My lovely roommate is off to Madrid today for work. FOR WORK! Can you imagine? My last job just sent me to places like Atlanta and Orlando (not the good part) repeatedly. Once on the conference schedule, I peeped a conference in Australia and tried to figure out how to finagle getting on THAT attendance list, but alas, no one thought that flying me to another hemisphere to smile at people and hand out pens was a great use of money (maybe I should work on my fake smile?).
Anyway, needless to say, I'm jealous. RULL jealous. There's so much to do and see in Madrid...and SO much to eat. And let's be real...this post has been a long time coming. You only got a TASTE of Madrid with our food tour post. Sure, it required a full post, but that was ONLY FOUR hours of our time in Madrid! There was so much more to eat...
I've sung the praises of tapas repeatedly in this space and could continue times infinity. Nothing is better than a small taste of everything. Something else Madrid does right? Three words -- MENÚ DEL DÍA! Every day, restaurants throughout the city offer a prix fixe selection of food, which is both delectable and convenient since you may not know what everything on the menu is, so you might not know how best to order. As long as you're amenable to the chef making the choices (the way I ended up eating the best meal of my life), this is the way to go.
Here's where we got our menú del día on in Madrid.
Fun story: I googled this, and the first two reviews on TripAdvisor call this a "hipster" place in the "hipster" neighborhood of Malasaña, so shocker of shockers, I of course loved it. Whatever. If loving La Musa is wrong, then I don't want to be right. Both Rhi and my friend Ryan RAVED about this place, so Jen and I hit it up for lunch as soon as we arrived in Madrid.
Here's a riddle for you: What's better than tapas?
A MENÚ DEL DÍA OF TAPAS!
That's right. La Musa does this, AND theirs included "bomba," which both Rhi and Ryan fervently recommended to me. Rhi even had pictures saved on her phone of her bombas (sounds dirty) from her last trip. It was basically a giant cheese and potato croquette with beef in the middle and awesome sauce (really, I don't know what kind of sauce it was, but it WAS awesome, so awesome sauce it is) on top. It doesn't sound that great, but trust me when I tell you I still think about it.
La Musa is cool because you can get traditional Spanish tapas like bombas and other ham and cheese croquettes, but they also have a world "fusion" menu of tapas including Japanese empanadas, sliders, tacos, hummus, and more. If you're going to Madrid, this is a must-eat spot; it set a high bar for the rest of Madrid's restaurants.
So, I don't necessarily want to speak for Jen on this, but I would say that my favorite type of restaurant in Madrid were the modern tapas places, like La Musa. Vi Cool, part of a chain by Chef Sergi Arola, was another modern tapas spot we visited in Las Huertas. Also like La Musa, Vi Cool offered a menú del día of tapas. And these were some BEAUTIFUL tapas.
Everything that came out was artful and immaculate. Soigné, if you will. Perfectly bite-sized croquettes, a mushroom "carpaccio," Japanese-style chicken wings, and chocolate fondue for dessert. Could not have been happier.
Jen and I found Las Bravas via my Madrid Lonely Planet. Potatas bravas (giant fried potatoes with sauce) are big in Madrid (and for good reason). LP told us that Las Bravas was known for their special potatas bravas sauce. So we made our way there for dinner one night.
Admittedly...we were hesitant to enter. The logo kind of makes it look like a Buffalo Wild Wings, and even though it's not fast food, being in there is kind of like being inside a McDonald's that also has a bar. The servers didn't really seem that interested in, you know, good service (at least to two Americans), but no matter. The food was delicious and dirt cheap. The patatas bravas were very good, and the special spicy sauce was yummy, as were the prawns in sizzling garlic sauce and the perfectly salted green peppers.
Right, so the other thing I love about Europe is the utter proliferation of food halls/markets. I know we have some in the States, but we need more. DO BETTER, AMERICA. These are one of my great joys in life.
On the way to Los Galayos for dinner, Jen and I made a stop at the Mercado de San Miguel, intending to just walk around and not necessarily buy anything. Of course, when confronted with food, this was not a realistic expectation. First, we treated ourselves to some absolutely delicious sangria, and when we came upon a stall called "Mozheart" -- "Moz" as in "Mozzarella" -- we were done for. I grabbed a little caprese-style toast, and Jen ordered her favorite -- burrata. Let me tell you something -- Jen was in a terrible mood. But once she ate some burrata, it was honestly like she was high. It was probably one of her happiest moments on the trip. Key and Peele recommend giving your bitch some chocolate? I say give your bitch some burrata.
On another recommendation from Rhi, Jen and I headed to Los Galayos after Jen's burrata high at the Mercado de San Miguel. Los Galayos is a historical, traditional spot, and while it was in fact delicious (probably because nothing in Madrid is short of delicious), it wasn't my favorite. We opted for the traditional Spanish omelet (potatos and onion), monkfish meatballs in garlic sauce, and of course, jamon croquettes. But as it turns out, Spanish omelets aren't my jam (they are a little too liquidy in the middle for my taste), and we ordered WAY too much food, coming directly off a mozzarella binge. Still, for a traditional Spanish meal, this is a great bet -- especially if you're into paella. Neither of us had the paella, but it looked impressive.
OK, this place is kind of insane. We learned on our food tour that Madrileños actually start there day with the breakfast of champions -- chocolate and churros. Which is how we started our day on the food tour, dipping sticks of fried happiness into thick, rich, warm, melty chocolate.
So I guess we figured why not end that day the same way? San Ginés is more touristy than the spot we visited earlier in the morning (Chocolat), and we had to line up around the block in order to get in. Once you get in, you order, pay, get a ticket, and sit in the old-school cafeteria space. Someone brings out your chocolate and churros, and boom! Heaven. I have to admit though, I think I preferred the chocolate at Chocolat.
For lunch one day, we headed to Casa Lucio, another LP/Rhi recommendation, but we couldn't even get in. So the host we spoke to suggested we go to Casa Lucio's sister (err...brother?) restaurant, Casa Lucas, which was literally across the street and had the same exact menu. LP recommends their signature dish -- which is basically half-fried potatoes smothered in cheese with a fried egg on top.
In theory, this sounds great. Or at the very least, it sounds like some solid hangover food. But truthfully, it was a little much for me. Still, the croquettes (are you sensing a theme?) were good, and we had a great salad of tomatoes, avocado, and parmesan cheese, which was awesome because I think at this point we hadn't laid eyes on vegetables in days.
Le Cabrera was our last meal in Madrid, and thankfully, it was phenomenal. Should be, since it's a Michelin-starred gastropub/cocktail bar. We got a restaurant week-style menú del día for dinner here and sat at the bar surrounding the open kitchen. Since we are Americans who get hangry on the early side for Europe, the restaurant was fairly empty when we were there, and we had the full attention of the friendly cook. Every course was delicious -- patatas bravas, a burrata salad with sun-dried tomatoes, tuna tartare. We also ordered tagliatelle with black truffles and duck, and when it turned out they were out of duck, our cook told us we could have any other protein we wanted, free of extra charge -- even foie gras (!). Newly omnivorous Jen wasn't feeling up to being that adventurous though, so we stuck with chicken. It was still delicious, as was my excellent caipirinha garnished with pomegranate seeds.