As you’re probably well aware of, Spain is famous for its world class gastronomy. A mix of fresh ingredients, locally-grown products, and simple, yet tasty recipes has made Spanish cuisine one of the best-known in Europe, and perhaps even the world. Not only this, but in comparison to the United States, in Spain you can eat very well for not a lot of money. Of course you can break the bank eating out if you want, but there’s certainly no need to.
One of the best ways to enjoy authentic Spanish food in Madrid at a good price is by opting for a menú del día, or daily lunch special. Most restaurants in the capital offer a three-course meal — usually consisting of a starter, main course, dessert, and drink — starting at around ten euros, depending on the establishment. Here we’d like to recommend some options.
El Museo del Jamón
Actually a restaurant and not a museum, this peculiarly-named establishment serves traditional food at an economical price. One of the best lunch options, although not really a menú, is their ‘picnic lunch’, which consists of a ham sandwich, an apple, and a beverage. At just around two euros and fifty cents, you’ll have a hard time finding something so tasty for so little money. Also, the ‘picnic lunch’ is available at any time during the day, so whenever you hungry for something good, but don’t want to spend money, you know where to go. Besides the lunch combo, there are also sandwiches and other items à la carte, which can be eaten there or made to go. Famous in Madrid for their take-out food, Museo del Jamón also serves a full menú del día, which features a whole host of traditional Spanish cooking. Whether it’s just for a sandwich or for a three-course lunch, this is one place you’ll want to visit while you’re in Madrid. There are several locations, including those on Carrera de San Jerónimo, and calle Mayor, both very near the Puerta del Sol.
Near Plaza de Santo Domingo lies one of the best restaurants in the center of Madrid, El Labriego. Specializing in traditional cuisine, there are a number of classic dishes served, such as lacón a la gallega (smoked ham and potatoes with olive oil and paprika) or sepia a la plancha (pan-fried cuttlefish). The restaurant is split into two sections; the front section consists of the bar and several high tables with stools, where you can have a drink and a snack, or a full meal if you’d like, whereas the back section is a dining room, where you can enjoy a meal in the traditional style. Any time is ideal to visit this establishment, whether to have a quick drink in the afternoon/evening, have dinner, or take advantage of the lunch specials. Although the bar section can be a bit full when there are important sporting events on television, the entire restaurant is rarely so full that you won’t be able to get a table after a short wait. Visiting El Labriego is a must-do for anyone who enjoys quality traditional Spanish cuisine.
La Cervecería Deportiva
Just a bit down the street from El Labriego is another restaurant worth visiting in the center: La Cervecería Deportiva. Although not famed for having exquisite food, this bar/restaurant offers typical Spanish food at a reasonable price. As the name indicates, La Deportivahas a ‘sports’ theme — soccer in particular — the walls being covered with memorabilia and many photos of the original owner with players and at stadiums and so forth. Despite having changed management, the decoration remains the same, making this establishment stand out somewhat from other bar/restaurants in the neighborhood. Also, an added bonus is the terrace, allowing you to enjoy a drink or something to eat outside on days or nights when the weather’s nice. La Deportiva is an excellent choice for when you’re looking for a normal bar/restaurant in the center — especially one with a terrace — but want to avoid tourist traps. Also a bit full on nights when there are major sporting events, the rest of the time you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a table.
Although Madrid is full of restaurants, not all of them are created equal. Tastes may vary, but you can’t ignore that some places definitely give you more bang for your buck than others. We’ve made some suggestions above, but of course, it’s up to you — you be the judge!