72 Calle Gran Vía
The Museum of Ham, Museo del Jamon has a hold on the heart of Madrid. The excellent prices, large spaces, and convenient hours of operation mean that the Museo is nearly always packed after working hours. Feel like a local, and push your way to the bar to order a caña (small beer) and tapa. While the chain’s food is nothing out of the ordinary, it’s the feeling of being one with the locals that makes a visit to the museum fun. Image courtesy of Museo del Jamon.
2 Calle Mayor
What could be more enchanting than sitting over the Puerta de Sol in the heart of Madrid? Why, enjoying the view with a pastry and cafe con leche in hand, of course. Let Mallorquina’s hustle and bustle of the downstairs leave you feeling like a local, sipping caffeine at the bar, but for a quiet moment of indulgence take the spiral staircase up to the dining room and enjoy the view and white linens for only a few cents more. Rumor is, they serve the best napolitana chocolate in Madrid, but you’ll have to try it for yourself to be sure.
Calle de Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Eat dinner like a conquistador at Restaurante Sobrino de Botin. The combination of its central location off Plaza Mayor and its claim to be the “Oldest Restaurant in the World” makes it charming and fun for family and friends. Make sure to put in a reservation in advance and order a traditional dish. I particularly enjoyed the incredibly thin jamon because it was light and not oversalted.
NH Eurobuilding, Calle de Padre Damián, 23, 28036 Madrid, Spain
Madrid born and bred, DiverXO’s owner David Muñoz, has taken the food scene by storm. His schooling in Asian cuisine melds with his Spanish roots and has given birth to fusion food from the artist’s soul. It’s not uncommon to see smoked sardines lay next to young coconut on the same platter, bringing two culinary worlds together. Each dining experience starts with a letter of intention, a poem of sorts, from Muñoz stating his intention behind preparation of your meal -- and then you eat the menu itself as a fanciful starter! It’s best to get a reservation ASAP, with three Michelin stars, DiverXO is almost always booked!
4 Calle de Álvarez de Baena
One of the most traditional restaurants in Madrid with lovely, attentive waitstaff, and ambiance that is reminiscent of old Madrid. Heavy curtains pulled to the side reveal massive oil paintings next to ornate gold carved light posts which stud the walls. The menu fluctuates with the season and local offerings, but some standards always remain: their most popular being cochinillo (roast suckling pig) and the lamb. When I last visited, I had the broken eggs as an appetizer and they were the best of my life. But, what stole the show was the sommelier who navigated us through the wine list (over 1000 labels) from Verdejo to Vermouth and back again. Dress your best, it’s not unusual to mingle with the highest of Madrid’s society here! Image courtesy of Zalacain.
Calle del León, 12, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Cheese connoisseurs, welcome to heaven. Casa Gonzalez has been serving up the widest selection of queso (cheese) with an authentic flair for years. The wine list does not disappoint and somehow the service is always smiling, even when the bar is packed. If you’re not a cheese lover, fret not, there is an assortment of Iberico meats on offer, tapas, and even their olive oil toast is delicious. Expect it to be busy on weekends, as the central location makes it a prime hangout for many Madrileños.
Calle de Serrano, 6, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Even now I’m craving their guilt-free collection of tapas-style breakfast miniatures. You can expect to find little croissants stuffed with jamon, light pastries topped with berries, and fresh squeezed orange juice. It’s simple, inexpensive, and quick—nothing fancy but perfect for a snack. I should note it’s a chain but it’s where the locals go, so don’t write it off and pop in when you see one. Tip: Grab a little tile to your right when you walk in, order at the counter and they’ll write on it. If you’re like me, you’ll go back for more so bring it up with you for round two. Then pay when you’ve finished.
Calle Ferraz, 2, 28008 Madrid, Spain
The only bad thing about Club Allard is that you could walk right by it without noticing. This clandestine restaurant is not one of the flashiest from the outside, but prepare to be blown away before the end of the night. Everything about the restaurant is wrapped up in the details, and they are surprises best left for you to experience yourself. Trust me, if you’re only going to splash out for one place in Madrid, make it El Club Allard. Not to be too cryptic, but you also must visit the restroom before leaving... Lastly, enjoy! Image courtesy of Club Allard.
15 Calle de Alcalá
I just love going to The Casino, every time I walk through the doors, I can’t help but feel that I am a character in Alice in Wonderland’s tea party, except I’m not. I am in a private rooftop club in downtown Madrid, and that’s even more outstanding. The Club began in 1836 with a group of romantic, liberal friends seeking to create their own haven. Now they open the doors to the public to enjoy an exceptional dining venue and ambiance. The tasting menu is 15 courses and will take you on a gastronomical journey that you will never forget. The wine menu is more of a book, and the service is so on point it makes you wonder if they are reading your mind. At this “Casino”, everyone hits the jackpot! Photo by PromoMadrid/Flickr.
Calle del Conde de Miranda, 1, 28005 Madrid, Spain
If you’re in Madrid and in the mood for tapas, you might not know exactly where to go or what to taste. The Mercado San Miguel (metro Sol) takes away all that decision-making by providing you with a taste experience all under one roof. The old, derelict market was renovated just a few years ago and turned into an upmarket culinary emporium of sorts. It has more than 30 food stalls, each selling something different. My favorite is the bellota ham sold at Carrasco, but there is plenty more. You can sample sherries and Rioja wines at the wine bar, or do as Spaniards do and pick away at tapas as you make your way through the market. I highly recommend the croquettes, or croquetas, in one of the outside alleys: they have ham, chicken, shrimp, cheese and a variety of others. The more standard tapas area easy to find, like tortilla, and seafood is beautifully laid out for you to pick and choose. Right in the middle is my top-rated tapa place. I couldn’t find a name for it but it’s the largest counter, shaped like a U, and has everything from potatoes aioli to steamed razor clams, with everything in-between.