Centro Madrid is easily a mecca for tourists because here you’ll find the barrios where found are some of the country’s most fascinating sites and attractions. In the south of the city lie the boisterous yet eclectic Latina and Embajadores neighborhoods, while in the East are found busy Recoletos and Colon. The Northern portion is bounded by the opulent barrio Chamberi, among others, while Moncloa-Aravaca is located in the West. Within the confines of each and every one of these barrios are innumerable must-see attractions like museums, churches, plazas and monuments scattered around popular touristy areas such as Puerta del Sol, Gran Via, Atocha, just to name to name a few.
Suffice it to say that Centro Madrid is also a hot spot as far as iconic bars and restaurants are concerned. This is what I love about this part of the city; it offers a great number of food establishments that serve all types of food imaginable. Of course, if you are a tourist, it is a must that you 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
For 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.
2. Cafe Melo’s Bar
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.
3. Bar Santurce
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.
Go for Pimiento de Padron
and its grilled sardines
4. El Brillantes
Atocha 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
5. Casa Labra
Casa 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, along Calle Tetuan, just 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
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 .
While others like churros, i love its porras more
7. Mercado San Miguel (Plaza de San 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.