It’s more than just paella… but the paella is really delicious! We really enjoyed the food on our recent trip to Madrid.
The funny thing about visiting a country’s capital city is that it’s inevitably a melting pot of people from many other countries and cities, all of whom bring their own flavors and foods. The result is that finding “local” food in most capital cities is challenging! We passed every variety of Asian restaurants, Italian restaurants, French restaurants, even American restaurants!
Not to worry, though! I did the research and pounded the pavement to find as much Spanish-influenced food as possible. Here are the best places to find them!
Mercado de San Miguel
This is a great place to grab a bite right in the historic district, a couple of blocks from the Royal Palace. There are dozens of eateries to choose from inside, and you can eat there, take your food elsewhere, or sit outside as we did to enjoy our empanadas. We got one pizza, one chicken and avocado, and one hake (fish) with veggies!
We actually did something here that we don’t typically do… We went back a couple of days later! There are so many options here, and it’s all so inexpensive and such good quality, we wanted to try more. It was super crowded, of course, but we managed to snag a jambon y queso sandwich, mushroom and bacon pizza, fresh fruit, and mint lemonade all for under €20. That’s less than we paid for just one of us to have breakfast at our hotel the previous morning.
This is also a great place to sample a huge variety of local Spanish food, so it’s perfect if you’re a foodie or if you just don’t have a lot of time. Everything is grab-and-go style, and you can try afforable food from several different locations if you want! We actually swung by on our last day to pick up empanadas for the next morning’s breakfast, since we would need to leave before many restaurants opened in the morning. Oh, and we also picked up lunch while we were there!
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We kind of walked into this place on accident, but it wasn’t bad! We went in during siesta, so most of the other businesses around were closed, but we were jet lagged and starting to get hangry. This got us over the hump! It’s Iberian ham, crusty bread, and “grated” tomato. We also asked for the local goat cheese on the menu, but they were out. So much for a sandwich!
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We ate breakfast here because we thought it would be easy on our first morning in Spain. Nope! Honestly, the menu was unclear, the ordering process was unclear, the buffet was picked-over (with two hours left to go!), and Steve totally had to show me how the coffee machine worked! Hey, it happens to the best of us in a jet lagged state.
I finally was able to order an omelette with mushrooms, cheese, and bacon. Except I thought the bacon would be in the omelette, but it was on the side. No big deal, just something else that wasn’t quite what it seemed it would be! On the upside, the food was tasty and made-to-order.
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I typed “paella” into my map search box, and surprisingly few restaurants popped up nearby. This one, however, looked like an amazing spot (photos really do sell a restaurant to me!), and it was on the way to our hotel. It’s actually Andalusian cuisine, which is a region of Spain in the southern part of the country, close to Morocco and Northern Africa.
We received a complimentary chorizo sausage plate, as well as crusty bread. I’m admittedly not usually a fan of sausage, but this was amazing! And you know we ordered the paella. It’s a traditional rice dish, originally from Valencia, but it’s possibly the best-known Spanish dish all over the world. You can find any number or combination of proteins added in, but this one was mainly seafood: mussels, calamari, shrimp, big shrimp (heads and tails on, like a “crawdad” in the South!), and chicken.
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Who knew Spain is famous for nougat?! I had no idea until I started doing some research. Spaniards are definitely into their sweets (hello, churros and chocolate for breakfast!), and nougat is the perfect bite. Made from honey, sugar, egg white, and either almonds or hazel nuts, you’ll find both crunchy and soft varieties in loads of flavor combinations.
We popped into this nougat shop for a quick treat to take with us before visiting the Prado Museum across the street. No matter your taste, you will definitely find some flavors to love here. Can’t decide? Flag down an employee with a tray of free samples!
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This was an authentic Spanish breakfast experience, I think. Steve got the homemade cake with cafe au lait, and I chose the churros and cafe au lait. I was operating under the assumption that churros automatically came with dipping chocolate, but apparently not! Maybe I was supposed to ask for it; I’m not sure!
Despite being on the Gran Via, which is the main tourist road through downtown Madrid, they had no menus in English (I asked), and even most of the staff didn’t speak English. Thank goodness for Google Translate and the one employee who came over to help us! I’m not saying it’s bad–I came to Spain on purpose to experience Spain!–just that it’s unusual compared to my other travels around the world!
So, brush up on your Spanish, and don’t expect everyone to be able to communicate with you in English, even in the most touristic areas!
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Wow! This was the best meal we had in Spain. This restaurant has three or four locations around Madrid, and I can see why they’ve been so successful. The food was fresh to start with, then made-to-order, and served with a smile! I wish a photo could convey flavor combinations, but for now, your eyes will have to do the eating! I can’t recommend this place enough. We went to the one in Plaza del Rey, just a couple of blocks from the historic city center and as near to our hotel.
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We found this little breakfast spot after a workout at Retiro Park. They have many options ranging from salads to sandwiches to pastries and coffee! I picked out a small ham and cheese sandwich, yogurt with granola and strawberry jam, and a mint lemonade. Steve got the chicken Caesar sandwich. I know, not typical breakfast options necessarily, but that’s the fun thing about Steve and me… We eat what we want!
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Okay, since I wasn’t sure I had the “real” churro experience the day before, we found this place recommended on several blogs and “must do” lists for Madrid. They only serve churros, so I figured this would be the place to get them. Honestly, this felt like the most “touristy” place we tried, and the churros were served fresh and hot, but they really weren’t spectacular! They were plain–no sugar or cinnamon, which, again, I really thought was standard! The chocolate was good, but a little goes a long way. Maybe I just don’t like churros? To each their own!
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On our last night in Madrid, we decided to try out a local place in our hotel’s Chueca neighborhood. We found a place tucked away just off of a main square, and since we’re early birds when it comes to dining in Spain, we had our pick of seating! We tried out some tapas, and Steve got the biggest Caesar salad I think we’ve ever seen! I tried to get the most “authentic” Spanish items on the tapas menu.
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