The way to my heart is most definitely through my stomach, and Madrid has won me over tapa after tapa. Tapas are generally small portions of food served in most typical bars and restaurants in Madrid and provide one of the easiest and most authentic ways to try out the capital’s traditional cuisine.
Some of the most common tapas in Madrid are tortilla de patata (potato omelette), patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce), huevos rotos (fried eggs with potatoes, try it with ham!), bacalao rebozado (breaded and fried cod), pimientos de Padrón (fried small green peppers), and an easy favorite, croquetas (croquettes filled with ham or cod). You’ll find most Madrileños eating tapas accompanied by a small beer (una caña) or a glass of red wine. The larger sized ración is convenient for sharing among several people.
Tapas are great for visitors for several reasons. If you have a tight sightseeing schedule and don’t have a lot of time, you can stop into any local bar or restaurant, order a few tapas, and continue moving along. Many places will also display their tapas at the bar, so you can point and choose instead of looking over a menu filled with unfamiliar foods. Oh yeah, and they’re also pretty cheap – some bars will give you a free tapa just for ordering a drink.
Let’s face it, some of us are just less adventurous when it comes to our food and unfamiliar foods may make some people squeamish. Tapas provide a great way for these folks to try traditional foods such as callos a la madrileña (Madrid-style tripe), rabo de toro (oxtail), morcilla (blood sausage) without the commitment of a full meal. Trust me though, all three are delicious.
Although Madrileños will give you different answers for where to find the very best, the La Latina neighborhood is a good choice due to its central location and high concentration of bars and restaurants. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city especially popular on Sundays when the flea market nearby, El Rastro, ends in the afternoon. Head to Calle Cava Baja and the surrounding streets for particularly convenient “tapa-hopping”. Don’t forget to try some on tap vermouth!