Where the locals eat in Madrid

The benefit of dining in Madrid is that you can get food from all of the regions in Spain as there are restaurants that specialize in each area. Although the gastronomy in Spain is in general very high caliber, it is possible to stumble on a restaurant that serves very mediocre food at best so I have made a list of some of my personal “go to” restaurants.

All of the restaurants listed below (except for the dining and entertainment option at the end) are excellent choices for family restaurants. One wonderful thing about Spain is their love for children. From the time my children were babies I took them everywhere with us and they were always welcomed in all restaurants.  

I will break these up into different food styles and mark the price range for each.  

Classic dining in Madrid

I will start with some good hearty restaurants that serve up home-cooking Spanish style. They will make you feel like you are sitting a Spanish grandma’s kitchen and tasting her Sunday dinner. In these restaurants, as with most restaurants in Spain, your best bet is to order the “menu del dia” (menu of the day).  You will be given a choice of about five or six different things for your appetizer, and a choice of five or 6 things for the main meal. As a note the “appetizer” is often almost as hearty as the main meal. The price also includes a drink—either wine, beer or water—as well as bread and coffee or dessert.

Madrono—First choice for Classic Spanish food

The first recommendation is a small restaurant near the Plaza major called Madrono. I have chosen this one for a couple of reasons:  

The food is excellent.

Even though this restaurant is very centrical to the tourist route, it offers good quality home-made food for a very reasonable price.

The atmosphere is representative of many restaurants in Madrid.

This is a very traditional restaurant. The food is made of fresh ingredients. The dishes aren’t overly imaginative but are very tasty. It feels like you are stepping back in time when you enter this restaurant. The countertop and moldings are of a dark wood that was commonly used throughout Madrid in centuries gone by. The photos and relics decorating the walls give you a glimpse of this restaurant in another life.

The tables are very close to each other but if you don’t mind the cozy feeling and not much elbow room, you will have some good Madridleno food at an excellent price.

The only negative at this restaurant is that I doubt that any of the waiters speak English, but I am sure they will have a menu in (poorly translated) English and you can get by with pointing.

You will either want to arrive very early (they open at 1 p.m.) for lunch, or you will need reservations. This place is well known and gets packed out early.  

Where:  Plaza Puerta Cerrada 7
Phone:  34 913 64 56 29
Price range:  The daily menu is 11.50 Euros
Homemade food at a reasonable price in this classic restaurant near Plaza Mayor in Madrid



Terra Mundi—Savoury seafood 

My second choice in this category is a cozy Galician restaurant (a region from northern Spain).  Galicia is known for its seafood dishes, so you will see a lot of octopus, scallops, white rockfish, cuttlefish and squid on the menu. If you are a carnivore, not to worry Terra Mundi also has a large selection of items for you to choose from.  

In Terra Mundi you will want to either go very early or make reservations as this is a well-known spot for office workers in the area.

This restaurant has an English menu and I will venture to guess that at least one or two of the younger servers speak English.

Where:  c/ Lope de Vega 32
Nearest metro: Atocha (line 1) and Cercania trains
Email to make reservations: restaurante@terramundi.net
Price range:  the daily menu is 11 Euros. ($14 Euros on Sundays and holidays)

This is a popular place to eat in Madrid because of quality home-made food at a reasonable price

For fusion cuisine in Madrid dine at the Finca de Susana or Gloria de Montera

These restaurants are part of the same ownership group and have a similar style. They both are contemporary and yet formal at the same time. The food is a fusion of Mediterranean cuisine with contemporary touches. I have been to both of these restaurants numerous times and I have never had anything served that was less than excellent. They don’t have exactly the same menus, but they are very similar so you will be happy choosing whichever of the two happens to be most convenient for you to get to. The portions here are slightly smaller than in the classic restaurants that I have listed above. Both of the restaurants have exquisite desserts, so if you have a sweet tooth save some room. The Finca and Gloria offer an excellent overall dining experience for a reasonable price. If you are nervous about not being able to speak Engish, both of these restaurants always have waiters and waitresses that speak English fluently not to mention an English menu.

Finca de Susana: c/prince 10
Gloria de Montera:  Calle Caballero de Gracia, 10,
Nearest metro:
Finca de Susana - Metro Sevilla
Gloria de Montera: Gran Via
Price range:  Main dishes between 6 - 12 Euros.

Reservations:  These restaurants do not take reservations.  You will need to show up early or it will be impossible to get a table.  There are often lineups down the street before the restaurant opens. (They open for lunch at 1:00 p.m., and for dinner at 9:00 p.m.) If it is a weekend you will have to be lining up at least 15 minutes before they open or you will be left standing outside looking in.)

Isola bella—Eating on a budget in Madrid

In Madrid, it is possible to eat very tasty food on a budget. There are a lot of “chiringitos” (kiosks) which serve smaller meals and tapas. In some areas of Madrid, the streets are full of these restaurants and you just have to decide what you have a yen for.  

A favourite of my family is a little Italian kiosk called Isola Bella. It is a takeaway restaurant, but there are two small tables and a bar countertop that if you decide to eat on the premises. The owners are Sicilian and they have brought their family recipes with them. The ingredients are fresh and although there isn’t a huge selection, everything we have ordered is fantastic. Isola Bella serves pizzas, calzones, and a type of rice ball stuffed with either spinach and cheese or ham and cheese. It even offers vegetarian options which are hard to come by in Spain. There are some fabulous looking desserts that I have yet to try.  The Isola Bella has very reasonable prices and friendly staff.

Where:  c/ Espiritu Santa 13
Price: 4 Euros - 6 Euros depending on what you order
Nearest Metro: Tribunal (line 1)

If you take a stroll along this street, Espiritu Santo, you will find many other small restaurants of similar caliber and price range to Isola Belle. It is just a matter of deciding what taste you are looking for as you will find Sushi, Argentinian, Italian and American restaurants. They are all reasonably priced and quick—good for a snack or light meal.

When in Madrid eat what the Madrileños eat

Another option for eating on the low price scale side of things is to eat tapas in one of the many bars that are peppered throughout the downtown core. Madrid’s specialty is calamari sandwiches, which I must say seemed somewhat odd to me when I was first introduced to them. The squid is flour-coated and deep fried, then served piping hot in a baguette, usually with mayonnaise. You can find these in many bars throughout Madrid. Almost all the restaurants around the Plaza Major offer calamari sandwiches, ranging in price from 3 Euros - 6.50 Euros. (I don’t recommend paying more than 3.50 Euros) A steaming hot calamari sandwich with a caña—glass of beer—really hits the spot on a cold evening.

Dining and entertainment

This is a unique combination of dining and entertainment. The Platea boasts of being the largest gourmet leisure centre in Europe. This 6000-metre venue was originally a theatre. The Platea has been designed in a horseshoe around the main stage at three different levels. On the main floor, there are numerous tapa bars. But the tapas aren’t your run of the mill tapas that you find in every bar throughout Spain, these are well thought out creations.  

The lower floor has a combination of restaurants, but the fun part of the experience is that you don’t have to decide which of the restaurants you want to eat at, the menu has everything from each of the restaurants. You can order an appetizer from the Italian restaurant, the main course from the Argentinian and dessert from yet another.  

The second floor offers a fine dining experience with your own balcony view of the stage.  The restaurant, the Arriba, is headed by a 2-star Michelin star chef.  

The stage hosts live music most evenings, you many want to check the schedule and see what is going to be playing while you are in town.

Before even reaching the restaurants you will walk through a gourmet food market, so if you are craving anything from home you will probably find it there. 

Where: C / Goya, 5-7
Web page: Platea Madrid
Metro:  Metro: Serrano or Colón.
Buses: Stop Goya / Serrano: 21, 53
Stop Paseo Castellana / Plaza de Colón: 27, 5, 14, 150, 45, N1, N22, N24

The palea offers the opportunity to enjoy gourmet food while watching live music performances

The palea offers the opportunity to enjoy gourmet food while watching live music performances