently checking out the impressive miniature display at the Plaza Mayor Square.
Oglers intently watch intricate miniature structures on display at the Plaza Mayor Square.
Impressive miniature stone brick dwellings typical of the time of Christ's birth. Madrid en Navidad, Plaza Mayor
Impressive miniature stone brick dwellings typical of the time of Christ’s birth.
An angel appeared before Mary, announcing that she will be the Mother of the Lord Jesus. Madrid en Navidad, Plaza Mayor
An angel appears before Mary and announces that she will be the Mother of the Lord Jesus.
An angel descended and appeared to astonished sheperd on the cold night when Jesus was born.
An angel descends and appears before astonished shepherds on that cold, holy night when Jesus is born.
These figures, I presume, are the Magi, Three Wise Men, or Three Kings in search of the Child Jesus.
These figures, I presume, are the Magi, Three Wise Men, or Three Kings in search of the Child Jesus.

People occupied the sidewalks for some momentary lull and some quick evening snack before continuing their tour of the plaza.
People occupy the sidewalks for some momentary lull and quick evening snack before continuing their tour of the plaza.


Merry Christmas everyone, from Let’s talk Madrid!