Category Archives: Madrid Cafes and Restaurants

Madrid’s Mercado San Ildefonso — Food Market at the Heart of Malasaña

2017_101017_1354_744Whenever I am bound for Gran Via or Puerta del Sol, I always insist on using the Calle Fuencarral route, as I enjoy walking through one of the most touristy streets of Centro Madrid. In the middle of this road by the corner of Calle Santa Barbara, with boutiques of famous clothing and shoe brands dominating its length, is the food market called the Mercado San Ildefonso.

Where numerous food stalls are found under one roof, San Idefonso is in the same league as the Mercado San Miguel of Plaza Mayor and Mercado San Anton of Chueca. Here you can find and enjoy a wide variety of foods, not only Spanish but all types of cuisine — American, Mediterranean, Latin American, and even Asian (mainly Chines and Japanese).

Hence, if you happen to drop by at Malasaña, satisfy your hunger by dining at Mercado San Ildefonso. It is the perfect place to have some quick (and often necessary) chow that will energize you for your day-long shopping at Fuencarral or surrounding areas, or chat with friends while enjoying some rounds of drinks.

2017_101007_5529_388The place boasts of three levels, although the 2nd floor is where you can find the most number of food stalls. The picture above reveals a vinos bar on the top floorreceived_1142983672470334The specialty of this stall are savory paellas and other arroz-based dishes. They are served as tapas, which I thought is rare as paella is available in restaurants as raciones (bigger servings) to ensure the quality of the dish)2017_101017_1319_552This plate of paella of sticky rice of saffron and shrimps sells for 4 euros, one of the dishes I always try whenever I visit San Ildefonso. I’m just surprised that they serve it with a slice pan2017_101017_1306_410Madrid is known to be home to delicious tapas — they’re everywhere, especially in Mercado San Ildefonso. No doubt the chorizo tapa with pan above is inviting. You will certainly have a good fill to last for a day with this tapa. 3.50 euros a platereceived_1142983732470328San Ildefonso will never run out of jamon tapas. Jamon dishes costs from 3 to 15 euros, depending on the type of jamon, and quantity of your order (tapa or racion).

What to expect at San Ildefonso:

Venue: The market has three floors, with the second floor hosting most of the food stalls

What to Eat: All varieties, paella, bocadillos, all types of jamon, seafoods, brochetas, even crepe

Wine: There are bars to be found on every floor of the mercado, perfect for those who want to while their time away with family and friends.

Horario: From Sunday to Wednesday, the establishment is open for business at around 10AM and closes past 12AM. The rest of the week, it stays open until 1AM.

How to go: Take Autobus number 149 and get off at the last stop, Tribunal Station. Proceed to the nearby Calle de Fuencarral and take the portion going towards Gran Via until you reach Santa Barbara.

Map:

Restaurante Casa González — Iconic Cheese and Wine Restaurant in Madrid

2017_081517_3140_396I enjoy passing through Plaza Santa Ana because it is such a historic place, being the site of Teatro Espanol, the oldest theater house in Madrid. Within the plaza, you can find the statue of two of Spain´s foremost writers, and locals of Las Letras, Pedro Calderon de la Barca and Federico Garcia Lorca. I love that the area seems always animated and alive throughout the day. Obviously, such is brought about by the packed bars, cafes, and restaurants situated all over the place.

And just a few blocks from the plaza, along Calle del Leon, is yet another famous restaurant called Restaurante Casa Gonzalez. While online, the buzz is that its popularity is attributed to the fact that it has been the location for a few movies, many have turned to regular diners simply because because they are mesmerized by its picturesque façade.

I in fact, was attracted to it, having encountered a photo of its interior vividly seen through its clear glass walls from the outside. This, with an added romantic element that is a couple seated on a table set near the glass wall and obviously having an intimate conversation.

A bit of history

I learned that it began to serve as early as 1931; and right from the start, it established a reputation of being a cafe restaurant patronized by men of letters, and of the arts. Indeed, I did feel that Casa Gonzalez reeks in proud history — this is what you will immediately experience as you enter the place.

Even then, the restaurant is quite simple in its setting — antiquated enough to warrant some renovations in its designs, perhaps to give off some modern feel.

2017_081517_3252_588The tables are outdated pieces that are wanting of some fresh paint, or replacement altogether. Albeit, I am amused – even impressed – with its framed posters featuring ads of lesser known products

Obviously, the setting is not Casa Gonzalez main selling point, not even a bit. I’m sure it’s proud to offer some the best Spanish comida one could taste. Food blogs would not include the restaurant on their list of finest Madrid tapa bars if this isn’t true. A first timer myself, I am already confident to recommend to any one new in Madrid that they should try the restaurant’s sumptuous food offerings.

What we ordered at Restaurante Casa Gonzalez

We visited the restaurant with the plan to have a taste of its cheeses, which I heard it is famous for. But, then as we arrived, the tostas looked so delectable on the menu board that we ended up ordering them. Anyway, we still had cheese, melted ones atop a plate of tasty racion of lacon.

2017_081517_3421_335Jamon Braseado con Queso (Lacon with melted cheese), 10 euros
2017_081517_3408_336 Pate de Aceituna (Olives Pate), 4.50 euros 2017_081517_3355_804Morcillo de Cebolla (Pate de Aceituna), 4.50 euros 2017_081517_3331_280Arzua Gallego Fundido Con Membrillo (melted Galician Cheese), 4.50 euros Lacon with cheese, 10.50 euros 2017_081517_3229_276In the front part of the restaurant is a small area where to be found are two tables. At the back is a much larger space for dinners, with some 5 to six tables. Casa Gonzales is conspicuously small, and so, it isn’t surprising to learn that the place gets easily filled up even on week nights, like the evening that we visited. 2017_081517_3203_200Only a few could actually match this resto when it comes to cheese, wine, tosta among other things. As you enter, you will be greeted by its glass display filled with cheeses of all kinds and brands. Cheese is one of the products of Casa gonzales.

Location

12 Calle del León Madrid 28014

Opening Hours:

9:30AM to 12:00PM

Nearby landmarks:

Puerta del Sol, Cibeles, Plaza Sta Ana

Reservations:

No

Price:

20 to 30 euros for two diners

Map:

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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Tapas, Tapas, and More Tapas at Mercado de San Miguel

2017_040119_5904_095In the heart of Plaza Mayor and a stone’s throw away from Puerta del Sol, is the famous Mercado de San Miguel. The edifice itself, unusual for a market since it is made of iron and glass, is a major attraction of the city.

You see the instance you enter the market and make a quick round how diverse the food offerings at San Miguel is. In fact, the mercado has long been recognized as one of Madrid’s center for great food and Spanish gastronomy.

2017_040912_3617_604Day after day, whether it is a week day or the end of the week, the establishment attracts huge throngs of tourists, both local and foreign, many raring to buy all kinds of food stuff – wet or dry. Others troop to the place to relish some delicious tapa, drink a chilled copa of beer or wine while enjoying some animated conversation in some corner with friends.

Immediately after my first visit of Mercado de San Miguel, I place it high on my radar for places to have quick paella (two other favorite joints are Museo de Jamon and that take-away resto that sells some mean “para lleva” paella for only 2,70 euros).

2017_040119_5917_682Hungry people walk through the main middle isle of the market. There must be more than a hundred of these kiosks, selling all kinds of tapa delicacies you can think of17474080_10155154154059605_1650055860_oThe wide pan in the foreground is almost empty of paella2017_040120_0019_347Seafood paella at San Miguel – this small yet filling plate got me going thru the rest of my night at Puerta del Sol2017_040305_5504_474A tapa of pescado fritos (squid) is generously portioned and placed in a paper cone, but at 14 euros, I passed up on buying one. Luckily, a friend bought an order and shared it with the group. Tastes great, especially after we sprinkled it with a bit of lemon2017_040120_0104_739Compared to the squid, chicharones sells much less at 5.50, yet the serving is generous. I decided to have it with my paella, and thought the two paired well2017_040120_0129_852This crab burger is such a fine delicacy, and best of all, it doesn’t cost much (3.50 euros apiece)2017_040120_0145_179One of the best tapas you must taste at Mercado de San Miguel – olives tapas, which you can easily pop in your mouth. At 1 euro a piece, you can have several of these delightful goodies.

More tapas to relish at Mercado de San Miguel

2017_040912_0643_748Bacalao (codfish) con tomate y verdura, 1 euro

2017_040912_0557_582Anchoas (salted anchovies) con pimientos, 1 euro

2017_040912_0613_113Brandada bacalao con caviar de lumpo, 1 euro2017_040912_0658_757Gambas y huevos con caviar lumpo, 2.50 euros2017_040912_0710_933Ensalada de pato (duck salad), 2.50 euros
2017_040120_0116_235After you’ve had your fill, you might want to wash everything down by heading to the nearest cerveceria to buy yourself a copa or two of chilled wine or ice cold beer2017_040120_0154_300A bit of advice: If you do fancy some delicious tapas and would love to try as many as possible, the best time is from 10AM to 12PM and 5 to 7 PM, or hours before lunch and dinner. These are the best hours to roam around conveniently and hop from one food kiosk to another.

Prices: Generally affordable in spite of its touristy location. Tapas cost as low as 1 to 1.50 euros.

Horarios: Open to customers starting 10 AM, closes at 12 on weekdays and as late as 2AM on weekends

Direccion:
Plaza de San Miguel Madrid 28005. Nearest landmarks are Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Palacio Real de Madrid, and Catedral de Almudena.

Map:

Capri 8 Lounge & Bar: More than Delicious Pulpo, Great Service

What a crazy hot Madrid it was last Tuesday. The time was already past 7.30PM, yet the sun was still up and high. I would have wanted to stay at home, away from the city´s feverish temperature.

But, I had to go out. Earlier that day, I was at Principe de Vergara, feeling accomplished after I had gone through a process that would hopefully help secure an endeavored goal. In high spirits over the possible bright prospects, I decided that it’s tapa time!

Well, I wasn’t having some tapa just to celebrate a foreseen positive result from a just-concluded effort, but also to stave off a relentless post-lunch hunger, and gather more content for the list-of-tapas article I’m working on.

But first, I needed to check if I had enough. I reached into my pants’ pockets and got a crumpled 5 euro bill and a good fistful of coins, some 11.50 euros upon counting. I had 16.50 euros in total. Yes, more than enough, I assured myself.

So, began my hunt for a cafe that serves pulpo a la gallega, that Spanish octopus dish I’ve wanted to try for the longest time.

From Principe de Vergara, I took the Metro line to Columbia station, then transferred to Circular Linea 6 and got off at Nuevos Ministerios. From there, I walked through the department store of El Corte Ingles at Paseo de Castellana (but not without first going to the Aseos), and then finally to Calle Orense. The vicinity around this street is a hotspot for those in search of fine cafes to hang around.

imageI decided to walk further to Calle del General Moscardo, a street parallel to Orense, and checked the cafes on both sides, one after another, scanning their menus, until I chanced upon Capri 8.  It had a number of boards displayed on its front wall, with various dishes and drinks written on them in white and red-colored chalk. One board had on it written pulpo de la gallega, priced at 6.80 euro. It was a surprise, knowing the dish is expensive, with prices ranging from 14 to 20 euros.

It was an easy decision – my next tapa is at Capri 8. Finally, I will get to taste pulpo a la gallega and have it added to my list.

I went in and was greeted by the waiter at the bar
image“We are not ready till 8PM. The chef is still out,” the man at the bar said in Spanish, and gestured at the clock that showed 7.35. So, that’s why the place was low-lit. But, I was already there and didn’t mind waiting. Anyway the 149 parada was right in front, and so it would be easy for me to catch a ride home.

“Voy a esperar aqui, puede amigo? Dame cola cola. Zero, por favor,” I replied haltingly while approaching the table pressed beside the cafe’s panoramic window. He nodded, handed a menu, and took the used quarter-filled copa on top of the table. I was relieved, not because he agreed to serve me but because he understood my babbling in Spanish.

I continued with my order, and said I’d be having pulpo a la gallega. He interrupted me and explained that what they have is a la brasa, and proceeded to show me the menu. I could have sworn I read a la gallega.

“Darn it, I can’t include this in my tapa article,” I mumbled to myself.

What I wanted is the pulpo tapa that is Galician in origin, and said be one of the best ways an octopus is prepared. Why did I read differently? My eyesight is failing me, that’s for sure – sign of an advancing age.

Feigning indifference, I said it’s okay, and will have whatever octopus dish they serve. I also ordered some chorizo – to further beef up an entirely new article, having decided that I would just write about the cafe instead.

Service was fast. I was quickly served my cola and aperetivo

imageI looked at my aperetivo and wished other cafes would be as generous. But I guess mine was a different case, since I would have to wait for more than half an hour to get my order. My cola came with chips and pincho ensaladila – and not just one, but two pinchos. They were delicious, so I had a clean plate in record time.

The waiter asked if I still wanted more chips, to which I said no and just proceeded to focus on my mobile. The password of the bar’s WIFI is written in the menu board at the bar, so I might as well make use of it. This while I checked the clock from time to time. The last I looked, it was 7.50. Still, no chef coming in.

The waiter must have sensed the massive boredom in me, and so he served yet another aperitivo

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This time, it was a Brazilian dish of mainly rice and chicken. But I had to make sure first before digging in.

Sheepishly, I asked, “Gratis?”

He replied, “Por supuesto,” and then profusely apologized for my having had to wait too long, and assured that the chef was on his way. That’s more or less what I could make of what he said.

It was not the most appealing dish visually to be honest, and normally, I am wary about eating something the ingredients of which I don’t know or couldn’t recognize. At any rate, I took some, and what do you know? It tasted great. It wasn’t salty like I thought it would be since I presumed the dark color was caused by soy sauce (Poor soy sauce. It gets the blame, even in European Spain!). It was obvious the presence of meat (chicken and pork, perhaps) infused some great flavors to an otherwise bland ingredient like rice. It was a delicious aperitivo, and a unique one at that, I must say.

Finally, the chef arrived. He went straight to the kitchen with his grocery stroller in tow. The waiter followed, presumably to give him my order. I was lucky no new diners had come in. And so as expected, within minutes my food was served, one after the other.

The chorizo 

imageThe dish had some spicy red sauce and mustard to dip it in. The chorizo itself was spicy enough, although I wished I had some German curry ketchup (of the Hela Brand, what else?) to make it a delectable dish. Nothing fancy about the taste here – it’s just like any other chorizo that I had before. (Price: 3.80)

The Pulpo a la brasa

imageI thought Pulpo’s flavor would be something different, or even tasteless, like many say. Was I surprised that it does have a taste. The texture is tender, something very similar to that of squid.

I read comments about the octopus and their kind, that they shouldn’t be overcooked. The Capri 8 chef must have cooked my pulpo the best way possible to make it come out really tender. Mine had some parts charred dark and crispy, with the rest of the skin glowing pink. What mattered was the meat inside, which was moist and succulent. Drenching it in ali oli sauce even made everything more delicious.

The tentacles were easy to cut through even with just the side of a fork prong.  Forget what they say about octopus meat being rubbery or tough. Capri 8’s is nothing like that. If I were to score, I’d give it a 5 out of 5. C’est delicieux! (Price: 6.80 euros)

Verdict

Capri 8 is one of those cozy, average-sized, unassuming bar-restaurantes in Madrid, but this bar in particular is worth your time, money, and effort to go out on a hot summer day. I really appreciate the great service; and I am sure the same is rendered to every customer that comes in. Check out their menu and you’ll see a number of interesting Brazilian dishes. Typical Spanish tapas are also available. Its pulpo a la brasa? A tapa to die for. A must-try!

Address: Calle del General Moscardo, 8, Madrid

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Let’s All Partake Some Fish: Bar Santurce and Its Grilled Sardines

Did you know that sardines is at the bottom of the food chain of the marine kingdom? It is always the hapless prey, in other words. No wonder sad and lowly is how some describe this particular fish, a kilo of which couldn’t even fetch more than a few euros at Madrid mercados like Tetuan and Maravillas.

Just nonsense. Sardines is certainly not sad and lowly, I must retort. The fact is that if you grill it right (assuming you want to do it yourself), you have a very tasty meal. This is what Bar Santurce at El Rastro has been doing all this time – serving deliciously grilled sardines to the sheer delight of its diners.

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It’s ironic that I am an avowed fish lover, but I have yet to make an effort to know any restaurant in Madrid that serves fish as tapas or platos prinicipales. There must be tons in the city but I haven’t done any serious rounds. So far, the restaurantes I tried mostly specialize in meat dishes.

So, dining at Bar Santurce last Sunday was something new.

Actually, I learned about the place by accident last year, when I visited El Rastro’s flea market and wandered off to General Vara del Rey. It’s nothing fancy, which must be why prices are inexpensive. Still, it is hugely popular due to its reputation for serving some of the tastiest grilled sardines and sea foods in the area. I thought I must have a taste of what it offers.

(Why the love for sardines? For one thing, it tastes great, maybe because of all the fats that it has, a quality of the herring species. Sardines somehow doesn’t leave any nasty aftertaste unlike others, or at least the typical fishy flavor that makes people shun fish in the first place. Another reason is its massive nutritional value. Go sardines, and you get the necessary quantity of omega 3 and oils that are good for the heart. Thirdly, pair it with baguette and this combination becomes a delectable non-rice meal anyone can enjoy.)

It was a Sunday and so as expected, the place was full. Tourists, locals, out-of-towners – all were dining, drinking, and chit-chatting. The floor was littered with paper napkins, and bottles were everywhere. Kind of chaotic, I thought, as I was half-amused, half-stupefied by the scene. The smallness of the place only magnifies it further. I proceeded to the bar. Eager to see how the fish was cooked, I took the empty space nearest the griddle.

“Una racion de sardinas,”I gave my order to the cook, who nodded as he continued to lay the fish neatly on the hot metal plate. Within minutes, the fish changed their color from glimmering whitish silver to something of a darker hue, a signal that they are ready to be served. All the cooking created white smoke, which I thought smelled strong but not offensive. What’s certain was that it only made me hungrier.

Finally, the cook put my sardines on my plate, sprinkled some sea salt, and uttered a rushed “Buen Provecho” as he handed it to me. My bocadillo de calamares came shortly afterwards.

imageSardinas, grilled and sprinkled with liberal amounts of salt (sea salt I suppose)

Darn, it was a beautiful row that almost covered the plate. Excitedly, I finished a piece in seconds, then another, and then another, stopping only to lick my fingers or use the napkin to wipe off the oil from my hands. I continued to gobble on my meal, eating it like how you eat a corn on a cob. The other pieces, I just picked the fish meat from the bones as the latter stayed on the plate.

All this while I “dealt” with my squid sandwich at the same time. I ate until everything was gone.

While was famished when I came, minutes later I was so full I felt like I was ready for a year-long hibernation.

I’m done! Hasta la proxima, Bar Santurce!

Well, this “next time” happened to be last Tuesday.

I thought last Sunday was enough, and it satisfied my craving for fish. I thought that was the end of that, and that I couldn’t eat no more. But just a few hours later, I was wishing I had some more. This prompted me to plan another visit.

So I was back two days later, only to be surprised that the bar had no diners. Somehow, I was expecting it because I came at around 3:30PM, and the place was about to close. When I asked the cook about it, he said weekdays are slack days for most restaurants in the area as few people would visit or even pass through El Rastro.

Anyway, that Tuesday was better since I had some gambas and green peppers.  Media racion of sardinas, gambas and peppers – these are some of Santurce’s great stuff. Instead of bocadillo, I settled for a trozo of baguette. All this for a little over 10 euro – it’s such a delicious, healthy meal at an affordable price. Omega and calcium from sardines and gambas, fibre and Vitamin C from green peppers – who would protest that it isn’t?

imageI asked for just a half-order of deep-fried Gambas, and discovered they are great with bread

imagePicante? No. Delicioso? Absolutamente! Coma pimientos de padron con las sardinas. The bar recommends fried green peppers with sardines to make for a more delectable meal

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Here’s a few tips I want to share if you plan to dine at Santurce:

1. If you’re happy dining with crowds, go on a Sunday when there is a constant flow of customers during most of its business hours (9am to 4PM). Otherwise, skip sure weekend riot and choose any other day of the week instead, including Saturday. The bar is closed on Mondays.

2. Fish are served on white plates – and with nothing else. And so, diners are expected to dig in with their bare hands. For those who wouldn’t dare have their “dainty, little fingers” all oiled and dirtied, cutlery is available upon request.

3. Sardines holds its own as far as taste is concerned. I don’t know about other grilled fish lovers but for me, sardines when grilled is just everything that I could ever want – and then some. Whether it is grilled plain or sprinkled with lemon – it is just pure heaven. Like they say – small in size, big in taste.

Now having said that, remember that sea foods commonly cause allergy. Never compromise health. Before you indulge or even have your first bite, be sure to know your allergies.

4. Blatant taking of pictures is frowned upon by the staff. They will not be shy to call your attention especially if you’re taking shots of other diners. Albeit, if you train your digital camera or cam phone on your own food or the menu on the wall, this is generally fine by them. Just ask for permission, and hope for a positive response.

5.Dishes are so inexpensive, and what’s more, you can order media racion, meaning half an order. The best thing to do is to dine in groups and share everything that’s on the menu.

imageBar Santurce on a Tuesday! Had it all for myself that afternoon 

Where: Plaza Gen. Vara del Rey, 28005, Madrid (at El Rastro)

Hours: 9Am to 4PM (Sundays) 12Noon to 4PM (Saturdays and Weekdays except Mondays) Its website says they’re also open Thursday to Saturday evenings, from 7.30PM to 10.30PM. 

Call them before you visit, at 646238303.

Cafe Melo’s Bar: Where the Tastiest Zapatillas are Served

Por fin! I finally dined at Café Melo’s Bar – that small, unassuming restaurant in Barrio Lavapies with zapatillas, croquetas, empanadillas, queso and green peppers as specialties. Take your pick – everything’s darn great. Did I already mention zapatilla? This particular Spanish food must be the singular reason why lines of customers form outside the café at the start of 8PM, or even way before, actually.

imageIts space is quite limited I’m guessing 20 customers, more or less, can get it packed easy. Such a downside, however, doesn’t seem to deter people a bit from trooping to the café. (I observed Madrilenos don’t mind eating in cramped spaces. They’re fine standing up and placing their tapas and copas atop a barrel so long as the food is great.) A few tables are found at the back area of the café. From observation, the bar counter itself can accommodate around 8 people.

I reached the café at 9PM, and was surprised to see no line of waiting customers in sight, considering it was a Friday. Nonetheless, the place was filled with diners. I headed towards the back, squeezing my way through the crowd, hoping against hope a table is empty – or is about to be. Everything was taken, so I went back to the bar and stood behind someone who was almost done. Within minutes, I was feasting on my zapatilla.

Croquetas – Delectable Spanish Tapa

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I ordered just a single piece, lest I might not be able to finish everything since my large zapatilla is already a lot of work. Its taste? Mea culpa for not having more – because it’s so divine. Croquetas, like one of those commonly served Spanish tapas and apetizers in some restaurants, can be dry and with hardly any filling. In the case of Melo’s, it’s a ball of crispy, tasty shell that when cut in half reveals an uber-delicious gooey filling that flows, like a lava of ham bits and melted cheese richness. At 1.60 euro a piece (unidad), I look forward to a good plateful of this on my next visit.

Tasty Zapatillas

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The Zapatilla sandwich at Café Melo’s is big, just shy of being humongous. It’s the biggest Spanish sandwich I’ve eaten so far, and it’s not even the whole thing. Since I went there alone and had no one to share food with, I just ordered the “media” or half a sandwich. Beside, even if I wanted to challenge myself, I am not really up to it, knowing well my eating capacity.

I’m a bit concerned too about introducing heaps of meat, however delicious, into my system. I’m Asian – 100% – and not Spanish. I always wonder (and feel envious, actually) how a local is able to consume jamon and all sorts of meat day after day after day – and they’re totally fine. Genetic makeup – I suppose.

The opinion of this blog about Cafe Melo’s zapatilla?

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I like that lacon tastes kind of sweet, and its saltiness is just right. Everything is cooked a la plancha (grilled). Cheese forms long threads as you cut and raise a piece of your sandwich from the plate.  How a zapatilla is prepared can be observed from the bar. Layers of lacon and cheese are grilled and served in hot bread. I believe the cheese is there to keep everything together, considering the thickness of the lacon filling. The bread’s  shape mimics a footwear, hence the name.

At 6.50 euro a half sandwich and 11 for one whole zapatilla, the prices are reasonable, seeing last night how a group of four managed to share a media zapatilla and just complemented it with lots of croquetas.

Overall, it provides gustatory pleasure so effortlessly that I’m sure many would love to claim it as their comfort food. I myself would.

My verdict about Cafe Melo’s Bar:

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Incredibly delectable food and fast service (I appreciate that the owner helps around). If only for its zapatillas and croquetas, other yummy Spanish tapas, and just about everything else, Cafe Melo’s Bar is one place worth visiting over and over again

Location: Calle Ave Maria 44, Lavapies, Madrid
Hours: Open everyday, except Sunday and Monday, from 8PM to 1AM:
Metro: Lavapies (nearest), Embajadores, Tirso de Molina

 

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

Sanissimo: That Healthy Fast Food in Madrid

You can call Spain the Land of Meat Lovers (think jamón) and you’re right about that. But definitely, it is not without its share of food joints that cater to vegetarians and vegans. From what I see around and online, the current trend veers towards healthy living.  This is apparent in the good number of restaurants and fast food establishments that offer veggie dishes to meet the needs of the health-conscious Madrileños.

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Craving for Burger

I am a burger guy. Serve me quick a warm burger anytime, and I would devour it just as easily. And it would not hurt a bit if it is created and cooked in a healthy way. In fact, I love it more if it was vegan. It is why I was beyond happy to have chanced upon Sanissimo, at Calle de San Vicente Ferrer in Tribunal.

Scanning Sanissimo’s menu board by its entrance, I see that it boasts of great options: veggie burgers, bagel, and wrap, and healthy juices and smoothies. If offers heavenly desserts to indulge in such as cookies and cakes – perfect to cap the meal and keep any customer satiated for the rest of the day.

imageSanissimo’s glass counter display with its many vegan and vegetarian goodies

Who say veggie foods are bland and boring? Not if it is done right – and Sanissimo makes sure of it. According to the restaurant’s website, “Saníssimo is a young, dynamic company committed to offering safe and healthy food with dedication…” I can say that not only do they serve “safe and healthy food” but they churn out ones with delectable flavors as well.

I went for Terra Nostra, Sanissimo’s burger with patties made of lentils, a grain legume that’s basically carbohydrates, starch to be specific. The good thing about lentil is that it’s healthy. Apart from being protein-rich, it full of dietary fibers. Hence, it takes more time to digest (a boon to those with blood sugar levels that shoots up whenever simple carbo is consumed). Just perfect for me!

image My food so divine in the form of Terra Nostra, one of Sanissimo’s four veggie burger offerings. This one’s made of lentil patties. I like that it’s filled with tomatoes, a heap of spinach, and the most delectable veggie dressing. A good portion of steamed broccoli as side dish makes it more healthful. With a refreshing Bavaria lemon drink that washed everything down, it’s such a complete healthful dish option at only 8.95 euro. Such a steal, right?

I chose Terra Nostra mainly because I crave for garbanzo-based food big time.  Why wouldn’t I, after all those years of eating felafel and humous in Tel Aviv? After a good bite on my burger, I swore I wished I had a bigger sandwich to consume. Of course, it didn’t taste like beef, but heck, it was just as juicy and tasty as the real thing. Overall, it was a yummy treat.

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I was served enthusiastically by its courteous “senora de sanissimo.” She tried to speak in English upon seeing how I struggled with my Spanish, groping hopelessly for the right words as I ordered. I got express permission from her to use this photo, by the way.

And so, I queried if indeed, the patty was made of lentils. I must have scared her off because she was quite frantic when she asked if I had any problem at all with lentils or chickpeas. I assured her that there’s nothing to worry about, and that I was just gathering facts for my blog. Its website advises customers to disclose any allergy or adverse reaction to a particular ingredient. Such information will help the staff in making proper adjustments and recommendations regarding orders.

Apart from Terra Nostra, Sanissimo has three other burger offerings: Red Dragon and Green Peace, both patties of which are made of Chickpeas or Garbanzos, and the soy-based Gossip Girl burger. There are many other delicious and healthy meal items to choose from, like bagels, wraps, salads, cakes, and pies. You may order online via its website.

Location / Dining Area

Sanissimo is cozy and makes you feel quickly at ease. The place’s not overly decorated, no serious frills, and just a few frames here and there that feature signs and sayings (about life and health). Accentuating the tables are cute lamps, which i don’t know if they’re functional or not. I wish they could add a few tables more (currently, there are three) to accommodate the anticipated influx of customers during peak hours, albeit doing so might be quite impossible since the area is small.

Simply put, vegetarian is the way to go. I’ve done this in Manila for a time, and happy that I was at my lightest and healthiest then. But this time, it’s one herculean goal. As it is, I am now “living the dream in Madrid”, which meant having acquired the taste for these fine meats, and my current food pleasures – jamon, calamares, and albondigas. Even so, for the sake of my health, I’ll make sure to go vegan once in a while, and drop by at Sanissimo and enjoy the healthy benefits that its food offers.

Location:
Calle San Vicente Ferrer, 28, Tribunal, Madrid
How to go: Near Tribunal Station and Autobus Station of 149, 40

Giangrossi Helado Artesanal – Madrid’s Premier Gelato (and Coffee)

Salamanca is like any other distrito in Madrid – reeling in the biting coldness of winter that officially started third week of December. But this doesn’t stop gelato-loving Madrilenos from trooping to Giangrossi Helado Artesanal, Madrid’s premier ice cream shop, located along the district’s Calle de Velasquez.

Beautifully decorated Velasquez Street during Christmas Season, Salamanca, Madrid
It’s Christmas in Calle de Velasquez, Salamanca District, Madrid

Why wouldn’t they? Giangrossi’s ice cream is such a yummy delight. It is considered as one of Madrid’s best ice cream brands. Madridenos’ dedicated patronage of its gelato fare has helped Giangrossi establish a respected name and attain success in its industry.

Actually, there’s more to Giangrossi than just gelato. While ice cream easily takes the spotlight (with classics like Turron and Helado de Vainilla as two of the best-sellers), its coffee gets a good share of attention as well.

Colorful balls and cone-shaped decors hang by the window of Giangrossi, aptly decorated for the Christmas see wason
Silvery Yuletide balls and cone-shaped decors hang by the window of Giangrossi

And knowing how delicious coffee is at Giangrossi, we decided to take a break when we passed by it. (Actually, we chanced upon Giangrossi by accident, unaware that it is located along Velazquez, which we visited along with Calle de Goya for their high-end shops, like Zara, Benetton, and H&M.)

But I didn’t order ice cream, despite the inviting presentation at the counter display.

Since that evening’s temperature was 7 degrees Celsius, I had to pass up on the frozen treat. (Even if you buy me one, no gelato por favor – thank you very much!)

Understandably, everyone else settled for coffee instead.

View of the dining floor from  Giangross's mezzanine area
View of the dining floor from Giangrossi’s mezzanine

The group had either café con leche or Americano, both of which are affordable at 1,50 euros a cup. Checking the menu, I see that everything is reasonably priced, considering that the shop has an upscale location.

My friend found the Americano quite strong, so he went to the counter and requested for more water to be added. Just right is how he described his coffee afterwards.

Mine was really good, almost perfect in taste. Giangrossi’s con leche is hot enough (might be that the milk was amply heated) to warm myself up after hours of stay outside the freezing cold streets.

Care for Con leche and Americano? Giangrossi, Velazquez, Madrid
Care for Americano and con leche? Deliciously-hot coffee at Giangrossi

There were a number of appealing cakes and pastries on the menu, but we opted not to, having decided that coffee is enough to cap the evening. Next time, for sure.

Plan it now. Cool down your summer days with naturally-made gelato, and for the rest of the chilly winter season, enjoy some piping hot, flavorful coffee – all at Giangrossi.

Getting there: 41 Calle de Velazquez, Madrid

From Colombia, Principe de vergara, take autobus 29 and get off at Calle de Goya. Walk up to the third block where Goya traverses Velasquez.

Via Madrid Metro, nearest stations are Velazquez and Goya. If you’re coming from Plaza Puerta del Sol, take the Vodafone Sol at Line 2 and get off at Goya. Transfer to line 4 and alight at Velazquez.