Food is essential to the Madrid lifestyle, and eating out is one of the primary social events. Madrid has a vast array of restaurants and cafeterias that cater to every pallet. International cuisine has become quite popular over that last few years, as foreign eateries have flourished, due in no small part to the high figures of immigrants who have settled in Madrid and brought their cultures with them.
Aside from formal restaurants, Madrid also has an innumerable amount of bar/cervecerías (beer houses), where you can grab quick, typical Spanish fare, such as sandwiches and tapas. Keep in mind that this is not generally the best food available and price and quality vary widely.
While bars that serve food tend to stay open the entire day, the majority of restaurants close between lunch and dinner service, meaning that they’ll open from 1:00PM to 4:00PM for lunch, close and reopen from 8:00PM to 12:00AM for dinner. Most restaurants close one day per week, generally Monday or Tuesday.
Fast food fanatics will take comfort in the fact that all of their favorites are thriving in Madrid. McDonalds, KFC, and Burger King can be found in just about every neighborhood, along with a selection of Spanish fast food chains such as Pans&Company and Rodilla. One particularly popular fast food chain is VIPS, which sells a slightly higher quality of burgers, sandwiches, salads and snacks.
If you plan on dining at a proper restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night, it is strongly recommended that you reserve a table beforehand, as restaurants always fill up with Spaniards who firmly believe that it is very important to enjoy the weekend.
There is no special etiquette that you should follow whilst dining in Spain, but keep in mind that tipping is not mandatory, although it is customary to leave a euro or two if you are happy with the service.
The following is quick overview of the best areas to eat in Madrid (the restaurants cited are highly recommended by the author):
Sol is not the best place for a quality meal, even though it is one of the most tempting areas in which to dine after a hard day’s shopping, especially when you see the picturesque Plaza Mayor. But the area’s restaurant owners know that between the shoppers and the tourists they will always have business regardless of the quality or the price, therefore, the standard of food is low to mediocre at best, with a few very rare exceptions.
El Lacon (Traditional, high quality Spanish cuisine at reasonable prices)
C/ Manuel Fernández Y González 8,
T: 914 296 042
La Latina has experienced a resurgence in popularity over the last few years, and it has turned from the oldest neighborhood in Madrid to a thriving beehive of activity, especially over the weekend. The combination of typical taverns and modern restaurants results in mix of traditional and nouvelle cuisine respectively. Like any popular place, overcrowding is a problem, especially on the weekends, and the prices are moderately high.
Juana la Loca (Gourmet, nouvelle Spanish cuisine that weighs a tad bit heavy on the wallet, but is most usually worth the price)
Plaza Puerta De Moros 4
T: 913 640 525
As one of Madrid’s primary up and coming neighborhoods, Chueca is home to small, modern Spanish eateries and also a high percentage of international restaurants that serve Mexican, Italian, Asian and Peruvian cuisine. Overcrowding is also a problem in Chueca, but the restaurant pricing is on a sliding scale. Here you can choose to eat cheaply or to treat yourself.
Txueca (Traditional and Nouvelle Spanish cuisine at reasonable prices)
Plaza Vázquez De Mella 10
T: 915 221 691
For more upscale restaurants, you will need to venture to the Salamanca district. Here you will find high quality cuisine, elegant décor and a price tag to match.
El Paraguas (Excellent Spanish cuisine from the Asturias region for when you feel like treating yourself)
C/ Jorge Juan 16
T: 914 315 840
For a more in-depth guide to restaurants in Madrid, pick up the Guia del Ocio at a news kiosk (1 euro). Also, national newspapers, such as El Pais have restaurant reviews in their Sunday supplement, as well as online. The free, English language monthly In Madrid also has a large restaurant section.
Online check out: