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Madrid’s best bars, according to a guiri

Category : Food & Drink, Spain, Travel · by May 29th, 2014

As a guiri (foreigner) living in Madrid for two years I came to enjoy the variety of bars the city has to offer. A lover of Spanish food, delicious wine, and Madrid’s late nights, if you’re a fan of the same then check out the following list for some great Spanish spots.

Note: It’s in no particular order as that would be too difficult…


Delicious Spanish food can be found at Melo’s, a tapas bar in the barrio (neighborhood) of Lavapiés. This amazing Galician spot is frequented by the locals but as its popularity gains over the years so does the number of tourists. Melo’s is a small bar, the place opens at 8pm and you have to get there right away if you even want a chance at getting a table. Food-wise they serve delicious, larger than normal, croquetas de jamón, pimientos al padrón, empanadillas, queso y membrillo, and their claim to fame, zapatillas. A zapatilla is a glorified grilled cheese, filled not only with a ton of delicious queso Gallego (Galician cheese) but meat too, put between two large pieces of bread and grilled to perfection. The zapatilla is challenge on one’s own, I definitely recommend splitting the phenomenon with friends or asking for the media ración, half dish. To wash all the deliciousness down, order a bottle of their white wine and sip it from traditional Galician cuncas, drinking bowls.

From top to bottom, left to right: empanadillas filled with tuna and egg, croquetas, zapatilla, and display of queso gallego, pimientos, etc.

From top to bottom, left to right: empanadillas filled with tuna and egg, croquetas, zapatilla, and display of queso gallego, pimientos, etc.

Claim to fame: The zapatilla
Price: €€€
Location: Calle del Ave María, 44 28012
Closest metro: Lavapiés, walk north past the plaza, Melo’s is up on the left

Il morto che parla

In the heart of the picturesque Barrio de Lavapiés of Madrid you’ll find Il morto che parla, Italian for “the dead guy that speaks.” A bar with dark ambience and subtle lighting, it’s the perfect spot to bring friends for a late night drink and tapas. The concept is a cool fusion of Mediterranean and South American styles. Good music, a variety of seating options, cheap eats, and delicious cocktails are what attract locals to this spot. Tuesday and Sunday nights you can enjoy buffet-styled tapas included in the price of your drink. This bar is known for its bohemian style, and their empanadas, pizzas and long list of gin drinks are the talk of the town. Next time you visit the Spanish capital head over to Lavapiés, grab a seat in Il morto che parla, order a caña (glass of beer) and an empanada – or maybe just wait and see what eats appear on the bar.

Il morto che parla's façade and menu

Il morto che parla’s façade and menu

Claim to fame: The pizza and empanadas
Price: €€
Location: Calle Salitre, 31, 28012 Madrid, Spain
(On the corner of Calle Salitre and Calle Doctor Piga)
Note: Don’t get confused! There is more than one address for this place on the internet…
Closest metro: Lavapiés

Visit their Facebook page!

(This short review on one of my favourite bars in Madrid was an entry in a competition run by The Guardian. My entry unfortunately did not win but the review (or a shorter, edited version) was published on their site anyway. Check it out here: Il morto che parla:  a hidden gem of the Spanish capital )

El Tigre

This cider bar is known by all, which in my opinion has probably taken away from the charm. Nevertheless, it’s cheap, tasty, and fun. If you feel like battling a touristy crowd head over to El Tigre and order yourself a cider. Not only do you get a refreshing drink but they’ll also hand over a plate full of food – free of charge! The food usually involves a delicious jumble of croquetas,  jamón, patatas bravas, as well as various other Spanish treats. Sad to say some of the times I’ve been to El Tigre I’ve found the food rather cold…I recommend it nonetheless as it’s got a great atmosphere, it’s central, and hey, free food.

Claim to fame: Cider (and free food!)
Price: €
Location: Calle de las Infantas, 30 28004, merely two blocks away from the bustling street of Gran Vía
Closest metro: Gran Vía or Banco de España

El Lagar

You won’t find a touristy crowd in this hole-the-wall place. Recommended to me by a friend who lived in the area at the tim, El Lagar is frequented solely by Spaniards so you’ll definitely get a stare or two if you’re a guiri. There’s seating in the back but the few bar chairs and standing room by the bar at the front is where it’s at. A tight squeeze but totally worth it as the drinks are cheap and the free food keeps coming. You never actually catch the men behind the bar taking note of your order but they somehow keep track of it throughout and by the end of the night you’ll be told a number sure to please your bank account. Order your drinks and moments later a plate of delicious jamón or patatas bravas (or if you’re unlucky, ensaladilla rusa) will appear on the bar.

Claim to fame: Free (tasty) tapas
Price: €
Location: Calle de Ferraz, 39 28008
Not the most convenient of locations but take a break from the botellón sun in Templo de Debod and head on over to El Lagar.
Closest metro: Gran Vía or Banco de España

El Cisne Azul

This small restaurant is situated in Chueca, Madrid’s gay neighbourhood. Not the flamboyant spot you may expect from the area, El Cisne Azul is a quaint establishment with a few tables a bar in the middle. It’s claim to fame? The plate of sauteed wild mushrooms, or mezcla de setas, with a fried egg on top – it’s to die for! On the expensive side but the waiters tend to throw in free olives or top up your glass free of charge. Typical Spanish wine is served at this establishment, and that says it all.

Mezcla de setas, free tapa and a glass of wine

Mezcla de setas, free tapa and a glass of wine

Claim to fame: Mezcla de setas
Price: €€€
Location: Calle de Gravina, 19 2800
Closest metro: Chueca

100 Montaditos

Ok, it’s a chain and I don’t condone hitting up a chain while travelling (unless McD’s is helping a hangover), but 100 Montaditos is pretty great. They make little sandwiches (you can pick between several types of bread) which you can fill with almost anything. Despite being a chain it’s got a variety of traditionally Spanish options including tumaca, jamón, sobrasada, and much more. They’ve even got dessert sandwiches filled with all kinds of chocolate. The best part, one day a week they is 1€ day where everything on the menu, and I mean everything, is 1€, even the large pints of beer! Another great part of 100 Montaditos, they’ve got tinto de verano on tap. And let’s face it, the one great convenient thing about a chain, they’re everywhere.

Enjoying a pint of the tinto de verano they have on tap, June 2012 (Photo credit: Rebecca Thering)

Enjoying a pint of the tinto de verano they have on tap, June 2012 (Photo credit: Rebecca Thering)

Claim to fame: Everything for 1€ day
Price: €
Location: They’re all over Spain, check out they’re website for their locations. The following map shows all the 100 Montaditos in Madrid.

J & J Books and Coffee

A book store by day and a bar by night, J & J’s is a jack of all trades. Not recommended for tourists as you won’t find the typical Spanish culture here. J & J’s is an expat’s haven, the basement of this funky place is a second hand book store where you can find cheap reads in English and Spanish. The bartenders and clientele are almost all foreigners so if you’re a guiri living in Madrid and feel in need of a break from the romantic language this is the place for you. The best part of J& J’s is the trivia (in English) they put on once a week. You can participate in the trivia for only a euro and the crowd really gets into it. A small joint, expect to get up close and personal with the patrons around you.

Out for a trivia night with friends, November 2011 (Photo credit: Katie Patterson)

Out for a trivia night with friends, November 2011 (Photo credit: Katie Patterson)

Claim to fame: Trivia night
Price: €€
Location: Calle Espíritu Santo, 47 28004
Closest Metro: Noviciado

La Blanca Paloma

Perhaps not the clasiest spot in the Spanish capital but the perfect one for cheap drinks and late night eats. La Blanca Paloma, the white pidgeon, or dove if you’d like to class it up a bit, is a restaurant in the centre that serves up cocktails and beer at all hours. There’s almost always a drink deal to take advantage of and they serve up a ton of food with your order of drinks. The only downside… the food is sub-par. The first dish they’ll serve you is usually a fried egg and chips, and following that you can get anything from croquetas and pimientos al padrón, to  chorizo on baguette and crisps. The food doesn’t stop coming, it’s only too bad it doesn’t actually taste that great, unless you’re slightly inebriated that is.


The façade and typical tapa of La Blanca Paloma

The façade and typical tapa of La Blanca Paloma

Claim to fame: Cheap drinks
Price: €
Location: Calle Espíritu Santo, 21 28021
Closest metro: Tribunal

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Hi, I'm Hannah, a London-based copywriter and blogger. I am a Canadian ex-pat whose interests range from food and travel, to ultimate frisbee, and sailing. As an avid traveller, food enthusiast, and sports-person I seek to write cutting-edge articles about athletes and sporting events, as well as travel destinations, tips, and culinary havens. If you like my writing and want to get in touch about freelance work or other job opportunities, don't hesitate to contact me!