Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Best Tapas Bars of Madrid

Tapas is one of the most famous types of Spanish food in the world, along with paella and callos. This weekend in Spain, living a #Travelife, we enlisted the assistance of Enrique Gonzalez Mendizabal, who runs his own private guide company in Madrid called MadSnail Travel, to show us some of the best tapas bars in Madrid.

Westin Palace Madrid

We started out at 1 PM on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Madrid, meeting at our hotel, the Westin Palace Madrid. Prior to our meeting, we'd been up for a walk so we headed over to Sol and the Plaza Mayor just so I could clock in a few more steps on my Fitbit.

Well, with Enrique, we certainly got more than we bargained for. Not only is he a great foodie -- and I don't mean the kind who only chooses Michelin star restaurants -- but he is also a passionate intellectual with an amazing memory for historical facts and figures.

So we had a simply wonderful afternoon with him, walking around Madrid, living a #Travelife.

Our Madrid foodie guide, Enrique


Of course, as soon as we met him, I wanted to have some authentic tapas. As soon as possible.

"Did you know that tapas are actually free food, as far as the Madrilenos are concerned?" He asked me. "Tapas are the little bites of food that chefs and restaurants give out as freebies to customers prior to the main courses they have ordered. So I get uncomfortable when I see a restaurant calling itself a tapas bar but charging clients for food."

Walking the streets of Madrid

So he suggested: "Let's call this an afternoon tavern crawl through Madrid instead."

And that is exactly what we did. We visited the bars and little restaurants around the Las Lettras district of Madrid, and then eventually made our way to a really small and local rice restaurant near the Royal Palace of Madrid run by a former mechanic and his Ukrainian wife


Tapas in Madrid

The lady cooks rice better than most Madrilenos, Enrique swore. So, of course, how could we not go?

On the way, we stopped by a couple of very popular places including a small restaurant where we found a tiny bit of space at the bar, just enough for three glasses of wine, a plate of beef ham, a bowl of blood sausage meat, and the most delectable chorizo I have had in a long time. Well, I was tipsy by the end of it, and we had only started our pub crawl through Madrid.

The bars of Madrid

Eventually, we got to El Menu de Alona, the rice restaurant in a local street with fewer tourists than most other streets in Madrid. Most of the clients were locals and the scent of lobster rice wafted through as soon as we opened the door.


We let Enrique order everything for us, and we had a pitcher of Tinto Verano and a very large cauldron of soupy rice with lobster. Again, Enrique gave us an education in Madrid cooking and Spanish food in general: "Sangria is for the tourists," he said, "we locals drink Tinto Verano." 

I had to admit; the Tinto Verano was absolutely delicious and so different from its sister drink, the Sangria, found elsewhere in the world.

As for the soupy rice in front of us, Enrique said: "This isn't a paella. It's a rice dish with lobster. Paella is dry and the rice must all be dry and and separate from each other, to be a real paella. What we have here is a very wet rice dish, and it's cooked with the juice of shrimp heads."

What a wonderful afternoon in Madrid, eating our way through a #Travelife.

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