A few weeks ago Joe, a new Inhispania colleague who had just arrived from the UK, shocked due to having been charged 15 euros for a calamari sandwich and a drink in a bar near the Plaza Mayor. He was wondering if that price was normal, the answer is of course not! Sometimes when you are a tourist, the locals take advantage of the opportunity to charge you a higher price for the same service. Has this ever happened to you? As you don’t know the city yet, you have lunch in restaurants near the monuments, with poor quality dishes with an excessive price. Let’s change this and find out where to eat well (and cheaper) in Madrid!
After reading this article anyone visiting Madrid will know where to try the Spanish gastronomy without paying over the odds. Find out where to try high quality Spanish food without spending a lot of money! 😉
Eating a lot for very little money in Madrid – Where do the locals usually go?
In this section you’ll find 4 authentic bars where people from Madrid often go. In any of these bars you will find plenty of people, because the tapas are abundant and cost very little money. Be careful, although the quality is not bad, in these places the quantity and the low price is what attracts so many locals and tourists, so please don't expect very elaborated dishes.
Sidrería El Tigre (Cider house)
There are two bars with this name in Madrid: one at 23 Hortaleza Street and the other at 23 Las Infantas Street. Both are very close to Chueca Square, Gran Vía Street and Puerta del Sol Square, only a 5 minute walk from either of these places, and a 5 minute walk from our Spanish school! For every drink you order, they'll bring you a large tapa. Tapas are usually plates of croquettes, chicken wings, Spanish omelette, patatas bravas, Spanish ham, lacón (shoulder of pork) or chorizo (spicy pork sausag). A drink with a tapa costs 3.50 euros and with two drinks you won't need to ask for more food because you'll be full. Of course, sometimes you have to wait (15 minutes usually) to get in or otherwise you will have to eat standing up, due to the amount of locals who go there daily.
Bar Melo's is very close to the Lavapiés Square, in the Madrid neighbourhood. You can order the famous ‘zapatilla’. That's the name of the iconic sandwiches. This sandwich consists of several slices of pork shoulder and melted cheese between slices of bread cooked with butter in a frying pan. The price of the ‘zapatilla’ is 14 euros and, although at first glance it may seem a bit expensive, it is not that expensive taking into account the size, it’s huge! When we went with the school students to this bar, we shared a zapatilla between two people. They also have croquettes, empanada, padrón peppers and other typical tapas from Asturias (in the north of Spain).
Cervecería Sierra is located in Madrid's Chamberí neighbourhood, at 41 Galileo Street. It is a bar with a seating area and a terrace, which is usually full of people. As it is next to the Complutense University, all the students go there for tapas and beers after class. You can eat and drink for only 4 or 5 euros. However, don't expect elaborate dishes. If you are an Erasmus student, this is the best place to go with friends, have a good time and have lunch or dinner for very little money. They serve sandwiches, patatas bravas, mini-burgers, calamari and cheese, among other things. Highly recomended for students looking to meet new people.
In Madrid there are several 100 Montaditos bars. These are low-cost restaurants where you can choose between 100 montaditos (small sandwiches) of different flavours, savoury and sweet. Each montadito costs from 1 to 3 euros, and the drink also costs around that price. Young people in Madrid gather in these bars to chat and drink. It's the best place if your budget is tight or if you're looking for a place to spend the whole afternoon with friends eating and drinking without paying a fortune. Every Wednesday and Sunday montaditos are even cheaper! There are restaurants of this chain all over Madrid, wherever you go, you'll certainly come across one.
Try Spanish typical dishes in Madrid
1. Calamari sándwich in Madrid
The calamari sandwich is one of the favourite dishes of locals and tourists in Madrid. It is very tasty and it’s not too expensive. The most emblematic bars in the city where you can eat this sandwich are: La Campana (6 Botoneras Street), very close to Puerta del Sol Square and Plaza Mayor Square, and El Brillante at the Atocha Square (8 Emperador Carlos V Square). The price is usually around 4 euros, although you have to add the price of the drink and an extra charge if you sit on a terrace. Please try to avoid sitting in the bars in Plaza Mayor! The price is usually excessive and the quality is the same as the sandwiches in La Campana or El Brillante.
2. Cocido madrileño
This is a 2 course meal unique of Madrid that you have to try when you visit Madrid is the cocido madrileño. It is very complete, as it includes a first course made up of soup, and a second course with vegetables and meat (chicken and pork). In Spain it is usually eaten in winter because it is a very heavy and filling meal. Some restaurants usually offer cocido on their ‘menú del día’.
The menú del día is an option available in almost all Spanish restaurants and consists of a first course (lighter), a second course (meat or fish), a drink, and a dessert or coffee of your choice for a set price (usually between 10 and 15 euros).
If you are looking for a restaurant specialised in cooking cocido madrileño, there is a famous one called Casa Carola. It has become famous because they offer all the cocido you can eat, appetizers, bread, drink, dessert and liquor for a fixed price (32 euros). Also in Madrid, the restaurants Malacatín (23 euros per person), La Bola (25 - 30 euros) and Casa Lhardy (60 euros on average) are very famous for the quality of the cocido they prepare.
To eat cod in Madrid you should go to Casa Labra. Undoubtedly one of the most traditional restaurants, it has been open since 1860 and is located next to Puerta del Sol (12 Tetuán Street). Its speciality is fried cod pieces and cod croquettes. The croquettes cost €0.90 each and every piece of cod €1.30€. It's the ideal place for a quick bite to eat on a long day of shopping in the centre of Madrid.
However, if you want to try this typical dish and not spend so much money there are other options. For example, in the restaurant Verbena Bar you can eat cocido for 15 euros during the week (Monday to Friday), including a drink and a dessert, and there is also a vegetarian option!
A good Valencian paella has 10 main ingredients: rice, chicken, rabbit, ‘bachoqueta’ (the flat green bean), ‘garrofón’ (white bean), tomato, oil, water, salt and saffron. Apart from this type of paella, there are other versions with other ingredients, such as vegetable paella, black rice paella (with squid ink) or seafood paella.
La Barraca is a well recommended restaurants in Madrid to try paella. It is in 29 de la Reina Street, in the city centre. They follow the original recipe, and offer Valencian paella, arroz del senyoret and arroz a banda. The average price is around 20 - 25 euros.
Another good option to try paella for the first time in Madrid is Socarratt. You can order the paella at home for deliver, pick it up at the restaurant or eat it there. A portion of paella costs €9 if you pick it up at the restaurant and €12 if it's for delivery. It’s very cheap! (If you order the whole paella, of course it will be much more expensive).
4. Basque Pintxos
Pintxos are a type of tapa very common in the Basque Country, in northern Spain. It consists of small amounts of food, often on a slice of untoasted bread. You pay the price of the pintxo separately to the price of the drink. Each drink and each pintxo usually costs between 1 and 2 euros. Although there are several restaurants and gourmet markets in Madrid where you can try pintxos, we recommend the restaurant Orio in the Malasaña neighbourhood. There you can find very tasty and good quality pintxos at a reasonable price (2 - 3 euros). The waiters pass by each table offering you food and you decide whether you want it or not. All the dishes should be paid individually. If you want to experience the gastronomy of the Basque Country, this is the best place in Madrid to do just that!
5. Asturian cuisine
In La Latina neighborhood there is a restaurant with delicious dishes and tapas that we had to recommend in this blog post. The name of this restaurant is Sidrería Casa Antonio, right in front of the Mercado de La Cebada. ⚠️ Warning: Asturian food is known for being abundant and very filling. The most popular dish in Asturias is the cachopo. Although there are different variations, the traditional cachopo consists of two fillets of beef, with a filling of Iberian ham and cheese, which is breaded and fried in hot oil. You can also try the cider, a typical alcoholic drink made from apples in Asturias and the padrón peppers (some are spicy and some are not, and you never know which of the two types you're going to get until you have tasted it).
6. Galician cuisine
In the Las Letras neighborhood (66 Huertas Street) there is a restaurant where you can try Galician food. It's called Maceira and it's a tavern with wooden tables and chairs in an informal style where you can eat for a small price. There you can try octopus a feira (with oil and paprika), chorizo, tetilla cheese and filloas! Filloas are a dessert similar to crepes, which can be filled with cream or ice cream - simply delicious! The prices are very reasonable: about 15 euros for octopus and a Galician broth for 2 or 3 euros.
Also, sometimes when a customer orders queimada (a very typical Galician alcoholic drink), waiters turn off the lights and do a spell to scare away the witches (the meigas). It's great fun and, if you're caught unawares, you might even get scared!
Apart from the well-known San Miguel Market, there are other gourmet markets in Madrid where you can try traditional and avant-garde food. Close to our school there are the Mercado de la Reina, the Mercado de San Ildefonso and the Mercado de San Antón. All of them are excellent options for trying some tapas.
The Mercado de la Reina is at Gran Vía street, the Mercado de San Antón is next to Plaza de Chueca and the Mercado de San Ildefonso is in Malasaña, next to the Tribunal metro station. In these markets there are different stalls where you can buy food and drinks, and some areas with tables and chairs where you can eat. You can, for example, get a tapa at one of the stalls and a drink at another and eat it all with friends who have bought their food at other stalls! This way there will be no problem in choosing the restaurant, everyone eats the type of food they fancy the most. 🥰👏
To drink - Students' recommendations
On the recommendation of our students, we have included here two bars where you can try typical Spanish drinks. We trust their judgement. 😉 Don’t you?
The first restaurant is El Matador. A student from France told us that they serve the best sangría in Madrid. Do you know what sangría is? It is an alcoholic drink originating in Spain and Portugal. It is prepared by mixing wine, soda, pieces of fruit, sugar and liquor, which is left to steep for a few hours so that the drink takes on the flavour of fresh fruit. This place is located at 39 De la Cruz Street, between Puerta del Sol and La Latina Square.
The second bar they recommended to us was the Bodega de la Ardosa, where we were told they supposedly serve the best vermouth and the best Spanish omelette. You'll have to try it to be sure!
Do you know any other restaurant or bar worth trying? We hope this list helps you to avoid being paying over the odds when you visit Madrid. Try our delicious gastronomy without going broke! We'll be waiting for you! If you ever visit Madrid don't hesitate to come to our school. Beside learning Spanish, you'll be able to discover the city with us and get to know the Spanish culture with experienced native Spanish teachers.